If you don’t see him pacing around the Zurn Science Building in between labs, then you can surely find him at the Student Government Association office at the Waldron Campus Center catching up on paperwork. These two buildings are what SGA President Luke King calls home.
As SGA president, King’s average day is split between talking to students, faculty and administrators on one hand and doing school work on the other.
“If you see me on campus, it’s the same thing every time,” he said. “Everyone recognizes you as president so everyone wants to stop and talk to you and voice their concerns about the university.
“And I love that about my position as president, but the average day for me is having to just go, go, go.”
Going into student government as a science major, King said he didn’t exactly know what he was getting himself into, unaware of the politics involved in it.
“I knew that we would be able to have a voice or a say in the university proceedings, so I knew I would be able to sit on committees and voice my opinion and the opinion of the students,” he said. “I really did not anticipate actually truly enjoying a position and then not only wanting to be the vice president of academic affairs but the president as well.”
But presidency is no easy task. King has to juggle the full-time duties of an SGA president while simultaneously pursuing a degree in biology/pre-medicine.
“At the beginning of my term, balancing school work and SGA duties was really hard,” King said. “I was super proud of my time management especially having been involved with other clubs and organizations but the first semester and my transitional summer into the fall semester, I really struggled to find that balance.”
As time went on and with the support of his “Gannon family,” he was able to pick up multitasking skills helping him stay on track on both fronts.
But his troubles did not end there.
Reflecting back, King admits that his hardest task as president was working with university students’ age group.
“We’re in limbo,” he said. “We’re leaving the immaturity stage of high school but pursuing that professional level, but we’re really not there yet.
“The problem with SGA is balancing all these different immaturity levels and getting people to work as a group; dealing with hormones and adolescence is the hardest part of this job.”
Working with his peers wasn’t the only hardship King faced in his term as president. Maintaining professionalism while working with SGA adviser, Angela Coustillac, former SGA president and King’s previous peer, was another change King had to adjust to.
“We’ve struggled quite a bit with finding that balance of power and trying not to step on each other’s toes,” King said. “It’s difficult when you take someone who is your peer and is your very close friend and put them in a position that is above you.”
Coustillac also shared King’s sense of change from a peer-to-peer to an advising-advisee relationship.
“I think there were definitely hurdles because I was a former undergraduate and then having to advise some of the same people that I was hanging out with and was friends with was definitely a challenge for me at first,” Coustillac, who is the graduate assistant for Student Development and Engagement.
“It was interesting; trying to aid them in a way that was not intrusive but still offering the support when they recognize that they needed it.”
Despite all the difficulties and situations King has to deal with, he said he has come to love his position as president, as its rewards are far better than its letdowns.
“There is no better feeling than the feeling of accomplishment,” he said. “You feel validated that all that work you put into something paid off.”
That feeling, King said, is one that escapes many inactive students on campus, who can’t visualize the benefits of hard work. He attributes some students’ hesitancy to join SGA or other groups on campus to this reason.
“It’s difficult for students who are already struggling with their academics and then finding time for sleep and social life to view extra work as a benefit,” he said.
Other students, however, remain actively involved in campus organizations. The task of finding opportunities for the remaining student is left to him and upcoming SGA presidents, he said.
One possible solution to lack of student involvement, King said, would be approaching students when they’re freshmen.
“It’s something that Gannon has been working on where we have to hit the students early as incoming freshmen; emphasize how important involvement is,” he said. “After your first year, you’ve pretty much found your niche here at Gannon and it’s very difficult to convince people to get involved past their freshman year.”
For King, it was Coustillac’s encouragement and his love of involvement in other groups that got him to join SGA.
“I saw SGA as a bigger club almost or organization with the capability of doing something bigger and better for a broader group of people,” he said.
Many people on campus, however, did not share King’s vision about SGA, a perception he tried to change as president.
“My expectation for my presidency was to really just spread the word about SGA on campus,” he said, “because unfortunately at the beginning of my presidency I didn’t really feel that students knew who we were or knew what we were doing.”
Throughout the next four weeks, King will be wrapping things up in preparation for next year’s SGA.
Looking back at his experience and advising the next president, King says the key to the position is staying positive regardless of the situation.
“If you’re in a positive mood, you’re going to have more pull on the individuals you’re working with,” he said. “Frustration arises all the time in student government; and the best thing you could do is just stay positive because positivity promotes positivity.
“Because once people stay frustrated or angry, that’s when everything crumbles; all that work goes straight down the tube.”
He added that next year’s president should also be able to not only handle criticism from unsatisfied students, but also the paperwork that comes as an integral part of the job.
With a few more weeks to go, King said his experience as SGA president taught him life-long skills – ones he will take with him to medical school after he graduates in May.
His experience wouldn’t have been complete without the executive board members and class representatives he’s worked with, he added.
“They’re really good people and their hearts are in the right place because they really want to change campus and they want to be in those positions for the right reasons,” he said. “So I really appreciate them and there is really nothing I can do to repay them and thank them for their work.
“I’m really proud of them.”
This article by Hiba Almasri was originally published in The Gannon Knight on Mar. 19, 2014.