The sound of shattering glass was all that you could hear on North Carolina State University’s campus on March 2, as the results from Student Government elections were announced.
Jackie Gonzalez and Mia Connell were elected to be the next Student Body President and Vice President.
Gonzalez and Connell went through two separate elections, winning the general election with 28.6% of the votes cast, advancing to the run-off election that took place two days later, securing the win with 64.4% of the votes cast in the run-off.
This win was historic, and that night, four glass ceilings were shattered to pieces.
Gonzalez was the first Latinx identified individual elected to the office of Student Body President, and Connell was both the first female, and female of color elected to become Vice President.
Together, they made history by becoming the first all female ticket to win the dual-ticket race.
I was able to sit down with both Gonzalez and Connell to discuss their want to be President and Vice President, their historic win, and their goals for the next year.
RISE NEWS: Why did you want to become the Student Body President?
Gonzalez: I’ve always been drawn to NC State. It was the first college I ever really stepped foot on and I did that at orientation. I’m a first generation college student, so I didn’t really know about the college application process. I didn’t know you were supposed to tour schools before applying. I came NC State immediately and I loved it so there was no other option. Then I started getting involved in Student Government and loved it. The reason that I ran was because NC State has shown their acceptance of me and has helped me grow as a person so I want to make sure other students have those experiences as well.
RN: Why did you want to become the Student Body Vice President?
Connell: I want to run because I have been involved in Student Government my entire time here at State, and I’m really passionate about Student Government. I have been able to see many of the great initiatives that other individuals have been able to accomplish through Student Government and I think that can be expanded upon and improved. Even though we’re already doing great things, it can always be strenghtened.
RN: How do you feel about winning the election?
Gonzalez: I was absolutely taken back by our lead in the end. I think both of our leads were interesting. We knew it was going to be a difficult campaign season because all of the candidates were really great, but winning with 7 votes in the general and then winning with over 1000 in the run-off was just ridiculous. It was absolutely insane and we’re really grateful that what we did actually worked. What it really went down to was speaking with students and getting out there and getting to students that didn’t know to vote.
Connell: I feel grateful. It was a really tough process. Every campaign season is different. I was expecting it to be like last year’s and it was very different, so it was hard to adjust, so I’m very grateful for how quickly we adjusted to changes in the election. We were able to capitalize off the strengths and weaknesses of the team throughout the election season, so I’m grateful that we ran at the time that we did, that we had the support that we did, and that we ended up coming out on top.
RN: What does it mean to become the first all-female ticket to win?
Gonzalez: When I went into the decision process of whether to apply or not, I knew that I wanted to do it with another woman of color. I knew it was time to prove to NC State that two women of color are qualified and capable of standing up for others and representing others in a higher institution. So it feels GREAT. People actually listen to us and people actually care and that’s something we appreciate. Knowing that our team was as diverse as it was, we made sure to stick with our guts and to do what was right for the campaign.
Connell: People like to vote for people that look like themselves, and I don’t always look like every student on our campus, which can be considered a strength, but can also be considered a weakness. Jackie and I were both very nervous to run together. That was one of the first conversations we had together – that we would be viewed differently because we were an all female ticket. And it’s not something that people consciously do, but you are viewed differently when you’re an all female ticket, and it worked in our favor this year, but it other years it hasn’t. I look at it as the fact that less people are starting to look at gender or sex as a qualification for a role.
RN: What are you looking forward to accomplishing in the next year?
Gonzalez: I think the thing I am most passionate about is sexual assault education. It was very big for me. It’s something I want to make sure that other students have their resources and know what their resources are and are educated on this topic. I think what I campaigned on was something similar to that, where my biggest goal was to make sure that students know their resources, and to know that they don’t have to go through Student Government to talk to administrators – that they can go directly to them because they are students here and administrators are willing to listen to them. To take down that barrier between administrators and students is another big goal.
Connell: When I think of the upcoming year I’m very excited because we have a very cohesive team of Student Body Officers. I’m here to create a cohesive Student Government that can serve the student body in a useful way. As Vice President, I am internally focused. I am focused on running the Executive departments, and making sure that Student Government as a whole is working cohesively. I really want to improve our Retreat experience. Our Retreat experience is something that can be more engaging for our student leaders, and more useful. I think we can bring more tools to that setting, more training, more initiative and idea building, and connecting them to more University resources so they know who to go to. If we start off on the right foot and the proper training and guidance, it make the whole year run more smoothly.
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Cover Photo Credit: NC State University/ Facebook