Kelly Smiley, Photo Editor
Name: Chris Thomas
Position: VP of University Affairs
Major: Athletic training
1. Why did you decide to run for A.S. VP of University Affairs?
The reason why I chose VP of university affairs was simple, it’s because it helps students. It deals internally. For me, I could have done EVP or I could have done anything else, but my passion is with the students. My passion is to provide those students that have food insecurities with the mobile food pantry, and things like that. Being able to help students succeed on campus is really why I wanted to run period for A.S. executive. I truly believe that A.S. on this campus is kind of misunderstood. Everyone thinks it’s a popularity contest, everyone thinks ‘oh, it’s just the Greeks,’ but really what I want to take aside from everything is I want to help students be successful. The perception is it could be different, but for me students are my number one passion and number one goal at this school because I, my freshman year, had food insecurities. I, my freshman year, did not have the tools to be successful. I, my freshman year, did not have much to push me forward, but having the bonds and friendships and relationships I’ve had within A.S. as well as everything else has truly pushed me forward. To simplify it down, the reason why I chose university affairs is I think this position’s main goal is to help students here at SDSU and make sure they have their best SDSU legacy and story to tell the next generation.
I’m the current president of Phi Kappa Theta, I’ve served as recreation and wellness commissioner for two years within Associated Students and I’m involved with Rotaract as well on campus. I’ve served on the IFC executive board and I’ve been on Phi Kap’s executive board for three years. It’s the most rewarding experience I’ve had here at State, for sure.
What I’ve wanted (my legacy) to be since I’ve gotten here as a freshman is really to leave my impact on other people because I come from a very, very low income background. I grew up depending on food pantries as a kid and really didn’t have a bed until I was eight. So for me, being able to attend college as a first-generation student here in the U.S. was really impactful. For me, my legacy really has been to inspire others behind me, especially like the younger kids in my community that I grew up in, and moving forward to pursue their dreams no matter what people say. And for me, that’s why I took on all my leadership roles that I just mentioned. I truly feel like need to–it’s not about me, it’s not my legacy–it’s what I can do to make sure that others that were in the same position as me, or worse, have that ability to move on, get their education and really make an impact in this world. My legacy is really helping others.
2. What are the first three things you would do on the job if elected for this position?
My three top initiatives, things such as education reform or things like that like registration when it comes to academic issues, I want to be sure to make A.S. known as an open dialogue where students can have those one-on-one or group conversations with the people that are making those decisions, the administrators, because I think that’s lacked in the past. It’s really been a separation of students here and administration here, and administration does something and they students are like ‘oh no, I don’t like this, like let’s do something about it now.’ The number one goal with that is to really conjoin the two groups and really have those conversations so administrators can listen and be like ‘Oh this is what the students want? Ok, this is what we’re going to fight for when we go to state legislature or when we go to the CSU.’ That’s number one.
When the whole wait list got brought out, I think it’s something that students weren’t involved in the conversations well enough. I believe the A.S. council members were asked to participate in the discussions, but it wasn’t the general body creating those open forums and I think that’s where the misconception came that ‘oh the wait list is brand news, it’s going to help.’ It has helped, but it has hurt. And I think moving forward now, because it is still a brand new process, creating those open forums with the administrators and seeing what students want to improve from it. And seeing that because there’s no crashing now, students are left out of those bottleneck classes that are only offered like once a year, and that’s something that’s pushing back our graduation rate. That’s something that I really want to fix, the four-year graduation rate, also.
My next one is really just connecting those students to the proper resources on campus because things like financial aid and scholarships, not all of the funds are utilized and they’re there for students to be successful. And they’re there to help students alleviate some financial pressure that they may face with school because not everyone has their mom and dad paying for them, and I completely understand that.
My last goal is with the food insecurities that I touched upon. I really want to make things like the mobile food pantry and A.S. No Waste–I really want to make the mobile food pantry like a permanent resources on campus, say Monday through Friday it’s there for students and students can come in for a friend, for themselves, for a family member or whoever it might be and really have it well known across campus.
