At Weber State University’s first presidential candidate debate, the three presidential candidates vying for student body president of the Weber State University Student Association, Hunter Caldwell, Ashley Potokar and Maren Dawson, responded to questions from moderator, political science major Isaac Eck on Feb. 28.
Caldwell’s platform is focused on improving the student body and supporting individual students to change Weber’s culture to promote broader inclusion. She is currently a student senator in education and sits on five committees.
Potokar’s platform is to make Weber State a place where every student can be themselves and promote university resources. She is currently the current WSUSA Vice President of Leadership.
Dawson is focused on creating more opportunities for students to expand their educational horizons. Dawson is currently the executive vice president of the WSUSA and previously served as the College of Science Senate seat.
The moderator’s questions largely focused on the candidates’ individual platforms, goals, student retention and engagement.
Eck asked the candidates about their initial plans for their first 100 days in office, which largely takes place during the summer semester.
The question was first posed to Caldwell, who said she plans to meet with student leaders to discuss specific strategies for achieving her goals in the office.
Potokar responded by stating that she would focus on marketing and create a strategic marketing plan to engage and involve students in what is happening on campus.
Dawson listed many different ambitions she will try to work on throughout her term as student body president, including campus safety and a campaign to get students and the community working together.
The next two questions asked candidates to talk about the challenges Weber State students face and how to motivate, retain, and recruit students.
Potokar said Weber State is often referred to as a suburban campus, and that can limit the degree of connection students feel with other students and how that can limit the community building students can accomplish. By creating a more inclusive environment and communicating more opportunities on campus, it will both allow students to find community and increase student retention.
Caldwell cited Weber’s graduation rate, saying about 30% of students graduate from Weber State. Often, she says, students finish their generals at Weber before transferring. She planned to increase retention by involving students and making campus events and opportunities more engaging.
“Weber is bigger, Weber is better, and Weber is awesome,” Caldwell said.
Dawson said she feels the lack of work experience opportunities for students is detrimental to the student body and the issue affects retention and recruitment. For her, creating more educational extracurricular activities was key to retention and helping students get a head start in the job market after leaving Weber State.
Eck asked the candidates to describe effective leadership and what it would be like as student body president.
Caldwell focused on the role of the student body as a support system for other student leaders and students.
“The most important part of being the student body president is being a mentor, a support, and a friend to all of the other student leaders and to the students on campus,” Caldwell said.
Dawson focused on the role of communication, stating that the three things important to her leadership were communicating, listening and taking action.
“It’s okay if you’re listening if you don’t do anything about it,” Dawson said.
Likewise, Potokar said communication, transparency, and being a friend to everyone will help WSUSA and Weber State become a better place for students and enable better leadership.
The first questions from the public focused on how the candidates worked and perceived the conflict.
Potokar said that when she is going through a conflict, she loves to talk about it so that each side can be addressed.
“You have to hear all of our angles and be prepared to have those tough conversations,” Potokar said.
Caldwell took a more optimistic approach, saying the conflict meant he created an opportunity for growth and showed how passionate students were about certain issues.
Dawson responded similarly to Potokar, saying resolving conflict is about communicating and talking about it.
“To identify a conflict, you have to know it exists,” Dawson said. “Then identify it and communicate it to the team.”
The second question generated by the audience was about the issue of racism on campus.
Potokar felt that education was very important in solving the problem.
“I consider myself a student, I learn to be educated about racism and how it happens on campus and how real it is,” Potokar said. “I’ve been through that a lot over the last year through my position on WSUSA and I’ve been able to talk to a lot of students and get educated.
Dawson felt transparency was the biggest problem in solving the problem, saying Weber’s state wasn’t always as transparent as it should be with issues of this magnitude.
“You have to be transparent about what’s going on,” Dawson said. “Like I said earlier, if you don’t know a problem exists, you can’t fix it. It’s something we need to step up and really address more than just talk about it.
Caldwell, however, had a specific plan in mind to solve the problem.
“I think it’s ridiculous, but it’s true, it’s a controversial topic that some people think it’s not a problem. They don’t believe it exists,” Caldwell said. this education, teaching our leaders, teaching our peers about the changes we need to make, the information we are missing, what we need to know and quietly spreading this to our peers so that they absorb it without knowing that they are doing so is the most effective way to make this change.
Finally, the candidates described their strengths and weaknesses.
Dawson said she often had trouble managing her time when she was so involved with everything around her. She loves to take on difficult and time-consuming tasks, which often leaves her struggling. Dawson promised that if elected president, her full attention would be focused on the position.
She pointed out that her strength was her experience in other positions and working at senior levels, including at the state level.
Caldwell said one of her challenges is saying no because she likes to give it her all whenever she can.
“I like to do whatever I can,” she said. “I’ve been like this all my life.”
She went on to say that her strengths lay in her assertive nature, ensuring that all students would be represented, and in her flexibility, allowing her to adapt to any necessary changes.
Potokar also mentioned that she often finds it difficult to delegate because she wants to do everything herself. Its strength, however, was to be inclusive.
Student elections will take place March 1-4, and students can find information about the candidates in The Signpost’s story about the candidates.
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