With election day two short weeks away on Feb. 25, the nominees for the next Fairfield University Student Association President and Vice President have officially been announced. The three tickets consist of: Noelle Guerrera ‘21 for President running alongside Ali Haidar ‘21 as her Vice President, Vincent Gadioma ‘22 for President with Tobenna Ugwu ‘22 as his Vice President and Sean Crosby ‘21 for President with Angelica Miceli-Kaya ‘21 as his Vice President.
They will spend the days leading up to the election party at The Levee speaking with students, participating in the Presidential Debate on Feb. 18 and articulating their campaign platforms.
Each of the candidates spoke with The Mirror about these platforms, and the issues that are important to their identity as nominees.
Sustainability was a major topic brought up by all three tickets, with the candidates aligned on their need to help Fairfield contribute positively to the environment.
“I think Fairfield does try its best currently [with sustainability], but I think they can do even better. Specifically, I want to get designated cardboard recycling areas in every trash room. In addition, I hope we can get metal straws as the gift for first-year Convocation next year,” said Gadioma.
Other sustainability ideas from Gadioma included increasing other recycling efforts and conserving electricity by relying on natural sunlight on sunny days in buildings like the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, where many of the walls consist of glass windows.
Crosby and Miceli-Kaya stated via email that they, “want to take action in making the FUSA office paperless by the time we graduate as a first step into saving our planet. We also want to find a conclusive reason as to why both trash and recyclables are disposed of in the same truck, therefore negating the purpose of distinguishing between trash and recyclables in the first place.”
Guerrera and Haidar concurred, agreeing that they felt environmental issues were becoming an increasingly important topic of concern among students.
“[Students feel a] need for our university to be sustainable and to be thinking about the future and protecting our environment,” Guerrera said. “That was something this year I’ve spent a lot of time working on with administration, but it’s no easy feat. It’s hard to change a university and how it runs, there’s a lot of variables that need to be considered, and it’s a huge undertaking and that needs a lot of dedication and time to make sure Fairfield is sustainable.”
Sustainability is actually just one of Guerrera and Haidar’s five-step campaign platform, which includes student life, Tully improvements, advocacy, genuine passion and sustainability, or STAGS for short.
Haidar explained the idea of genuine passion further. “Given the experience we’ve had on FUSA and on non-FUSA activities, we really are dedicated to the student body and to Fairfield University as a whole,” Haidar said.
“This is seen through our actions, through our words…we really want to continue the differences we’ve made over the last three years as we enter our senior year. That’s something I think separates us from a lot of tickets running, that we have the experience under our belt but also the vocation and passion for it, so there’s nothing fake about it.”
Gadioma and Ugwu named improvements to the annual fall Red Sea Madness concert and the inclusion of feminine hygiene products in all public on-campus bathrooms as two other platforms central to their campaign. Gadioma specifically hopes to improve the organization of Red Sea Madness in terms of security, and also wants to give students more of a choice when it comes to the performer who comes to campus.
While sustainability is a priority for Crosby and Miceli-Kaya, they highlighted improved transparency as their top campaign priority.
“Unlike the current FUSA leadership, we don’t want to make our students, or even our own government, feel as though we are hiding secrets from them,” they said via email.
Representation of student voices is important to them as well, with the ticket stating that they, “want to help every student feel like they have a place on campus. It is through our active involvement in the community that we feel as though we can represent everyone by creating a much needed bridge between the students and administration.”
The candidates also spoke to their leadership experience on campus, both in terms of the roles they have held and the skills they took with them from those roles.
Gadioma currently serves as a member of the Honors Student Leadership Board and is the Chair of Social Events, working on programming and helping promote the social aspects of the Honors Program. He is also a FUSA Senator for the class of 2022 and sits on the Special Committee on Appointments.
“My committee has worked on the hot food market, I’m the chair of my own special committee and I got two justices appointed to the FUSA Court recently. I wrote two of the three resolutions that were ever put out this Senate session, and in addition I co-sponsored all of the bills,” Gadioma said, speaking to his work on the Senate.
“I have such great ambition, but when it comes to what I bring to the table, people can expect a lot of me.”
