Zak and Kristina Sitdown Interview

Zak Myers and Kristina Lawrence are running for Student Government president and vice president.  The two sat down for an exclusive interview with UCF Knightly News, the broadcast partner of NSM Today. 

Ahead of the 2020 Student Government presidential election next week, candidates Zak Myers and Kristina Lawrence sat down for an exclusive interview with NSM Today and UCF Knightly News Reporter Jeremy Brener to discuss their campaign and plans for UCF if elected. 

UCF Knightly News, the broadcast partner of NSM Today, has posted the full interview online here

Brener asked both pairs of candidates the same questions. To learn more about Sabrina La Rosa and Stephanie Blanco's campaign, click here

 

Question: You are running for Student Government president and vice president. How does it feel just to do it all?
 
Myers: Well it's actually a really incredible opportunity and, I mean, we were always conscious of the size and the scale of this university and what 70,000 student stakeholders looks like. So to even be in the position to get to lead the student initiative and be the the head liaisons between the 70,000 students and the higher administration, for what I would argue is the best university in the state of Florida, is an incredible opportunity. So we're really excited about that.
 
Lawrence: Zak called me out of nowhere. So it was kind of random, but in truth it was really something that, in my own mind, I was like, "OK, what can I do to enhance my student engagement and also just give back to the community?" As a graduate student, I'm in a different level as to, we're not doing the undergraduate thing anymore, and I've already been kind of seasoned but I wanted to do more. And so once Zak did call me I realized, "Why not do it?" You know, it's something where I can give back and represent so many different people, just beyond transfer students and even, just students of color, students who may be women, so many different reaches and really graduate students as well, because we've had only one other representative as a vice president. So being able to serve as the second would be an amazing opportunity. I think us together having been in student government as senators, and also just getting the chance to really expand upon the things we've seen in Student Government and on campus, I think it's just a done deal.
 
Question: So you mentioned being a graduate student. It's very rare first for a graduate student to be in your position running for Student Government vice president. How does that role that you have help you in this case and why is that an added value to your campaign?
 
Lawrence: Yeah. So I feel like being a graduate student, with the exception already having a degree, it's something where there is a slight level of understanding a little bit more than what a new student or someone who's been here for maybe a year or two understands. And even just with the curriculum, if you look at the class sizes for example, it's more connected and showcasing the community standpoint. And so taking that same experience, being in my second semester, and also tying that into just running to campus in helping to advocate for students, I think it really does have a correlation and being able to showcase all the different things that I've seen within the classroom and really understanding how professors and students and administration and everyone kind of works together is really valuable I think.
 
Question: Tell me a little bit about yourselves and what has kind of led you to this point. Have you always wanted to be running for Student Government president and vice President or is it something that just kind of came about?
 
Myers: So I'll say without making it too long of a story. I didn't want to come to UCF at first when I had first gotten out of high school. It wasn't an institution that I was really familiar with and now having been here and naturally growing to love this campus and love this community, I truly couldn't imagine myself anywhere else. And we lead under the mantra that if you love something, you have to try to take care of it and see that it's able to succeed. And so when I had first gotten here, to be honest with you, I wasn't super enthusiastic about, you know, maybe what my level of engagement would look like and I didn't understand all that the university had to offer and I didn't understand the scale, the scope, the impact, that we as a collective unit had by all being Knights. And so as I got more engaged, as I got more involved, and I started to learn the strength and our ability to foster partnerships with the folks around us in a really organic way. I, kind of, had decided at that point that I had tried to serve in Student Government to the best of my capabilities in the areas that I knew and was familiar with and in the experiences that I had been working with Kristina and our overlap in the Office of Student Involvement and then also in [Student Body] Senate at the same time. There's truly nobody else that I'd want to run with. She's really incredible and I'm so blessed to be running with her and I know that she has the particular skill set to give the position due diligence, so it was something that that we had to grow and come into. And it's such a large responsibility to be mindful of the size of the organization that you're leading, the budget that is, you know, that you supervised, the role of a Student Body president and the Board of Trustees. These are all really large responsibilities, but it says that an individual has to take with high regard, so it certainly required a lot of thought and premeditation before finally committing to it, to making sure that we were doing the right thing, the most responsible thing.
 
