IOWA CITY, IOWA (September 4, 2020) — University of Iowa shared governance bodies elect new leadership each spring semester. Two of the four groups are led by students at the UI: Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG).
Together with Faculty Senate, Staff Council, and Graduate and Professional Student Government, students involved in USG shape policies and inform decisions that affect Iowa's students, faculty, and staff, and represent their constituents to the UI administration; the Board of Regents, State of Iowa; the public; and state and federal government.
Read about the skills and experience the president and vice president of USG bring to their positions and what they aim to accomplish this year.
Undergraduate Student Government (USG)
Connor Wooff, USG president, is a fourth-year undergraduate from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish.
Mara Smith, USG vice president, is a fourth-year undergraduate from West Des Moines, Iowa, majoring in therapeutic recreation and minoring in human relations with a disabilities studies certificate.
What experiences inform your role as a shared governance leader?
Wooff: Over my nearly four years on this campus, I've been privileged to participate in a number of roles and opportunities that have given me the tools necessary to lead our undergraduate student body. They span from student support through residence education and orientation services to student advocacy as USG director of governmental relations. I've spent my time at Iowa listening to students and learning how to change their lives for the better. As student body president, I hope to continue this as we work to uplift the voices of students every single day.
Smith: This will be my fourth year on campus, and every year I have been able to make more and more meaningful connections with other student leaders and students who aren't as involved. I like to use these connections to inform decisions. As USG leaders, it is our job to listen to students and use their voices to inform our decisions. I look on social media for what people are saying about Iowa and our campus, and to see what things people want changed. I also listen in my classes, talk to my friends, and engage in conversations wherever I can so I am advocating for what most students want and not just what I want.
What are important issues facing your constituents and how do you plan to address them?
Wooff: When Mara and I ran in March 2020, we could have never imagined all that was approaching for our campus. We are living in the most challenging times in a generation. A global pandemic is once again surging, our economy is in spiral, racial injustice is front and center, and communities across our state have been devasted by an unprecedented natural disaster. The health and well-being of all our students, including Black, indigenous, and people of color, is our uppermost priority as we move forward. We will continue to listen and learn from our constituents, raise their concerns, push for answers, and work to develop solutions amid COVID-19. Meanwhile, we must recognize the countless other issues that continue to face our campus-pandemic or not. In our campaign, Mara and I put forth our top five priorities for our term, from diversity, equity, and inclusion to civic engagement to sustainability. Students still rely on us to represent and serve them on these issues. We have every intention, in collaboration with campus partners and leaders within USG, to make good on our promises.
Smith: This year is different than most years in that most years the administration gets to look at campus and decide what they want to focus their energy on. After this summer of being in office, I have noticed that will not be the case this year. The two things I will focus my attention on this year are COVID-19 and the issues facing Black and other minority students on our campus. The global pandemic needs to be at the forefront of the work we are doing because that impacts every single student on our campus. We have a COVID-19 task force that meets weekly to discuss these issues and make action plans. Additionally, this summer the Black Lives Matter movement brought to light a lot of issues on our campus that need to be addressed. I will be working closely with our director of justice and equity, Ruth Kahssai, to make sure no one on our campus feels like they are in danger because of the color of their skin and they can enjoy their time at Iowa.
What can we expect from Undergraduate Student Government in the coming months?
Wooff: As we begin the semester, there is no doubt our community will continue to face unprecedented and urgent challenges. USG is committed to supporting students every step of the way and plans to actively engage students, staff, faculty, and administration throughout this process. For the coming months, our most pressing priorities will be health and safety, racial justice, civic engagement, and financial stability.
Smith: We will be doing our best to regularly communicate to students how to be safe during COVID-19, how to get involved with USG and other orgs, civic engagement opportunities, and other resources about online classes and navigating college during this time.
About the University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is one of the nation's premier public research universities, dedicated to academic excellence, groundbreaking discoveries and creations, commitment to Iowa and the world, and a culture that prizes community, diversity, and opportunity.
The UI is known around the world for its leadership in the arts, sciences, and humanities. It is home to the first and best creative writing program in the world, a world-class academic medical center and one of America's top teaching hospitals, and a can-do culture that fosters a campus-wide dedication to student success.
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