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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Candidates expand on their platforms at Student Government debate

The event features candidates for student body president, speaker of the house, treasurer and secretary
Candidates for treasurer Shelby Balmer and Micah Bozkurtian participate in the Student Government debate. (Courtesy of Alexandra Meier)

Ahead of the upcoming Student Government elections on April 9, candidates for four executive positions participated in a debate on April 7 to communicate their platforms to the student body. Moderated by Chair of the Elections Commission Claire Hopkins, attendees could ask candidates questions about their qualifications and goals. 

Six students debated for four executive positions, two of which are contested — Juniors Shelby Balmer and Micah Bozkurtian for treasurer and Junior Bayla Sheshadri and Sophomore Blake Sterling for secretary. Juniors Wyatt Strassmann and Hannah Elluru debated uncontested for speaker of the house and student body president, respectively. 

Hopkins asked three pre-written questions to every candidate before opening the conversation to the audience: 

  1. How do you define the position you are running for? 
  2. What are your goals for the term? 
  3. How would you engage with student organizations and university departments if elected? 

Audience member Lillie Davenport asked treasurer candidates Balmer and Bozkurtian how their previous experiences in Student Government would support them in effectively working with other members of the executive team.  

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“My experience with SBAC [Student Budget Advisory Committee] in serving as the deputy director of finance has taught me how to navigate relationships between senators, committee chairs and executive board members,” Balmer said. 

Bozkurtian discussed his objectives to make himself accessible if elected to serve as treasurer, recognizing that strong leadership is characterized by transparency and accountability. 

“It all comes down to strong leadership, which requires clarity and communication,” Bozkurtian said. “I want to make myself as open and available as possible to senators, committee chairs, committee members as well as the student body.”  

Following the debate for treasurer, Sheshadri and Sterling took the stage to discuss their platforms. When asked “How would you define the role you are running for,” both candidates acknowledged that secretary is one of the more ambiguous Student Government positions as it does not have as clearly defined responsibilities as the other executive positions.

“I would define Secretary as the internal communicator who serves as a bridge between the constituents and governing body,” Sterling said. 

Sterling emphasized the importance of Student Government leaders establishing a relationship of trust with student organizations, recognizing that mutual respect is essential to effective decision-making. 

Student attendees listen to candidates make their case at the debate.

Sheshadri shared similar sentiments about the role of Secretary being an outlet for support, conveying that the position would be a passion project for her. She expressed her commitment to leveraging her previous experience as the co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee (DEI) to fulfill the administrative responsibilities of the Secretary with integrity and inclusivity. 

“In my work as the DEI co-chair last semester, I learned that many of our campus organizations are not aware that we have resources to help them,” Sheshadri said. “I want to work with Wake Forest administration to disseminate information properly and ensure that all students are aware of our support services.”

Strassmann, running uncontested for speaker of the house, used his time on stage to expand upon his platform and qualifications. He shared his vision for enhancing communication initiatives between the student body and their representatives. 

“As speaker of the house, I would like to institute office hours for our senators to address constituent concerns in residence halls,” Strassmann said. 

Elluru, who is running uncontested for student body president, outlined action items on her agenda. She stated that uplifting student voices, fostering diversity, equity and inclusion and encouraging “pro humanitate” will be her top priorities in office. 

Elluru recognized the value of fostering an environment where every student is heard, valued and represented by familiar faces. 

“Bridging the gap between Student Government and the student body through senator office hours, feedback forms and tabling on campus is important to ensuring students have greater access to the people who are there to help them,” Elluru said. 

As part of her diversity, equity and inclusion agenda, Elluru plans to create a council of affinity organizations where leaders can build relationships with Student Government to create connections across different groups. She also emphasized the importance of connecting with the Winston-Salem community. 

“I would love to see a Student Government sponsored community service program where we partner with nonprofit organizations in the community to get more Wake Forest students out in the community,” Elluru said. “I am always strategizing ways that we can break out of our Wake Forest bubble on campus and engage meaningfully with the greater Winston-Salem community.” 

Attendee Quinn Flautt reflected on her confidence in her fellow classmates to lead with integrity and make positive contributions to the campus community. 

 “I am optimistic about the changes this new executive team will bring to campus,” Flautt said.

Voting is open now, and will close at 11:59 a.m. on April 10. Student Government will release the results of the elections after noon that day. 

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