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Heading to College? Why You Should Join Student Government

Jul 19, 2021

What comes to mind when you hear the term “student government?” 

Depending on your past experiences, you might have a lot of ideas about what it is and feelings about what it means to you personally. Or, you may not have any thoughts about it at all. 

Whether you’ve been involved in student government (or student council) or never even considered it, this is a fantastic opportunity to look into as you head to college.

Find out what student government is, why students join and why it’s a great way to apply your heart for service at a school like Eastern Nazarene College.

What Is Student Government?

If you’ve never been a part of it, it may not be obvious to you what a student government is in the first place. The benefits of joining are clearer once you get an idea of its purpose.

The two most common names for student governments are student council and student government association (SGA). (That’s here in the U.S. Other countries often use the term student union. Here, “student union” usually refers to a place for students to hang out.)

  • Student Council – Although some colleges use this term, student councils are usually the middle school or high school version of student government.
  • Student Government Association – College students involved in SGAs usually have more responsibilities than high school student councils and more independence.

In either case, the basic idea behind student government is the same:

Student government is a group of students charged with managing a wide range of events, activities, programs, policies and initiatives around school.

Just as in other forms of government, members who provide the highest levels of leadership are elected by the student body. Others can be appointed by elected members.

What Do You Do in Student Government?

The benefits of being in student government are tied to what you’ll actually be doing. To get a sense of that, you need to know the basic structure of SGA.

Most SGAs in the U.S. are, not surprisingly, modeled somewhat after the U.S. federal government. There are some important differences, though.

Rather than a three-branch system of legislative (making rules), executive (enforcing rules) and judicial (judging whether rules are fair), SGAs typically have one or two bodies.

  • In a two-body system, there is an executive council and a senate. Executive officers are often in charge of clubs and student organizations. Senators often represent interest groups who want to add or change campus rules and policies.
  • In a one-body system, common to smaller schools like ENC, the roles are combined. SGA members are representatives of student body interests and have the responsibilities of creating and managing programs, events, etc.

Executive Council

The leader of an SGA is the student body president. Other members of the executive council might include a vice president, treasurer, and secretary. 

There may also be a presidential cabinet of directors who are each in charge of a different area, such as events, clubs and organizations, intramural sports, publications, spiritual life and others.

“[A]ll these seven positions have the same mindset of wanting to improve student life and make a difference in the student life, and that is why I’m excited to be part of a team of people, like a family, who have the same passion and mindset ‘cause ENC is a great place and I would love to see it grow.” – Joanna Mohnkern, SGA Director of Spiritual Life, 2019-2020

Class Councils

Each class – freshman, sophomore, junior, senior – typically has its own council. There may also be additional councils to represent the interests of nontraditional students, such as commuters. 

These groups may be totally independent or work with the executive council.

Committees

Directors appoint others to help them come up with ideas and make them a reality. Their groups might be called committees, sub-committees, or councils. 

Members might be in charge of announcing plans (communications), recruiting volunteers, getting permission from the administration, etc.

Why Students Join

Whether in an elected or appointed position, as an SGA member, you get to be a part of making your school a better place. You can do a lot to help others and yourself.

1. Improve daily life.

When you see what needs to change to make attending your school a better experience – like improving the furniture, perhaps – you’ll have the power to do something about it. 

2. Be a hero to your fellow students.

Students turn to SGA members first when they identify something on campus that needs to be addressed, such as their safety and security concerns. You can help amplify their voice.

3. Launch a career.

Career development opportunities abound for SGA members. Not only do they often get to attend leadership trainings, just participating in SGA helps you develop useful skills.

4. Feel empowered.

It just feels good to be in position to do so much good! You’ll enjoy having a seat at the table with decision makers and having the opportunity to exercise your influence.

Find Your Place in Student Government at ENC

At ENC, the SGA is part of the Office of Community Life of a Christian college. That should tell you something about its focus: improving the lives of students in a way that is pleasing to God.

The SGA strives to honor God and encourage, empower, and serve the Eastern Nazarene College community by inspiring students to seek opportunities and find their “why.”

In general, as an SGA member at ENC, you will partner with other students to carry out this mission. What you do specifically depends on the role you take on, your passion area and skills.

  • Are you interested in generating ideas and organizing people? 

You may want to run a campaign and get elected to the executive council, where you can provide general leadership (maybe as student body president) or be in charge of specific programs.

  • Are you interested in responding to the ideas of others, helping to improve them and making something real out of them? 

Elected members will need your help! Offer your skills and interests in speaking, writing, record-keeping, budgets or whatever gifts God has given you.

Whatever position you have, you will find many opportunities to learn how to be a leader as you serve God and your student neighbors.

ENCounter a fun and exciting student government experience that fulfills your heart for service! Learn more about student life at Eastern Nazarene College today.