The newly elected Fairfield University Student Association President Jordan Gale ‘23 and Vice President Aliyah Seenauth ‘24 first crossed paths in the Office of Student Engagement last year.
Seenauth was a first-year student interviewing for a New Student Leader position and Gale was her interviewer, a developmental intern for OSE at the time.
Right away Gale knew Seenauth was something special. Talking to a colleague after his interview with Seenauth, Gale remarked, “Not only is she going to be hired without a doubt, she’s going to be one of the best NSLs we have.”
As the two had the chance to connect through NSL activities such as Fall Welcome and Orientation, they quickly grew to become good friends rather than just a mentor and mentee.
Gale began to explore the idea of running for FUSA President towards the end of the last fall semester. In order to run, however, he needed to find a running mate.
Identically, Seenauth had been interested in getting involved but faced the same issue with regards to who she would run with.
Reflecting back on how well the two worked together in their time as NSL’s, and accounting for Seenauth’s previous experience in high school student government as well as the level of involvement she demonstrated on campus, Gale knew “they’d be a great team” and reached out to her.
After receiving the offer, Seenauth considered the time they had previously spent together, noting that all their encounters incited deep and meaningful conversations. She recognized their similar values, morals and ways of processing, alongside their differences that encourage a healthy balance.
Her reflection opened her eyes and there was no need to think about the offer any longer.
She would do it.
“I wouldn’t want to [run] with anyone else,” said Seenauth.
When Gale and Seenauth found out they had won on March 1, they both were overjoyed, sharing a sense of gratitude for all the new connections made while campaigning around residence halls, The Stag, the Daniel and Grace Tully Dining Commons, and other locations around campus.
“We were grateful for those connections whether we won or lost,” said Gale.
The duo was further grateful for the support and celebration shared with their friends from the NSL team and other organizations Seenauth is involved in.
“I think both of us will remember that for the rest of our lives,” said Gale.
Seenauth nodded in agreement adding how emotional of a night it was for her.
“It was such an overwhelming amount of emotions, but I think that was the whole journey,” she said.
There were a lot of different things to process from such a momentous win. She expands upon her emotional journey sharing, “I told myself, ‘Wow, I’m very proud of us. There is so much that’s gonna change.’”
She further makes the side note, “It really does change your life.”
For Seenauth, the position is not only life-changing but historically significant as well, according to the duo.
Gale clarified, “It really set in for me, being a good friend of Aliyah’s before we even started campaigning, through the NSL program, working with her, knowing that she made history being the first woman of color.”
Seenauth then shared how long it took for the achievement to actually sink in.
“Everyone keeps saying it to me and I’m like, oh it’s whatever but I saw someone yesterday that said it again and I was like this is now very real for me,” she said.
She was touched by the support she received from the student body ensuing the win, also noting, “Going to classes and going about my day after what happened Tuesday night, everyone is just so kind about it.”
Seenauth is also the current assistant director of Diversity and Inclusion for FUSA. She addressed the current issues campus is facing in regards to diversity and inclusion, pointing out that prior to looking into things she “didn’t realize the amount of initiative based work that still needed to be done.”
She capitalized a bulk of what students expect to see from FUSA’s programs and events. These fun things, however, cannot happen unless the foundation is reassessed and rehabilitated to a state that ensures everyone feels comfortable in participating.
She expanded on the matter stating, “Being in the position we’re in now and the position I have, I’ve learned a lot.”
She continued, “I’m still learning a lot about the University in general and I think that in the learning – that’s when we bring the change. Figuring out what is causing the problem and then finding the solution for that.”
“We are going to have a bit more of a relationship with the administration now and that helps in trying to fix this. It’s not going to be overnight. It’s not going to be solved completely in our term, no. – But you get proactive,” she said.
“Proactive changes and making the progression is the main part of it all. It’s something I’m very passionate about; I love my D&I board and I can’t wait to see it expand and flourish […] that’s why it feels like an honor for me to be in the position I am and knowing that I can do my best to implement that kind of change,” said Seenauth.
