Interim SA diversity chairperson elected to position full time

Student Association elected interim Student Association James M. Letherer Diversity Chair Olivia Nelson to the position full time, 16-0.

The move came after Cecelia Hopkins resigned Feb. 11, citing concerns over a lack of job structure and importance placed on diversity in SA.

Nelson was elected interim after Hopkins resigned. Nelson first joined SA in November 2018 and has since served as SA President Hunter Koch’s chief of staff and deputy.

In her presentation to SA, she said she had enjoyed her work as interim and decided she wanted to run for the position full time.

“I think the work I’ve done the last week and a half has been exciting,” she said, “and I look forward to doing it more.”

Nelson highlighted a few characteristics she has that will serve her well in the position.

“I am patient,” she said. “When things aren’t going well, I have the ability to step back and say, ‘OK, how can I make this work?’”

Other traits she believes will help her in the position are communication and empathy, which she said will overall help her remain transparent to both SA and the student body as a whole.

Nelson also said she will work on being more flexible and moving outside her comfort zone.

“Spontaneity is an area I could improve on,” she said. “I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen. … No one likes changes, but I am working on it, and I think I am getting more comfortable with it.”

After talking with former chairwoman Hopkins and working as interim, Nelson said she will focus on reaching out to other offices, RSOs and the student body to make SA more diverse.

“We need to keep building our relationship with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs,” she said. “With that connection, we could do some really great work on this campus. I want to interact more with Students Affairs and the Diversity Office.  … PRIDE Center is not a fully-functioning office yet, but I want to help them build a budget.”

Nelson said reaching out to multicultural RSOs will help SA with both recruitment and diversity efforts.

 “If we can recruit people from those RSOs, we can build our diversity within RSO and reach the campus more,” she said.”

Another goal will be focusing less on “making diversity events and more on making events diverse.” Nelson said she hopes to work with SA, on-campus offices and RSOs to accomplish this.

Nelson said that during her time as interim, she did not share former diversity chairwoman Hopkins’ concerns that the SA diversity chairperson bylaws are lacking or that SA does not support the position. She said would look to flesh out the position in the bylaws more as she gains more experience, if she sees a need to do so.

“If the bylaws are lacking, the good thing is we can change them,” she said. “If I … find the bylaws lacking, I can talk about to SA about it and ask for a resolution change.”

Koch said Nelson was appointed interim chairwoman because of her seniority in SA and her previous work in the diversity committee. For the same reasons, he said he believes she will do well as full-time diversity chairwoman.

“(Nelson) was a great candidate for the position, and her presentation (Monday night) spoke for itself,” he said. “Her previous work with SA has been outstanding. … She has already reached out to offices, like The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, on initiatives and recruitment.”

Kaitlyn Farley

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