As most students prepare for finals week, graduation, the end of another semester and the start of summer break, two students are already planning for the new school year.
The student body elected Danny Burke, junior business marketing major from Seymour, Indiana, and Julia Kennedy, sophomore English major from Lubbock, as the new Students’ Association president and vice president, respectively. And though their official appointment doesn’t begin until the fall, they’ve already begun to work.
Both students have been involved with SA in previous years. Kennedy was the Gardner representative her freshman year and this year she’s served as the sophomore class [resident. Burke served as the student activity officer this year – a liaison between the cabinet and SA – which put him in Abbey Moses’ presidential cabinet. Both candidates said previous involvement – in SA and other organizations – helped prepare them for their new roles.
“Since I have been involved for so long, and seeing both the positives and negatives in congress, and SA in general, there’s so many things that it can be and so many things that I feel like I have the abilities to really pour into and grow,” Kennedy said. “I’d set myself up pretty well being involved freshman and sophomore year and I just went for it, thinking that if this is where I’m supposed to be, then I have lots of plans for congress for how we can grow. I do have the skill set and the experience and I’m passionate about it, so I decided to run for a bigger position.”
For Burke, he saw the vast opportunities that ACU presented the moment he set foot on campus as a freshman – and he knew he wanted to take advantage of them.
“I really wanted to, my senior year, hopefully bring so much of that together and unify the students in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Burke said. “I have a heart for students and groups that have maybe not been proactively sought after, and just really raising the excitement level and really letting students fall in love with the university.”
The campaign was, in one word, stressful. Burke ran against one opponent – junior classmate Abraham Enriquez – and even had a team of people to help promote his campaign through social media and on campus. However, the real journey to SA president began years ago.
“Something that my mom actually told me afterwards, she said, ‘I feel like you really started campaigning your freshman year whenever you first stepped foot on campus. As people get to know you, it’s not just the week leading up to the election, but people get to know your heart over the years and everything that you’ve invested in,'” Burke said. “Whether I won or lost the election, I still had a dream to serve and pour into the student body… I didn’t want it to be this inauthentic week where I over-pour myself into everything, but trusted in that I had loved and served and gotten to know so many people through the years that I’ve been at ACU – so that when the time came, I was well prepared and it wasn’t a last second scrounge to find votes. People knew me and knew my heart, and trusted that I would do a good job.”
Burke said he has prayed for this consistently since his freshman year. As far as SA is concerned, it’s been immersed in prayer and his involvement in SA has been strategic and intentional, he said. And though Kennedy ended up running unopposed as Vice President, she realized she still needed to campaign to win over the students and prove that she was the right person for the job.
“The debate was when my opponent told me she would no longer be running,” she explained. “So from then on, I decided, ‘OK, technically I’ve won, but I haven’t really won the students.’ I continued to prove to them that I love this place, and I love y’all, and I would like to earn this, not just be given it – even though that wasn’t my decision to be given. But when I did run, and I used it more of a forum of why SA is important, not why me being vice president is important.”
One thing both students want to focus on is explaining the overall goal of SA. Many students don’t know what SA is or what it does, Kennedy said, so she wants to clear up confusion and explain how SA can help the student body.
“A lot of my plans go down to the congress – how I’m going to have meetings differently, how that’s going to look, the resolutions and bills that are going to be passed and the ones that are going to be written,” she said. “I think, overall though, my vision is to make SA more relevant on campus, to let people know what it is and how they can truly seek it out for personal help.”
“SA is a phenomenal resource,” he said. “It’s this special place – it’s the only place on campus where the faculty administration is on one end and students on the other, and it’s this magical medium. It’s the only place…” He trailed off as he struggled to find the words to accurately describe it.
Kennedy pitched in to help. “SA is the heart of campus.”
“And that’s super exciting, and a little bit daunting,” Burke picked up again. “But what a phenomenal opportunity to be able to hear from students and then be the voice of students, be the face to the administration, and then get feedback and wisdom from faculty who have been here long before we have. Being able to work together to accomplish the student’s vision is super exciting for me.”
Another thing they want to address is the negative perception of SA that some students have. And though that can be a scary task, both Kennedy and Burke are excited by the prospect of improving SA’s image.
“I think the fact that a lot of people have a negative connotation or a negative perception of SA tells me that at least if they have a perception of SA’s doing this or this wrong, then they at least look up to SA as a place where things can get done,” Burke said. “If all we have to do is change the angle a little bit, so it’s moving in a positive direction, then it’s totally possible.”
Burke also said he’s incredibly humbled to hold this leadership position for his final year at ACU. No student deserves the opportunity to be the face of the entire student body, but the opportunity to represent them is an honor and a privilege, he said.
“We will never deserve this,” Kennedy added, “But we will keep that in mind as we’re working toward knowing that this in an honor, and our decision will be made through the knowledge: ‘Man, I don’t deserve this, but how can I work with the place I’ve been given?’ Because it is such a gift.”
And a few moments later, when asked if they wanted to add anything else, Kennedy laughed and said: “Scratch ’em. I’ll always add that.”