Conversations with CCSGA: The Transition of Power

As senior Jacob Walden prepares to graduate and end his tenure as CCSGA president, the campus looks to junior Annika Kastetter as the future leader of the student government charged with representing a changing community. As Walden reflects on his work over the year, Kastetter looks ahead to what she hopes to accomplish.

During Walden’s election year, there was considerable tension over the future direction of a relatively undefined student government. Numerous candidates rallied sections of the student body in an attempt to win the presidency. Kastetter ran unopposed. She considers her stance during the election and how this may change as she begins her presidency.

“I was really approaching the campaign as an outsider,” Kastetter said. “I had no exposure to CCSGA before I ran. In a block and a half I’ve learned a lot about the processes involved and conversations with Jake have helped establish what is realistic and what isn’t. In my campaign, I was looking at everything thematically and in terms of issues I wanted to address.”

Kastetter continued, “There’s been a shift in my thinking about how to go about solving issues I addressed in my campaign. Now, I see CCSGA’s role in terms of working with administration, student groups and students themselves to get everyone to come together and address these issues. I no longer see student government as acting alone and going in to fix everything.”

Walden agreed, “Considering the kind of commitment among CCSGA members that has now been established, it opens up a lot of possibilities for really incisive, thoughtful collaboration with other groups on campus. This year, we’ve worked to establish cross-campus connections and situate ourselves in campus dialogues.”

As part of his work in establishing these connections, Walden began preparing for the transition of power in fifth block. After considerable work and effort he has established a recognizable and effective student government.

“Our goal this year was to move from a low baseline to something that was more manageable,” Walden said. “When I came in this past year, student government was a mess. I wanted to create a level of accountability and professionalism.”

Kastetter intends to build upon this foundation. However, she has specific goals in mind that Walden agrees are necessary for CCSGA to move forward in representing the campus and addressing crucial issues that have arisen over the year.

“There are a few overarching themes that will be widely discussed and addressed next year, including conversations surrounding sexual assault, diversity and inclusion, and making sure that CCSGA will bring different organizations together to face these issues,” Kastetter described.

As Kastetter outlined her goals and ambitions for the upcoming year, Walden reflected on his goals as he prepares to end his presidency.

Walden said, “All of my goals have been addressed in some way by student government. I am most proud of the belief and trust that students now have for student government. We went from a messy club to a professional organization. Now, competency is expected. Community is important as my goals were addressed due to collaboration with other groups.”

Walden continued, “There is also an element of compromise. Sometimes you must change your stance on an issue in order to maintain your values while still attaining realistic goals for a functioning government. Student government has to be good at collaboration, reaching out and not being monolithic in what it takes as a success.”

As Walden offered advice on how to navigate challenges and implement policy, Kastetter feels prepared for the job ahead. As an RA for much of her time on campus, she has experience in leading change and introducing new initiatives.

“Being an RA has prepared me in numerous ways. I’ve learned how to interact with people, how to mediate conflict, how the institution functions through the administration, but primarily about how people work and CC students function. It’s also exposed me to aspects of CC that need to change,” Kastetter said.

“I will use skills like how to get people motivated to work together and how to deal with people in order to accomplish certain tasks, like getting people at CC to adhere to structure and systems in place to encourage people to focus on doing good work, think critically on what can be improved to move in a positive direction,” Kastetter continued.

“There is no other experience at CC that is better than being the CCSGA president to test and strengthen leadership skills,” Walden said. “It’s a managerial role and an interpersonal role, because when people say there is an issue it is rarely the issue at hand. Annika has this ability to see people as how they are rather than just what they are saying. She has great emotional intelligence and this role requires this. To be able to read people, to gauge a room, to have a presence in a room that is comforting yet assertive, as well as structure, is all crucial.”

Looking to the next year, Kastetter is enthusiastic about the new role. Though there are apprehensions, she feels Walden has created a student body that will rise to the challenges she foresees.

Kastetter said, “Jake has made the transition of power incredibly smooth, which is great since CCSGA last year was really a source of conflict and divisiveness, people didn’t trust it. People now believe in us and I want to keep up the positive role it has played on campus, with more programming and collaborating with other campuses.”

Walden said, “For many challenges Annika will face, there is no easy answer but steps taken to change the campus should strive to address all the people living here. It is hubris to think one organization could change everything, but more time should be spent thinking about the campus’ fragmentation.”

Walden and Kastetter both think considerable time and energy from student government should be invested in moving forward after a year of controversy that rocked CC to the core.

“Our campus is not whole,” Walden said. “We are grappling with the question of how to all live together in one space because the campus is fragmented. This year, most of the student tension has been with the administration and student government has been able to unite students.”

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