Gale added that they are striving to continue taking steps in the right direction. Gale mentioned that he and Seenauth have spent a good portion of time in Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the Commuter Lounge, in order to better talk with the underrepresented community.
A main question the two feel should be posed more often is, “How can we help you as members of the student body?” As they have taken the initiative to explore that question, they feel it starts with making sure all students feel welcome in clubs and activities.
Aside from their goal to improve upon diversity and inclusion, the pair have quite a few other goals to share with the student body. One of the first being to create a consistent advising experience for all students. It is something the two identified while talking amongst friends and with their connections across campus.
They plan for it to come to fruition by brushing up on the framework currently set in place. These changes include no longer receiving pins via email, keeping information consistent for the entire student body and formatting a document that organizes the Magis Core Requirements, comparing them to the available courses to fulfill those requirements for a semester.
The pair hopes for this to be possible through Gale’s connections with Academic Provost Mark Ligas, Ph.D., as well as both Gale and Seenauth’s connection to Kristen Zimmerman, the director of academic support and retention.
Another goal shared by the two is to build morale and school spirit surrounding athletics. Seenauth highlights the idea of tailgates, pointing out that we have numerous outstanding women’s teams with little support. The idea behind promoting tailgates is to encourage students to go out and have fun before the games, and then go to the games in support of their peers.
The two have already started reaching out to captains of Fairfield University’s Division I athletics programs. By doing so, they plan to explore more options as to how to better engage and encourage the student body to get involved in athletic events.
Additionally, they are hoping to expand their outreach to the athletes to see what input they have to offer.
The pair also looks to achieve trial periods for clubs. The intent behind this is to eliminate the daunting commitment first-years face while looking for activities to get involved with. This is intended to grant students a better opportunity to discern what they enjoy and want to get involved in.
Seenauth shares that a lot of people she has talked with do not even know where to start activity-wise, optimistic that this effort will give them that opportunity.
Although Gale himself is president of the Golf Club and feels it is a good idea, he still made sure to check in with other club leaders to make sure that it was a valid goal to set while campaigning.
He touched base with a board member of the book club, pitching the idea using a two week time frame. She gave positive feedback and loved it.
One of their main goals is to make FUSA truly “for the students, by the students.” Gale asserts, “That starts with saying – if we become the president and the vice president, we’re all on the same plane […] there’s no FUSA without the students.”
They hope to achieve this through biweekly town hall meetings where students have a place to share their ideas and concerns. These meetings are set to take place in the lower level of the Barone Campus Center, occurring in a casual and laid back setting where students can show up in sweats and feel confident, knowing their opinions matter.
Gale and Seenauth hope these town hall meetings will also allow them to provide students with the proper connections to either resolve their issues, or to put their ideas into motion. This goes for matters outside of FUSA as well. The town halls are meant to be inclusive on every level, no matter the issue and no matter the attire it can be addressed, they suggest.
Overall, it is meant to make sure students feel they have a platform.
Aside from town halls, they also intend on sending out surveys and forms to collect input on things students have not been included on before. This will include questions such as what kind of music genres and artists do they want for concerts.
To further the notion of “for the students, by students” – yet another goal they have – is to create more positions in FUSA. The end goal for this is to create more opportunities for people to experience FUSA and engage in leadership opportunities.
“I think leadership looks different for everybody,” says Seenauth. “People define leadership skills differently […] you’re never going to know unless you try.”
All in all, the campaign for Seenauth and Gale is meant to benefit students by providing more opportunity to exercise their voice and help them see that everybody has an equal role to play on campus.
Seenauth points out that as much as their goal is to support everybody, she equally appreciates and feels the support they get from everyone in return.
Both Gale and Seenauth are excited to work with the student body to achieve their own goals and the goals of the collective.
Gale closed his interview with, “We really do believe everything that we campaigned on. Aliyah and I are two very genuine people. And what you see is what you get with us.”
“We want to make sure students know that we want them to reach out […],” continues Gale.
To keep up with all of the presidential happenings, Gale and Seenauth suggest following FUSA on all social media platforms. They can be found on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat under the handle @fusa47 and on Facebook under the name “FUSA.”