What makes a leader?
Webster’s dictionary defines the word as “one who directs the operations, activity or performance of an organization,” but one can clearly see that this meaning fails to encompass the unending qualities that a leader must be able to display.” These attributes include but are not limited to confidence, charisma, a sense of humor, empathy for others and a willingness to succeed through hard work and dedication.
These are all qualities that students feel must be evident in the person who holds the position of Student Government Association (SGA) President, the highest level of West Chester University’s student leadership organization.
Current SGA President Bradley Williams spoke about the duties involved with holding this prestigious title. “First and foremost, the job involves service to the students through transferring their needs and wants to higher authorities.” he said. “The position also requires skill in distributing leadership to make sure that everyone is carrying their own weight.”
Now that Williams’ term is coming to end as he prepares to graduate, it is time for a new young leader to step in and become the next voice of West Chester University’s student body. The question of “who will hold the job” will be answered in an election that will take place from April 18-21.
Gunning for the position are two third-year students, both of whom are from upstate Pennsylvania and hold years of experience working in SGA: Senator Kyle J. Mullins and Vice President Amy J. Rae. In the past five weeks, these two youths have been hard at work getting their image out around the campus and voicing their plans for a better WCU. They will finally meet in an open debate on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 7 p.m. in Sykes Ballroom A.
It would be a great injustice if the student body did not first get the opportunity to take a closer look at each candidate. As this profile will show, Mullins and Rae come from two different walks of life which have brought them to this junction. They are very much different people, who now have the same goal in mind: capturing the SGA presidency.
Kyle J. Mullins
At the age of 21, Kyle J. Mullins has truly developed the key attributes of a political mind. Just by looking at him, a person can see nothing short of true motivation and professionalism, qualities that are evident from his years of experience on the SGA Senate and his previous term as Parliamentarian. But politics aside, Mullins’ life has been shaped by several people and events. Furthermore, it has been those closest to him-his friends and family-who have molded him into the man that he is today.
Mullins was born in Syracuse, New York in 1985 and later moved with his family to Peckville, Pa. As the only son in the household, maturity was something he developed at a young age and has sometimes made it hard for him to identify with other kids.
“Many people say I was born an 85-year-old man,” he jokingly said, “in that I grew up quickly, but in a mature way. It wasn’t until I reached high school that people began to respect the fact that I choose to go with what was right rather than what was popular.”
It was also in his high school years, that Mullins experienced two events that resulted in his desire to be a leader.
In early 2001, Mullins’ aunt, who was a “second mother to him”, died of leukemia. The experience was one of the hardest things Mullins had to endure, as he and his aunt were very close. The experience helped bring his family closer together, and his aunt’s two children became a big part of his life.
“Sometimes things are so tough that you have to surrender all and realize that there is a greater plan. Some people drop by this earth just long enough to make it a better place.” he said, “However, it was working through this event that politics became very personal to me and I developed the feeling that government, at any level, should help as many lives as possible.”
It was later that year that another incident made an impression on Mullins, as well as most of America’s youth: the events of September 11. As Mullins watched the second plane hit the twin towers from a TV in his school library, it awakened in him a desire that he still carries to this day.
“At the time of the attacks, I seemed to be the only one who was wondering what was being done at a national level and what our current security status was.” he explained. “As I watched the news on television that night, I realized, ‘This is what I have to do with my life.’ I wanted to hold a position in this government where I could have an affect on others and help make their lives safer.”
With the will to lead under his belt, Mullins campaigned and won the presidency of his senior class at Valley View High School in the fall of 2002. Honoring the one year anniversary of Sept. 11 was a major part of his first few months in office as he organized a school memorial service attended by classmates, community members and emergency personnel. The weather, which abruptly changed from rain to sunshine that day in time for the memorial’s outdoor service, is what made Mullins feel that it was “supposed to happen.”
“Everyone was deeply touched. Their looks truly told how thankful they were to remember,” he said.
Mullins arrived at West Chester University one year later and within two weeks became an SGA Senator for Academic Affairs. Within the first meeting, Mullins glanced up at the executive board, determined to hold one of those positions where he could affect as many people as possible. His desire was later fulfilled when he was elected to the position of Parliamentarian in 2003, where he had the pleasure of working with and approving several student organizations. Mullins is also currently an employee with the Office of Service Learning where he continues to involve himself in university-wide fundraisers and activities, including the Bear Fair, Martin Luther King Day events, fundraisers for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and other charitable activities.
“Our office received a note regarding a girl who had just celebrated her eleventh birthday. She asked her guests not to bring gifts but to bring teddy bears instead to help our cause.” he said. “It is truly moments like those which have made my work very special.”
Outside of the university, Mullins has been actively involved in state politics as he served as a campaign volunteer and close associate of State Senator Robert Mellow. In a message of support, the senator had no difficulty in attesting to Mullins’ attributes: “Kyle Mullins is a diligent worker and proven leader who is destined to succeed in the political field,” he wrote “and the knowledge he has already acquired through hands-on experience will allow him, as a member of Student Government, to draft proposals and make decisions that are in the best interest of the entire college community.”