Question: So what are your current roles in Student Government and what roles have you previously served under?
 
Lawrence: So right now, I'm actually not involved in Student Government currently. I am an ambassador for UCF Downtown and so I've been doing that position for about a year and I helped to bring the campus to life from when it was first starting out — getting promotion and getting students engaged with it. When I was in Student Government, I was a senator for Nicholson School of Communication and Media. So I spent my first year actually as a UCF Knight within that role. And so I got to meet with a lot of higher administration students and we had a lot of interactions with trying to enhance policies and just have a lot of different things happen.
 
Myers: Yeah so I had first started off I did get involved because I do like being involved. I like giving back to the community that I'm a part of. So I got involved with Student Government when I had my first fall semester at UCF and then eventually went on to become a senator for the College of Community, Innovation and Education and I served as the external legislative assistant for the Speaker's office at that time  so we work directly with all of the colleges at the university to try to identify problems that scope those colleges academically to see how the Student Body Senate could responsibly work to improve those conditions for all of the students  because what we believe in is enhancing the collegiate experience. So even though my area of study is focused in public administration, political science, things of that nature, it really helped me get a better idea of, you know, what the hardships that a student in the School of Medicine might be having or in Nicholson or in the College of Sciences might be having. And then since then, I did move over to the executive cabinet from Senate and I now have been doing governmental affairs for the Kyler [Gray] and Madeline [Mills] administration. So anything focused on civic engagement, voter registration, decreasing voter apathy, making sure that we have a sound robust legislative priority docket to bring up to Tallahassee and to Washington, D.C. to make sure that we're representing the sentiment of the 70,000 students [that we have here] appropriately — because that realm being a public institution of this magnitude is incredibly important. So it's been something that I've loved to work on and and and have really gotten an opportunity to render those skills in cooperation with higher administration at the university and then also in cooperation with the Florida Student Association, which is all 12 of [Florida's] universities or the other universities working together to enhance the state university system.
 
Question: If the two of you were elected by the student body as the president and vice president, how would you act with the current climate of the Board of Trustees with a lot of change going on with the Board of Trustees at the moment?
 
Myers: Yeah I guess I'll probably take that one. I mean I think that the two of the areas that I that I value a lot is adaptability, resiliency and then clarity, right. So when it comes to maybe a little bit of instability at the higher administration level of the university, change can always be uncomfortable and as we get bigger as the pieces of the university change around, that sometimes will come with growing pains. So it takes somebody that is adaptable to try to confront those head on and then also being mindful of what the student sentiment is. So being intentional in our interactions with [registered student organizations], the Office of Student Involvement, Greek life communities, folks that live on campus, folks that live off-campus. The reason we're doing this is not to represent one group of people but really have a holistic understanding of what every single student or get as close to as possible of what their day-to-day might look like. And if there's an opportunity to represent that at the Board of Trustees, then that's the responsibility of having the student representative on that very large committee at that point. So yeah I would I would say that it's it's going to take somebody that is gonna do do the due diligence to the job, be responsible with what the framework of the meetings looks like, being able to identify the other people on the Board of Trustees, knowing their backgrounds, and then trying to leverage partners with those individuals to make sure that that if there is any instability at the upper levels of the university, then students don't feel that directly. We want to make sure that when Knights come here they feel happy, they feel safe, they feel welcome, they feel like this is a place where they can connect with other people and have a viable path to getting a good education and then feeling part of something bigger than themselves — so I'll leave it at that.
 
Brener: Speaking of change, the presidential search is in its early stages and by the time in the next school year we should probably have a new president for the university. So how would you two, if you were elected president, respond to that role with a new president for the university?
 
Myers: Yes, so I hope that the transition period will go smoothly — and I know that I would say arguably to that — like the student body and our nature and culture of innovation here is resilient. So when we have a new president that might come and shake things up a little bit, I think that our student body will react warmly to that and I know that the Presidential Search Committee now has been responsible and trying to make sure that that person isn't selected on a whim, but it makes sure that the university and the student body and the morale of the university is in a good positioning to move forward and continue to grow and to improve and our accolades and our success as an institution as a collective — so I'll say that on it.
 
