The Student Senate at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) began a new chapter in the fall of 2020 following allegations of general misconduct by the Senate members as well as providing a “hostile climate toward women Senators.” With ample leadership experience, political science and history dual-major Nicholas Fitzgerald, a junior at the time, believed that he could lead the organization towards its original purpose: to make decisions that serve the students best.
The political science and history dual-major, along with Tyler Silverwood, decided to run for the student body president and student body vice president positions respectively. Although the dynamic duo ran unopposed, Fitzgerald and Silverwood laid out four compelling goals that they hoped to achieve during their time of service, securing them the positions. Those four goals were, prioritizing public health, providing transparency for all, merging the gaps between student governments, and increasing the initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.
Since his period of leadership is coming to an end, Fitzgerald hopes that his “foundational” efforts will be continued following the current reelection. Looking back, Fitzgerald said that he definitely wished that he could get more done. However, the senior stated, “I have realized that a lot of the work I’ve been doing has just been foundational. So, a lot of what I hope the next student body president and vice president do is kind of take that foundation and continue enhancing it.”
During his year of service as the student body president, Fitzgerald stated that the biggest goal to achieve out of the four was transparency. Fitzgerald said that he and Silverwood spent a majority of their time creating weekly newsletters, making sure that administrations were being as transparent as possible by constantly encouraging them to send out emails or alert both Fitzgerald and Silverwood so that they could create a social media post to increase students’ level of awareness.
When asked about his close relationship to the matter of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on campus, Fitzgerald replied, “To me, this is something that it’s not going away [and] people can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. UNH is a campus that is vastly majority white, and there is a tendency to not talk about it nor put an effort that’s needed into it. I disagree with that sentiment and I believe the best way going forward is to have a more inclusive campus.”
Fitzgerald believes that being inclusive would allow more ideas, perspectives and personalities that will create a better culture and learning environment at UNH.
During his time as the student body president, Fitzgerald was known as the master of time-management. From the way he juggles his classes and his affiliation with a few student organizations such as the Student Senate and the marching band, nobody would have ever guessed his secret – and no, it’s not caffeine. In fact, Fitzgerald despises caffeine.
When asked about his ability to handle more than one matter at a time, he said that planning is key. “I’ve done a great job prior to the semester by getting everything I needed done,” he clarified. With most of his class requirements out of the way, Fitzgerald has managed to schedule his classes only from Monday through Wednesday. “I definitely have Thursdays and Fridays, which is where I dedicated these days solely to the student government and my senior thesis,” he added.
Throughout his ups and downs as a student body president, Fitzgerald’s fondest memory was his first time being at the meeting of administrators. He was glad to have recognized everybody that was present. “It felt like my voice was actually taken into account. Anything I said, actually impacted the way the committee moved,” said Fitzgerald regarding his contribution to the search for a new Memorial Union Building (MUB) director.
Though Fitzgerald claimed that he has only laid out “foundational” initiatives, he has also accomplished much during his time of service. After Fitzgerald was introduced to Knack, a tutoring program for specific classes, he decided to push the centralized mobile friendly platform through the Academic Affairs Committee. Currently, Fitzgerald and the committee are in the process of getting a pilot program to be offered next semester, “to see if it is something UNH is really going to find useful.”
Aside from that, the Discovery Review Committee has also submitted a proposal to increase the initiatives of diversity, equity and inclusion. “That way, they’ll be some educational pieces that help educate [the students] on diversity, equity and inclusion, that’s going through the faculty senate right now,” he explained.
In terms of his contribution towards the Health and Wellness Committee, Fitzgerald said that he has been advocating and pushing for the return of the MUB Pub, a social space where students could potentially consume alcohol in a safe environment. “We are making leeway on that and the administration is considering implementing that in the near future, which is exciting,” he commented.
Goodbyes aren’t always easy. However, Fitzgerald is proud of his achievements in establishing a gateway for the future student body president to continue. His advice, “Even if you are building the next step and you’ll have to pass the torch to someone else, that’s okay. Just make sure that you do your best in the small one-year time span that you have and have faith that the person after you will continue the legacy and help create a better student government and a better university.”
He added, “There’s a tendency when you first get into office that you’re going to accomplish great things and solve all the problems. That’s definitely the mindset that I had and looking back at it, I realized that I’m just a small piece of a larger puzzle.”
Photo courtesy of Aqeel Hisham/TNH Staff.