I think the most personal experience that I’ve had with food insecurities is a week ago there was a student on the ‘Class of 2020’ (Facebook) page that posted he was getting evicted. I immediately responded to him and said ‘How do you need help? Have you reached out to ECRT? Have you reached out to the mobile food pantry?’ and he didn’t know about the mobile food pantry. And when he came over to my house and I gave him some food to help him out that night because he hadn’t eaten in 48 hours–that was where I realized why I’m doing this. It wasn’t even about the position. I could care less about the position, but that was my main initiative and that’s my main focus because that’s not fair to students to fight between a meal or like a book or a class or whatever it may be and not have the same opportunities that other people have; it’s not fair.
3. Why do you think you can understand SDSU students more than other candidates?
For me, it really has been two things. First of all my personal experience, I had and dealt with food insecurities and I dealt with that tough decision between buying that mandatory book and being really able to make myself get through college with food. That’s something that is one of my biggest goals. I really want to make that known that each student on this campus has the right to be successful and each student has the same opportunities as anyone else on campus. So that leads me to my second thing–my motivation to make it happen.
It’s not fair that people don’t have that same opportunity; it’s not fair that some people have more than others, but what we can do with things such as the A.S. mobile food pantry and A.S. No Waste and connect them to the right academic resources on campus can really propel those students forward to really make their SDSU story worth it and to make it a legacy, something that’s memorable to them and not four years of the hardest times of their lives where they had to make a decision between eating or going to school.
I think creating open forums with administrators as well as within A.S. council and executive members and sitting down with those people and having those conversations and looking at where we’re struggling as a student body and where we can improve upon and what we can do. And after listening to those students and hearing their concerns and hearing their needs and really being able to sit down with administrators and really progress those resources on campus that we have already set into place, but haven’t fully utilized. So like the A.S. “Your Voice Matters” campaign, the town hall meetings that we’ve had and even things as simple as the office hours we’ve had in the Center for Intercultural Relations is something that for an hour is not enough time for a student to voice their concern.
We need to extend those to two to three hours to be able to make sure students have the time to come out and really explain what issues are going on in their lives because that’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re representing the student body. It’s not for the position; it’s not for anything else. It’s to really make an impact on this campus and move this campus in the right direction.
4. What would you change about A.S.?
I would change the accessibility piece. We’re here elected into these positions not because of a popularity contest; not because it’s just a position. To me it’s creating those changes in lives. And things such as the “Your Voice Matters” campaign, the town hall meetings, even the office hours are ways for students to come and bridge that gap between A.S. and the student body that’s been there since I’ve been here the past three years. And there’s been steps that have been taken by past executive officers, but they’ve been steps and they’ve been attempts. They haven’t been fully laid out plans. They haven’t been fully implemented plans, either. And when elected as a council member, you have to have that motivation to serve those students–not get elected be like ‘Ok, I’m elected. That’s it.’ But really moving forward and being there for those students that put you in that position. The gap between A.S. and students is really what we need to fix.
With the office hours that are already there (in A.S.), I want to extend them even if it’s just me being there. I want to make these town hall meetings that happen pretty much once a semester this year to being three or four times a semester where we can open up the Union and have students come in and voice their concern and really listen to them rather than giving them one opportunity a semester. Who know what can come up in a week, a day, even an hour, that we can’t address when it’s only once a semester.
I want to give myself to the students because that’s a position I was in my first year here. I was in a position of need. I was in a position where I needed help, and there was bits and pieces of it, but there was never someone there. I want to be that shoulder for students, be empathetic and understand their needs and just listen because that’s all people want–is for someone to listen to them and see the changes to help them be successful because we all want to be successful here at SDSU.
5. If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in this role, what did we achieve together?
My biggest initiative and largest goal that I want to accomplish this year is really helping those students who have dealt or are dealing with food insecurities. Because that’s something I went through my freshman year and it really hurt. It hindered me from certain things and certain opportunities and that’s not fair.
And I want to make sure that by the end of my term, looking back on it, that there’s a permanent resource for students to be able to access food. Because that’s what people need and you can’t have students make that decision between buying a book or paying for tuition or having food on the table–that’s not fair. And I think looking back on it, if there’s a permanent resource and place like the mobile food pantry, but it’s there and not once a week or once every two week, but it’s there Monday through Friday as a permanent resource, I think I will have accomplished more than I could ever say I did.
That’s the most remarkable thing I could do and the most rewarding thing, with my experiences, I would say that I could accomplish.