When working outside the political realm, Mullins is a man who enjoys the lighter things in life such as reading, playing football and watching “The West Wing.” Furthermore, he has stayed true to what he considers his three main priorities in life: God, his family and his closest friends.
His major influences include his parents who taught him such things as “compassion, responsibility and determination” and his priest who gave him “strength and moral wisdom to go into the life of leadership.” Mullins claims he enjoys the occasional weekend home in the comfort of his mother, father, sister, grandmother, cousins and other family members.
“It’s a warm place to be, where my family and friends are always happy to see me,” he said. “Being there makes me unde
rstand that a house is only a home because of the people in it.”
Mullins also cares deeply about his friends, four of whom are sharing a spot on the Mullins ticket with him. Tracy Pedron, Matthew Holliday, Susan Malone and William Christman are four people who Mullins feels are “the best, brightest, and most qualified for their positions,” and their feelings towards him are nothing short of mutual.
“Kyle is a friend,” Pedron said, “and a good one at that. He just has this extremely genuine quality about him, and he will never let you down. His leadership skills are not only motivating but also inspiring. He has the unique ability to take charge of any situation, yet he always listens to everyone’s voice.”
Together the five of them are promising a more unified student body, a safer campus and a louder voice for all students to express any and all concerns. The latter of the three promises is very important to their presidential candidate since he feels that “everyone has a story,” and “Student Government should listen.”
“Your story matters to us,” Mullins said, “and we promise to make your days at West Chester among the best chapters of that story.”
Amy J. Rae
For most students, the name “Amy Rae” instantly comes to mind when they think of involvement here at West Chester University. Since her arrival in 2002, Rae has generated an amazing track record of service in several student organizations culminating in her appointment to the position of SGA Vice President last year. In addition to her involvement, Rae also possesses a positive attitude, which most students can’t help but remember, as it is a major part of her personality.
“I believe that in every person lies an infinite amount of happiness and sadness,” she said. “The only question is ‘What do you choose to take?'”
Rae grew up in Newfoundland, Pa., a small unincorporated village located in Wayne County. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, her parents were very supportive of her endeavors, and to this day, one of the strongest influences in her life has been her mother. “She puts all of herself into everything she does and works very hard for our family.” Rae said, “She is truly an inspiring woman.”
While in Newfoundland, Rae attended Wallenpaupack Area High School where she excelled in music performance in band and theatre.
Like most first-year students, Rae faced rough difficulties adjusting to college life in her first semester. The challenge of living on her own for the first time was just too much to bear at some points and calling home was a frequent way out. However, those days didn’t last long as she began to realize her own potential through working a position in residence life.
“I got a job working as a desk assistant in Killinger Hall and I slowly began to develop people and job skills.” she said, “It was after that I truly got crazy with involvement.”
Rae’s attributes only increased with each activity she took up. She bolstered her confidence as she entered the Miss WCU Pageant that same year, in which she was a runner-up. A year later she got her first-dose of directing experience as president of Killinger’s Residence Hall Association (RHA), and from there she moved on to West Chester’s big stage for student leaders: the Student Government Association. As Vice President, Rae has been able to further develop her skills in public speaking as well as distributive leadership.
Student Government Association has always been something which Rae is “very passionate about” and this has become clear to the people she has worked with. Senator Lessie Cardinal, who has worked with Rae on the Public Relations committee and is running for Parliamentarian on her campaign ticket, testified to her abilities to oversee others. “Rae has done tremendous work as Vice President,” he said, “in that she does so much yet remains organized. Furthermore, she is open-minded to the input of others and good on a personal as well as a professional level. I haven’t heard one complaint on the job she has done this year on the executive board.”
This past summer, Rae welcomed new young lives to West Chester University through her service as an orientation leader under the advisement of Mary Alice Ozechoski, the Assistant Dean of Student Involvement. Rae claims that the experience caused her involvement skills to flow together and it dawned on her as she was addressing large groups of people on a regular basis that she was capable of being a major leader in student affairs.
“Working as an orientation leader helped me to learn a lot about myself and how I can relate to others.” she said, “I didn’t go in with the intention of being a leader, it just happened.”
Rae says that she learned much in working with Ozechoski, who slowly became a “mentor” to her. “She saw something different in me and truly made me the best I could be,” she said. “Mary is truly all about the students and I’m inspired by what she’s able to do with those who are in their first year.”
Ozechoski had nothing but good words to say about Rae in a written testimony she provided to The Quad regarding her leadership potential.
“I think Rae is a very capable leader,” she wrote, “in that she brings both enthusiasm and a solid skill set to her ticket. I think she will serve as an excellent role model, good steward of the Student Activity fee and SGA President. I believe Amy will consider others’ input, lead by example and create a dynamic spirit of teamwork.”
In addition to her many roles as a student leader, Rae is also a member of the Greek community as well as the honors program, with whom she will be traveling to South Africa with at the semester’s end. When not working, she enjoys going out with her friends and listening to music. These things help “keep her grounded and calms stress.”
