This Saturday, student government takes front stage with the first-ever Worcester Student Government Association Conference. WPI hosts the conference that will bring student government leaders from nine Worcester campuses—Anna Maria, Assumption, Becker, Clark, Holy Cross, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester State, and WPI.
The day includes a keynote address by State Representative Dan Donahue (D-Worcester) as well as “Worcester 101” workshops run by city leaders, including Mayor Joe Petty. Student-led workshops will address student government-related issues. The day closes with elections for next year’s officers.
The fledgling association formed last year when co-founders Neema Hakim of Holy Cross College and Phill Blake of WPI decided to assemble the strengths and energies of the student governments across several Worcester campuses. The WSGA is entirely student-run and independent and works in partnership with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. Saturday’s conference solidifies those working relationships and helps the students focus forward as a group, share their ideas, and work on common goals.
“Simply put, it is imperative that college students have a voice in this city,” says Hakim. “Whether the issue is transportation, night life, or internship opportunities, change will only happen if we, as students, are capable of articulating a collective voice.”
The conference brings the students face-to-face and fosters greater social connections between campuses, but it also helps the students see the wider picture of what happens beyond the campus borders. “We also wanted to have a conference so we could challenge students to develop a deeper insight into the community of Worcester,” says Hakim. “Students make up a large part of the city, and we need to understand the role we play in the community beyond our campuses.”
The speakers and presenters at this year’s conference were chosen for their prominent roles in city life and achievements students will relate to. Donahue, a Holy Cross alum, went into politics at a young age. He became state representative in his 20s and his career path and goals are something college students can relate to their own lives.
Mayor Petty, long a proponent of college students enlivening the city’s cultural events, will offer a Worcester 101 workshop titled “Worcester’s Past, Present, and Bright Future,” to discuss the ways Worcester is addressing economic development, working on current and future needs, and the roles of government, the private sector, and the community.
Jean Pierre Miralda ’15, a management engineering major, is secretary of WPI’s Student Government Association, and hopes the conference makes people more aware of the WSGA and what the students are doing. “This is for people to interact with students from different schools and to get to know them,” he says. “But it’s also for us to brainstorm ideas of how we can collaborate together and make an impact on Worcester and not just our own campuses.”
And the city benefits from the collective voice of student governments as well. Rather than approaching each campus alone, the city representatives can meet with the WSGA as a whole and hear the different points of view and important issues in a much shorter time. Local businesses and organizations (like the Worcester Regional Transit Authority) have the same opportunity.
Six WSGA candidates are running for three open officer positions within the organizations and the conference gives them a chance to make candidate speeches before the delegates. Elections will be held and results reported before the conference closes at 5:30 pm.
“The WSGA enables the college students of Worcester to unite and represent the tens of thousands of college students,” says Hakim.
The conference is open to the community and the events all take place in the Campus Center Odeum beginning at 1 pm. For more information, see the Worcester Student Government Association’s Facebook page.
By Julia Quinn-Szcesuil