Melissa Westbrook: From president to pupil

Melissa Westbrook interacts with a Global UCF student. Photo by Gabbie Mont.

There is a perspective most UCF students will never know: seeing the innermost workings of campus, having your face plastered on brochures and banners, and being on first-name basis with President Hitt.

This perspective can only be gained through the presidential office of the Student Government Association.

As the former president of SGA, Melissa Westbrook can now speak candidly about the highs and lows of being the face representing more than 60,000 students.

“You do get preferential treatment for a lot of it, and even after, when they find out the things that you’ve done,” Westbrook said. “The after-effect is more dependent on if you were nice to them. If you were humble, they will still treat you with preferential treatment afterwards.”

Over her year-long term, Westbrook received a salary of $20,000 before taxes, and being president, she said, was a job that required a minimum of 35 hours a week. Even in off-hours, though, she was constantly answering urgent phone calls and emails from other members of SGA.

Jacob Kahn, Westbrook’s former vice president, said it was nice to be able to transition back into the life of a typical UCF student after his and Westbrook’s terms were up.

“Being in a leadership position on campus where you have so much responsibility, you kind of miss out on normal student life,” Kahn said. “It’s nice to kind of get that back.”

In a way, though, Westbrook still hasn’t gotten “normal life” back. She said people around campus still adjust their behavior around her based on her previous position of power.

“I’m a human being. You don’t have to be perfect around me,” she said. “People treat you differently when they find out who you are. I never like to announce myself because I feel like if you have to announce yourself it’s not worth it.”

Now pursuing a UCF graduate degree as well as a second bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, the 23-year-old splits her time between her jobs as a Global UCF ambassador, graduate assistant to Dr. Kerry Welch and intern at Feeding Children Everywhere.

“I think Melissa has transitioned beautifully from [being] president,” Kahn said. “But she will always be a leader in her own right. You can take away the title and positions, but she’s still a leader.”

And despite no longer being the face of UCF, Westbrook still advocates for every student to be as involved as they possibly can.

“I don’t think anything was given to me,” she said. “Don’t feel like you can’t go this far because you don’t have an upper hand. I was the underdog in a lot of different situations, and I came out anyway.”

Maybe the phrase is true: You can take the girl out of office, but you can’t take the office out of the girl.

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