Perhaps Rae’s greatest asset is that she’s been able to take her positive attitude and use it to mentor those younger than her who are having trouble with university life. One female student who serves in SGA once told Rae, “You are the only reason I’ve stayed here.”
If elected, Rae would like to take that mentoring ability to reach out to all incoming students next year. From day one, she plans to let them know that SGA exists and that it is here for their benefit. She also hopes to work towards getting students full access to professor evaluations.
Lessie Cardinal made it clear that Rae’s intent is to “work for the students next year” if elected to the position of SGA President. “Right now SGA runs itself as a governing body and is not really involved with the student community,” he said. “I feel that if Rae is elected she will bring the student body with her to SGA because she has the ability to reach out to so much. She will make SGA for the students, not the government.”
At Rae’s side in this campaign is a team that she feels reflects the diversity and different perspectives of the student body. In addition to first-year Lessie Cardinal, she is joined by Julie France, the current parliamentarian of SGA who she regards as one of the “veteran, hardcore student leaders,” as well as Meghan Moretti, a transfer student with much experience in student government. Together, they plan to work for awareness, unity and advocacy if elected in the coming weeks.
Despite the stress and pressure of campaigning, Rae has made it clear that whatever the outcome of the election, she will respect the student body’s decision on what is best for the university.
“Although I would like to win,” she said, “the most important thing is the student voice. Whatever happens, I trust the student and I trust the voters. The only thing I ask is that you exercise your right and please vote in this election.”
Weighing the Choices
Despite the fact that both Mullins and Rae have taken different paths to the SGA presidency, the goals they have in mind for making the university a bett
er place are not much different.
One thing that both campaigns have promised is to “tear down the walls that exist between groups here at West Chester” and foster the creation of a more unified student body. Mullins feels that this can be achieved by beginning the school year with more activities for school spirit and pride, including a “Welcome Back” tailgate party and a memorial service to commemorate the five-year anniversary of September 11. Rae, is looking to encourage school spirit with increased student attendance at campus sporting events as well as organizing weekend activities to sway people away from going home. Furthermore, both ticket leaders have openly expressed the idea of moving Spirit Week to the week before homecoming.
Campus safety has become another important issue to both candidates in light of the numerous incidents of rape and sexual assault which have occurred around the campus area in the last few months.
“Underage drinking seems to be a major focus of the West Chester Borough,” said Rae, “but what it fails to realize is that problems of rape and sexual assault are much more severe.”
“These are our students, this is our town and this is our campus,” Mullins said, “and I promise as president to improve safety for all three through better communication with the borough police department and public safety.”
A third goal of both parties is to maximize awareness of the role of Student Government Association and increase student involvement in SGA affairs. Mullins hopes to “give voice” to the disabled students of West Chester by advocating for a new senate seat to represent them. As a member of the Greek community herself, Rae says she will strive to “get them recognized for the good things that they do.” Both leaders also plan on holding regular open-door forums for students to voice their opinions on issues of concern.
“Answering the question of ‘What can SGA do for you?’ is intensely personal to me as I feel that everyone deserves a chance to lead,” Mullins said. “The campaign doesn’t stop once we win. We will continue to work for the support, trust and cooperation of every student.”
“Student involvement in our affairs is a must have since it is the only way to guarantee continuity in the organization.” said Rae, “Also, with more students comes more pressure to gun for change.”
Above all else, the most admirable similarity, which these two individuals share, is their undying respect for one another.
“Kyle is a truly great politician,” Rae said, “and he has a ticket full of very experienced and capable individuals. We both want change but we just have different ways in which we would achieve it. Either way, the students will be the winners.”
“Amy and I have been friends since our freshman year and we will be friends long after these elections have passed,” Mullins said. “She is a wonderful individual who always wears a smile, and that is a quality that you sometimes need in a person.”
The Voice of the People
Without a doubt, choosing between two capable leaders such as Kyle and Amy is nothing short of difficult. Even Brad Williams is a bit divided in answering, “Who is the right choice?”
“Kyle has great experiences with his three years in student government. He’s passionate about everything he does and he’s a man wise beyond his years,” the current president said. “Amy is also a hard worker who has exceeded her expectations and taken the role of vice-president to an entirely new level this year. I have confidence that they’ll both be good leaders in different ways, but the decision on who will be the president is a tough one.”
Although the decision might be difficult, it can be decided by one factor: the voice of the governed. More-so, it is a fact that a leader is not only shaped by their own personal qualities and experience but also by the confidence invested in them by the people they wish to lead. Without that vote of confidence, they are nothing.
This logic is clearly expressed in the history of our nation, as it was George Washington, the father of our country, who stated the following at his inauguration in 1789: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
Vote for SGA President, Vice-President, Secretary, Parliamentarian and Treasurer from April 18-21. Visit the Student Government Association’s website-www.wcusga.com-for polling times, locations and instructions.
With that said, let the voice of the people be heard.