President | Holly Shields

Student Body President
Holly Shields

I want to start my address with a quote that inspires me, by Ziad K. Abdelnour “Why spend your life trying to fit in, when you are born to stand out?”. I reiterate this quote to myself when confronted with situations where it would be easier to choose an “under the radar” path rather than a more visible route. I noticed at a young age that most of my peers did not have the desire to stand tall and be seen; instead they seemed perfectly content blending into the crowd and just wanted to “fit in”. When I look around this room every Tuesday evening, and see all of the driven SGA members who want to stand out, and not only make their voice heard but also their peer’s voices heard, I feel overwhelmed with joy. Each of these students have chosen to be bold, stand out, and stand up by advocating for others. With that being said, I want to dive into what SGA is doing this year!

Inclusion, Sustainability, and Wellness are our three focuses, and an important phrase I want you all to remember is It Starts With You. UNCG is one of the most diverse institutions in our region, and is the most diverse institution within the UNC System. Our diversity statistics are strong, but our inclusion is lacking. The University has implemented amazing offices, clubs, and ideas to increase our inclusion, but as Student Government we felt we should help strengthen our community and focus on increasing inclusion on campus. We will work to break down the walls between student organizations and increase collaborations between student groups who have never worked together! Matthew Garr, the Secretary of Student Affairs, came up with an initiative to increase inclusion among student groups and the independent student body. This initiative is called UNITY and is an attendance competition between all the student groups to get as many members as possible to certain events we decide are UNITY events. The first one was the 125th Celebration Picture on September 20th, and there was a great turn out! Many students who attended were not in student groups and were asking what we were doing and we encouraged them to get involved in a student group! The purpose of the  UNITY events is to increase inclusion by allowing students to not only participate in the event, but will also provide spaces for students to get to know others outside of their organization or friend group and increase collaborations. We will build personal relationships with students outside of SGA, and we want to encourage SGA members that It Starts With You to go out and speak to someone you have never spoke to before.

Sustainability is extremely important to Mikaela and I and we are always looking for ways to be more sustainable in our own daily lives. We want to share our passion with the student body, and educate students on what they can do to sustain our campus for future spartans. Thankfully, UNCG values sustainability and strives to be as sustainable as possible, the Office of Sustainability’s Vision is to be “a campus that functions to its full sustainable potential, and culture that fosters the creation of sustainably minded leaders who can create solutions to global challenges.” Last year, Mikaela served on the Green Fund Committee and the Sustainability Council so she had the opportunity to directly influence the projects implemented on our campus. Mikaela came to the realization that more students should be involved with these projects so Jen Simmonds is the representative of SGA on the Green Fund committee this year, and Mikaela is still a member of the Sustainability Council. SGA, Bryan School of Business, UNCG Geography, Environmental and Sustainability studies, and The Green Fund Committee are collaborating to hold four Campus Conversations. These Campus Conversations will be dialogues with students, faculty, staff, and outside speakers in regards to sustainability. We are looking forward to this opportunity, and will be encouraging students to attend. Throughout the year we will be looking for opportunities to educate students on how they can implement sustainable practices into their lives, and what our university is doing to improve our campus. Like I said earlier, we want to sustain our campus for future spartans to have not only equivalent, but even better opportunities than we have. It Starts With You to be conscious of your actions that will affect our environment, and to ensure you are helping to sustain our campus.

Wellness is finally becoming a topic people are more comfortable talking about, but often speaking about the mental illness side of wellness can still be difficult. As you all know, college students are put under a significant amount of pressure to succeed, and we do not only want to succeed for ourselves, but often our drive to succeed comes from wanting to support our families and others. This pressure can cause anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Most of you know the Pinwheels on the EUC Lawn represents the 1,100 college students that take their lives each year. That number is alarming, and  is truly 1,100 too many. Jamie Stephens in the REC-WELL department is extremely passionate about helping students, faculty, staff, and honestly any one she comes into contact with. Jamie and I worked together to put on a Mental Health Awareness Week in February, and working with her inspired me and helped me discover my passion for stopping the stigma associated with Mental Illnesses. As student leaders here at UNCG I feel we are called to advocate for students facing mental illnesses, and discover how we can support those affected. I myself have struggled with depression, and know how it feels to think there is no one there for you. This year we are encouraging students to put themselves first, and make their mental, emotional, and physical wellness a priority. We are striving to make students feel more comfortable speaking out about their mental illnesses, and encouraging others to seek help. We want to support and collaborate with Rec-Well, and educate students on the amazing resources we have here for us. It starts with you to make your wellness a priority and to encourage others to do the same.

In closing, I would like to end with another quote, by Robin Sharma,Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers”. Our team-mates and customers are our peers, co-workers, friends, family, and truly anyone you come in contact with. Out of everything I said, I want you to remember this phrase the most “It Starts With You”.