Lawrence: I think you hit it on the head but just to add, I think really trying to understand [the presidential candidates] and also how they contribute to the university. I know in the past when we had any president come in, it was something that did take some time. But as soon as it did happen, it was really where students felt comfortable and they felt as if they had someone who was really representing them for the better. So I think with the community that we do have and with the opportunity to be able to be the president and vice president we'll really work with them and really try to get connection going and really try to establish that so that way we're able to actually create and do new things with the campus and then also help and represent students.
 
Myers: Real quick, if you don't mind me just adding one more thing to that — I mean I think it's important to acknowledge that the example that President [Thad Seymour Jr.] and Mrs. Katie Seymour have set so far times the role of Student Government. And the reason why we're there is to act as the middle man or the liaison between the student body and higher administration. So if a student has an idea in their head or they say, "This activity or this service or a resource could be improved or could be better," — if there's a way to move the university in a progressive and forward direction, right, then it's our responsibility to facilitate those conversations — especially with the president and the members of his or her office. So I think I think that they've really set the framework for what a good president and first lady look like for this university. And I mean obviously the next president will have big shoes to fill, but I think that we've all been diligent in trying to identify those qualities that we really value in them and then making sure that that we can add a level of consistency to that moving forward.
 
Brener: I want to briefly touch on the two of you and your platform and what is one platform point that you two have that is maybe a little bit different than them, Sabrina and Stephanie's, and what separates you two from Sabrina and Stephanie? What makes your ticket unique?
 
Lawrence: I'd say because we do have over 40 different points [on our platform], so we have an extensive extensive reach as far as what we want to try and accomplish. I think one of the things is in regards to an initiative that we're working with a few other people and it's already in the works called "UCF House" — and so basically trying to establish some shelters and also some spaces for students who may be homeless and may need a temporary space to live in, and so I think that in itself, just because it is in partnership with so many other agencies and communities on campus already, and being part of that is something that would really be momentous. And then definitely being able to be a part of that and also work towards seeing that come to life would really just be an amazing thing.
 
Myers: So I think that in itself is a huge one the entire priorities is a testament. I think to our sense and desire to have a really strong, tight-knit community to make people feel like no matter the background that you come from or the situation that you're encountering while you're here UCF, that the representatives behind you, we're gonna have your back and are gonna try to take the initiatives to improve the condition of life in your entire collegiate experience. So I'm also really proud of that platform — I'm glad that that was was something you brought up. The other thing that I say that I'm really passionate about right now and it's a little obscure just because it doesn't necessarily — it's not an on-campus initiative, so it's not an east of Alafaya issue, but it's more of a just slightly west of Alafaya issue — and that is I'm trying to prioritize pedestrian safety in the areas around UCF. We've really tragically had far too many pedestrian casualties and fatalities and it's something that when we walk into work every morning and we work for the university to know that there's somebody that, even if we didn't know them directly, that somebody that we were connected with had the same identity, that their life was compromised at no wrongdoing of their own. I mean that's really something tragic to hear. So any efforts that that we can take to try to mitigate those problems is something that we're gonna work really steadfast on. So improving lights on campus, making sure that the overall lighting, the blue lights and the emergency safety. And then also the pedestrian street bollards so that if a car happens to veer off from the side of the road because of an unfortunate drunk driving activity or driving under the influence, that a pedestrian life wouldn't be compromised. So it's an unfortunate thing that we have to talk about, but it's sometimes when you're in a position like this, you have to introduce and facilitate conversations about topics that are difficult to be had — and if we're not talking about those things and we can never see progress on them. So, I mean, it starts here and and we want to make sure that we bring awareness to those issues and then take every step possible to try to solve those problems. So that's just two of them on a big list but I think that those are two areas that we're trying to hone in on.
 
Question: In about one sentence, why should students vote for you?
 
Myers: I'll say that Kristina and I both love this university so much and this is a large task to try to — or a large role in responsibility — that we have to try to assume and we can't do this without loving this place dearly.
 
The Student Government election will take place March 2-4. Students can vote on my.ucf.edu. For more information about the UCF presidential election, click here
 
An earlier version of this article said the election is taking place March 4-6. It is taking place March 2-4.

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