At Your Service
by Beverly Newsam
While some of his fellow students are still snug in their beds, Alexander Williams is on campus preparing for the day. It is just one of many changes he has faced during his transition to student body president/regent at UNO.
The senior political science major said he has mapped out a schedule to keep his classes and other obligations on track. "I am on campus by 7:30 a.m. each day," he said. "It helps me stay organized and get a feel for the day ahead."
Student Government offices are located on the first floor of the Milo Bail Student Center (behind the Fireplace Lounge), and the organization employs an open-door policy.
Williams said the standard helps create a welcoming atmosphere that is conducive to growth and the furthering of three Student Government goals - operational development, student engagement and campus evolvement.
With 32 senators, Williams said keeping Student Government operations running smoothly - including weekly meetings - could become chaotic without set objectives, as everyone has suggestions and ideas for projects. Managing an efficient Student Government body that is actively involved but not overwhelmed is key, as is increasing south campus participation in activities and the growth of the campus. He also aims to improve and create a zone on campus that is both aesthetically and academically beneficial to everyone.
Under his leadership, Williams is working toward increased accountability and visibility of Student Government. "Former UNO student/regent Steve Massara was never caught off guard," he said. "I am striving to be well-informed so I can inform the voting regents about issues, and we can continue to make progress in relation to the needs of the student community."
As a high school student in Plattsmouth, Neb., Williams said he tried to immerse himself in everything, including assisting the governor with a statewide tobacco project. His desire to be involved in efforts that make a difference carried over to his university career.
Although he is currently a political science major, Williams said he began majoring in business at UNO before his interest in politics took over. "I have always had an innate desire to be political," he said.
At UNO, Williams has helped feed his passion for politics with Student Government involvement. Before being elected student body president/regent, Williams held a variety of Student Government posts, including serving as a senator representing the sophomore class and, later, as an Arts and Sciences senator. Following his appointment as parliamentarian, he was named to the Executive Office of Legislative and Public Relations.
A three-year member of Student Government, Williams said the opportunity to expand on the work he accomplished with various positions and multiple committees has been invaluable and a great learning process. Running for student body president/regent seemed like the next step for him. "I found the work interesting and wanted to be able to make an impact," he said. "You definitely learn a lot through the process, and considering platforms and merging campaigns was challenging."
Student Government terms last a year, and Williams will hold office in his current post through January of 2008. Other positions are filled at different times, but Williams said it is never an all-new staff. "It's very important to have returning people for training purposes and to keep things flowing," he said.
Several past Student Government projects stand out in Williams' mind for the impact they have made and continue to make on the community. Giving the Student Government Web site (http://sguno.unomaha.edu/) a facelift is one such endeavor he takes great pride in. During the course of a year, he worked with ITS to make Student Government's Web presence more accessible.
"It's important to look more professional," he said. "It also allows us [Student Government] to be more accountable for our actions, as meeting notes, agendas and contact information is now easy to find."
Williams also helped coordinate a University of Nebraska system-wide conference that brings together students, senators, NU President James B. Milliken, Gov. Dave Heineman and other key education representatives. The event, which will be held again this year, focuses on the student governing process and gaining a broader perspective of the positions held by each individual and how they relate to the university.
The relationships and experiences Williams has gained through his Student Government work are important to him, as he sees them benefiting him in future endeavors. "It is a training/testing ground," he said. "It's been a great way to understand bureaucracies and is a giant stepping stone."
When asked to "dream big" about what he would like to accomplish on campus if he had the ability and funds to do so, Williams named two such projects: A 24-hour, multipurpose rooftop venue conducive to student activities and "The Bull."
He said he has spoken with students who have voiced a desire for a campus location that is accessible 24 hours a day, offers food and can be used for a variety of events. "A rooftop view of Dodge Street also would be nice," Williams said. "And having the ability to showcase student efforts - be it poetry, bands, etc. - would help bring the campus together."
As for "The Bull" - a railway system that would make stops on the three UNO campus properties - Williams said it would be a way to help curb some of the inconveniences of the current shuttle service. "The shuttles often bunch up," he said. "‘The Bull' would help alleviate that, in addition to providing a scenic view for passengers."
In addition to his Student Government duties, Williams is a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, the Chancellor's Commission on Multicultural Affairs, the University Judicial Committee and the Student Leadership Council. He also has represented the student body for several years at the UNO Strategic Advances.
Upon graduating from UNO, Williams plans to enroll in law school. He said he is excited for the chance to further expand his knowledge of the political arena and is interested in serving the state in a variety of capacities. "I would be honored to give back to the university and Nebraska citizens through work in student affairs in the University of Nebraska system or as a senator or governor," he said.
For now, Williams is excited to help voice the needs and concerns of the campus student body and, hopefully, bring about change in the process. "Working together, you can really learn and accomplish a lot," he said.
Beverly Newsam is a public relations staff member at UNO. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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