Ugwu emphasized the time-management skills he has gained from the variety of positions he has held, and using that time to produce tangible results.
“I’m the Creative Director of Fairfield at Night, and with that I’ve learned to manage not just a small organization but my time as a bioengineering major who is also pre-med and working as an undergraduate research assistant and newspaper editor.”
He also spoke to the value of being a member of the Ignatian Leadership Residential College, and how it taught him to be more emotionally sensitive.
“I have learned how to be vulnerable and open to criticism so my form of leadership has really changed over the course of one year in the [college],” Ugwu said. “I’ve learned how to be a leader for and with the people, taking all these things I’ve learned through other positions on campus and implementing them, while also…being willing to learn more and learn on the job.”
Crosby spoke about his experience in a variety of campus leadership roles, ranging from a two year-long tenure as a New Student Leader, to his senator position for the class of 2021 to his membership to the committee board of Erg-athon, which is an annual charity event hosted by Men’s rowing to raise funds for gifts that go to children in the hospital.
His running mate Miceli-Kaya, while discussing her time as a FUSA senator and the Secretary of the FUSA Senate in the two years afterwards, spoke about the personal qualities that contribute to her role as a leader.
“I have the initiative to do things before being asked and the selflessness to always put others before myself. I also have the creativity when we all need a little spark in our lives and the resilience to face any adversity head-on and conquer,” Miceli-Kaya said.
“I’ve received multiple academic honors in college regarding both my academics and community service so I know how to balance between school work and service. These qualities are essential for a leader to have because in order to find faith in others we must find the faith within ourselves. I am able to recognize the qualities I possess within myself that will benefit me throughout the journey of being FUSA Vice President and serving others.”
While Guerrera has been involved in FUSA since her first year, first as first-year senator for the class of 2021 and then as a sophomore speaker of the Senate, she highlighted her work as a New Student Leader as a fundamental role that shaped her as a leader. Her work on FUSA and this time as an NSL is what she largely contributes to how she became the current FUSA Vice President alongside President Claire Monahan ‘20. She attributes the NSL program to her continued time at Fairfield, saying it showed her how to be a compassionate leader.
“[Being an NSL] led me to being Vice President of FUSA, which is a position that’s taught me so much about myself and has given me all the more confidence than I got as an NSL. It’s proven that I am the president that the student body needs along with Ali,” Guerrera said.
She spoke further about what her time as FUSA Vice President has given her, and the parts of that organization that mean so much both to her and to Fairfield.
“Being Vice President has given me an eye into FUSA that maybe no one gets to see. They don’t get to see the importance of it on campus,” Guerrera said. “FUSA as an institution and as a governing body in the governing structure of the university has so much potential to make positive change for students, and I’ve been able to see that through the words I say when I’m meeting with administration, which has been so rewarding.”
Haidar spoke to his experience as a Senior Resident Assistant and how that position has given him the ability to work on a team in an open, responsible way.
“Being a FUSA President or Vice President, you’re working with a team around you in different cabinets, whether that be Diversity [and Inclusion], whether that’s COSO, Treasury, Programming and Marketing,” Haidar said. “Being a Senior Resident Assistant, I work with eight other RAs and an area coordinator to learn conflict mediation, communication, accountability, transparency, and those four things have really prepared me.”
Haidar said that these skills have been enforced by his work as both the President and Founder of the Jou’sur Arab Club, along with his work as a FUSA Senator for the class of 2021.
All of the tickets spoke about the concern they had for underrepresented voices on campus. They highlighted specific groups they felt weren’t being heard by both FUSA and the greater Fairfield community, and why those groups were central to the university.
Guerrera and Haidar focused their attention on three specific groups: first-year students, commuter students and affinity clubs, or those represented under the umbrella of Fairfield United, a coalition of clubs under the office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
“I think the average student doesn’t know what an affinity club is, and I think that speaks to the fact they’re not represented or visible enough. I think that’s something that Ali and I want to focus on next year, that we are bolstering and helping our affinity clubs,” Guerrera said.
“I was a commuter my first year, so I understand the needs and desires of a commuter student,” Haidar added.
