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Revitalized SGA looks back on year of ‘bold, creative change’

The Student Government Association has published its 2020-21 End of Term Report, looking back on a transformational “year of passion, collaboration and innovation” at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The report, written by outgoing President Ethan M. McKenzie, follows Saturday’s swearing-in of 2021-22 officers, and recaps for the Penn College community the 12-month effort to reinvigorate SGA into a responsive representative of the institution’s student population.

McKenzie (right) administers the oath of office to incoming SGA President Robert A. Luna, a health science major from San Clemente, Calif. Saturday's ceremony, which included the traditional passing of the presidential gavel, was held by the beautifully refurbished Schneebeli Earth Science Center pond.
McKenzie (right) administers the oath of office to incoming SGA President Robert A. Luna, a health science major from San Clemente, Calif. Saturday’s ceremony, which included the traditional passing of the presidential gavel, was held by the beautifully refurbished Schneebeli Earth Science Center pond.

The report begins with a look back at a productive year in campus government, both as a whole and through the trailblazing initiative of individual senators, and concludes with the self-described “ramblings of a former president about the past year has taught him,” which – punctuated by inspiration from such philosophical heavyweights as Jean-Paul Sartre, Leo Tolstoy and Ralph Waldo Emerson – recounts SGA’s substantive rebirth through a yearlong focus on organizational legitimacy.

“SGA’s crisis was apparent as soon as we were elected: not a single senator ran in the election, only three students won seats on the Executive Board, and the organization hadn’t met in months,” explained the 2020-21 president, graduating next month with a bachelor’s degree in software development and information management. “And this couldn’t simply be attributed to the pandemic. … Our operating model was clearly inoperable; we had to fundamentally rethink SGA.”

Embracing their platform to speak for the under-heard, and partnering with an encouraging college administration to effect “bold, creative change,” McKenzie and his team set out to strengthen the engagement between student government and its constituents.

“SGA’s entire meaning comes from service to the student body and we accordingly needed the student body to believe in us in order for us to find meaning,” McKenzie wrote. “SGA was in decline because the student body, by and large, perceived us as illegitimate. We had to prove that we could be a real partner for Penn College students.”

The numbers speak to the success of that undertaking. In 2020-21, to cite just a few of the noted accomplishments, SGA:

  • Raised a combined $6,535 through two major auctions benefiting the Student
    Leader Legacy Scholarship Fund, which recognizes and rewards outstanding student
    leadership at Penn College.
  • Appointed 24 more senators and improved annual retention by 300%, after beginning the year with just three elected Executive Board members.
  • Debuted three senator-at large positions to advocate for health and wellness; diversity, equity and inclusion; and commuter affairs.
  • Planned and hosted 11 town halls to amplify the student voice and bridge the gap between the student body and the administration.
  • Developed a new legislative process and employed it in passing 18 pieces of legislation.
  • Executed several advocacy campaigns to address a variety of issues important to students, and established a number of committees to focus on such areas as mental health and well-being, nutrition, facilities and equipment, and accessibility.
  • Recognized six Students of the Month, as well as four faculty/staff honorees.
  • Debuted three senator-at large positions to advocate for health and wellness; diversity, equity and inclusion; and commuter affairs.
  • Created a 40-page transition guide to help future student leaders excel at their positions.
  • Conducted dozens of office hours; as well as committee, liaison, Senate and Executive Board meetings, to hear student concerns.

Photo by Allison Bressler Grove, director of student engagement