By Aria Lockman & Gabriella Batista
On Apr. 11, the results of the 2023 New College Student Alliance (NCSA) spring election were announced. Students anticipated another eventful presidential debate but with the lack of opponents, third-year and current president Grace Keenan and second-year Colin Jefferis were announced as Co-presidents elect along with their running mate and Vice President elect, first-year Kyla Baldonado. Their term begins on their official inauguration date on May 1.
The Catalyst interviewed each upcoming NCSA leader individually to gauge where they are before heading into—some new and some familiar—positions. Each gave their reasons for stepping up to the plate, taking on notoriously difficult positions within the NCSA and their hopes and goals for the upcoming academic year.
The three individuals have four main goals they hope to achieve sometime within the next year: expanding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, empowering student workers, improving general student well-being and strengthening New College’s government relations.
Keenan, after careful consideration, ultimately decided to break previous NCSA President Sofia Lombardi’s trend of not taking a Co-president. This decision was made due to the recent changes New College has experienced, specifically regarding the Board of Trustees (BOT). Keenan emphasizes the importance of strong leadership during this time of change. Therefore, Jefferis and Keenan will split their responsibilities as Co-presidents: Jefferis will focus on the student body and internal relations while Keenan will focus her time on the external relations of New College. This particular partnership allows both individuals to achieve their respective goals effectively, allowing them to carry out strong leadership.
Co-president Grace Keenan
Keenan, after running for NCSA President for the 2022-23 academic year, said that she was conflicted on running for President for the following year. And so, Keenan reached out to Jefferis to cement a partnership that allows these individuals to focus on their own goals on and off of campus.
After the alliance was established, they reached out to Baldonado due to her extensive work as the NCSA Diversity Representative for the 2022-23 academic year.
This partnership allows Keenan to focus on her own specific goals as Co-president, specifically improving New College’s external relations. This includes taking frequent trips to Tallahassee in order to lobby for improving Florida’s higher education. Keenan is looking to focus on overall student well-being by addressing issues such as overcrowded housing and food insecurity on campus. Working with Jefferis also allows Keenan to focus on being on the Board of Trustees (BOT) as she fights for student voices to be heard.
“[Being Co-president is] going to allow me a lot more time to be more engaged on that stage,” Keenan stated. She said that she looks forward to her partnership with Jefferis and Baldonado in the upcoming academic year.
Co-president Colin Jefferis
Similar to Keenan, Jefferis is well-known throughout campus due to his work as the NCSA Resident Advisor (RA) Representative. After applying to be an RA for the 2022-23 academic year, Jefferis quickly realized that student workers faced many challenges. During his time as the RA Representative, he fought to advocate for RAs, eventually leading to the RA contracts to be reviewed.
Due to his extensive experience with RAs, Jefferis will tackle empowering student workers. He plans to encourage student workers to advocate for themselves and be well versed in their respective contracts.
“Student workers do a lot on this campus—they’re extremely important,” Jefferis emphasized.
Jefferis also emphasizes his concern for student well-being. Food insecurity and accessibility issues are frequent throughout campus. He hopes to work towards expanding the Hamilton “Ham” Center’s hours as well as expanding options for students. He also hopes to increase accessibility and safety by proposing maintenance for elevators and emergency buttons to increase safety.
Vice President Kyla Baldonado
Baldonado recounted being approached by Keenan and Jefferis one day, surprised at the proposal of becoming their running mate. Her admiration for their previous leadership work and her own aspirations of bettering campus life led her to agree to the proposition.
“If they felt that I can contribute to the community and they saw that I had potential to make good changes then I should use those strengths and serve the community in any way that I can,” Baldonado stated.
She went on to say that her first-year status leaves a lot of room for learning more about New College and the way in which the institution runs. Her previous work on campus over the past year has proven otherwise. Baldonado is currently president and led the resurgence of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Alliance (AAPISA) in just her first semester on campus. On top of that, her work as the NCSA Diversity Representative brought students events like Grief Week and opportunities to give back to the staff members of the recently abolished Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence (OOIE).
“I really see the need to make sure that we make up for the absence of OOIE,” Baldonado responded once asked about her particular goals for her role. “I really want to focus on continuing the work they did and the work that is meaningful and helpful for students. We have to facilitate that by creating more structures within the NCSA for fostering diverse and inclusive conversations. That kind of work.”
All in all, the four pillars of their platform as well as their previous work set a precedent for what is to come for New College and the students who call campus home.
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Congratulations to the new executive members! This alum looks forward to seeing what they accomplish in the coming year.