“Commuter students are special and really interesting because they are often representative of underrepresented groups, much more than any other residential housing group on campus, so it’s important we give them a lot more care…Fairfield’s done a great job with cultivating a commuter culture, but it’s important for FUSA to step in and cultivate that culture within the student body as well.”
Diversity was a central component for Gadioma and Ugwu as well, with their concern put towards increasing the diversity of students being admitted to Fairfield while also advocating for those who are already on campus.
Ugwu, an international student from Nigeria, spoke to the challenges he and his fellow international students have faced since coming to Fairfield. Speaking with a fellow student at a social for international students, Ugwu heard about her difficulties with her health insurance.
“She went to get the flu shot, and the health insurance offered by the university that is compulsory for all international students to enroll in doesn’t cover the flu shot, so she had to pay out of pocket. And a lot of other people said it was something they had experienced, and it was expensive to pay out of pocket.”
While the current FUSA Senate and Kamala Kiem, the Associate Dean of Students & Director, have been notified of this issue and are working to remedy it, it is examples like this Ugwu said need to be advocated for in order to have things change.
“People may say they want these things just within their friend groups, but they don’t know the right channels to go through to make these changes, and we want to be those channels,” Ugwu said.
Crosby and Miceli-Kaya echoed that sentiment, stating that they want to be the voice for those at Fairfield who feel underrepresented.
“We want to promote inclusivity and oppose brushing things under the rug. We have the connections necessary to get opinions heard and problems solved,” they said via email.
“We will use the means in which we were given to make change possible. From having a say on who performs at Red Sea Madness, the ability to choose what new on-campus dining options are available, to unfair pay for valuable work; we hear you and we will make sure others do too.”
Finally, all of the candidates spoke to why they wished to run, and what prompted them to choose this moment to do so.
“We wanted to use our time in the Senate to learn everything we could before jumping into this position for our final year. We are motivated to get things done now so we can leave Fairfield better off for those who come after us,” Crosby and Miceli-Kaya said.
“This motivation is going to drive us to accomplish as much as we can before our graduation, ensuring that we leave our campus better than we found it. There are issues students don’t know about because they aren’t talked about, it’s time we address and fix these issues.”
“I want to run for President because I have an unwavering commitment to serving the student body,” Guerrera said via email.
“As FUSA Vice President this past year I have had the incredible opportunity to serve on multiple committees with university staff and administrators to represent and advocate for all 4,000+ undergraduate students. I have overseen the largest branch in FUSA (the executive branch, along with the current FUSA President), fought to make mental health options more accessible on campus, had conversations about helping students who are food insecure, and advocated for Fairfield to be a more sustainable (environmentally friendly) campus.”
She added, “My experience as Vice President has undoubtedly prepared me to be a dedicated, committed, and passionate President who will represent every single student. I am eager to begin working with Ali to use our real experience to create real change!”
Haidar reflected this commitment to FUSA and the students as well.
“In the last three years, I feel like I have poured my heart and soul into the student body, whether that’s through my RA position, my FUSA class Senate position, my work in various clubs,” he said. “Working within the FUSA executive branch would really elevate the tools that I’ve gained over the past three years to best serve the students.”
Gadioma and Ugwu spoke to the potential criticism that, as the only ticket consisting of rising juniors, they may be too young to take on the positions of President and Vice President.
“Anything we do in our one year as president and vice is going to affect us in our senior year, even if we don’t run again or if we decide to run again. So I feel like this is the best time to run because we can implement changes we can actually see and benefit from,” said Ugwu.
They have a vested interest in succeeding in their positions, he said, because whatever the outcome, they will both have to reap the consequences of their decisions for the remainder of their time at Fairfield.
“I’m a big proponent of experience, however experience isn’t just time in a position, it’s what you’ve done, and Toby and I have accomplished a lot even just being in FUSA for one semester,” Gadioma added.
“People may say I’m too young to run, but I say that when Fairfield cultivates leaders, they cultivate ambitious leaders. That word ‘ambition’ is what really defines Toby and I.”
To hear more from the candidates and to ask them questions on their platforms, be sure to attend the Presidential Debate on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Dogwoods Room.
Editor’s Note: Tobenna Ugwu is the current Coffee Break Editor of The Mirror.