Durham, NH — Improving mental health care resources, assuring transparency, and achieving campus diversity and unity – those are the goals of Student Body President-elect Sophia Spina. On Sunday, March 28, Spina and running mate Alexandra Coella were elected as the 2021-2022 student body president and student body vice president, respectively. A junior, Spina is majoring in psychology with a dual minor in writing and English, and although she may be regarded as a new face to Student Senate, she has ample experiences from her time in the organization.
A Maine native, Spina has been involved with the Student Senate ever since her freshman year. At that time, she was the third-floor representative for her dorm building, Christensen Hall. “I got introduced to Senate, and I just kind of fell in love with it and I was not like the most involved senator, but I just love being there and being a part of that community,” she said.
However, unlike most senators, Spina’s love-at-first-sight with the organization was not because of her exposure to Senate during U-Day, or her background. In fact, the first Senate meeting that she attended was as a proxy for a friend who was in the Senate. “I actually didn’t want to attend the meeting at first, but my friend Gabby, who was also the senator for Christensen [begged me to] because she couldn’t make it to one of the weekly meetings on Sunday,” she explained.
She said that her initial experience with the Student Senate was very pleasant. “I didn’t do too much during my first meeting [as a proxy], but everyone was really friendly,” she said. Additionally, she said that then-president Ethan McClanahan was very welcoming to her, which was when she initially became inspired to run for the student body president in the first place. “He (McClanahan) did such a good job and made everyone feel so comfortable and in Senate. He made it feel more casual and fun than other people I’ve seen [at that position],” said Spina.
Running for the student body president and vice president role has always been at the back of Spina’s mind. The idea initially came when students were sent back home last March. “I texted my friend (who was also in Senate) and said that we should definitely run [for the positions], we would do such a good job,” she said.
Spina’s idea was more of a “joke” at first, however, the recent loss of a friend due to suicide really gave her the push to step in and take action. “My good friend from UNH took his own life, and it made me realize that mental health resources aren’t where they need to be and everyone is suffering because of the pandemic,” she said. This was one of the reasons she believes why mental health care resources at UNH should be improved.
Aside from that, when asked about her thoughts regarding the biggest issue within the UNH community, she said that during her initial years of being in the Senate, she felt that there was a disconnection between all of the student organizations, especially the Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) community.
Although she hates to say it, she admitted that UNH is a “cliquey” school, which is a hard pill of a fact to swallow for some students. “Nobody in FSL wanted to be in Senate and vice versa. So, when I was involved in both FSL and Senate, I just think that we need to implement more ways to unite the campus rather than to create episodes of it. I want to implement ways that unify the student body and decrease divisions among students,” said Spina, who is also a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
In light of what has been happening around the country, Spina also hopes to increase and promote the importance of diversity since UNH is a predominantly white campus. “I am not a person of color and I don’t want to speak on behalf of them, but I am hoping to work with as many people of color as I can to help me and the rest of the campus understand [their experience] and get the word out about diversity to help the campus become more unified and diverse in general,” she commented.
The Student Senate scandal in 2019 has resulted in the organization’s reputation taking a dip. Spina said that she wasn’t sure if Senate handled the situation accordingly. “They kind of just shut it down… I don’t think Senate’s reputation has really recovered from that,” she said.
However, Spina hopes to remove that stigma from the Student Senate and create a friendly and welcoming environment within the organization. “I want to make Senate more inviting and friendly, just like how it was when I was a freshman when everyone enjoyed going to the meetings and isn’t feeling angry or hostile like it currently is right now,” she added.
Spina believes that she and vice president Alex Colella have what it takes to lead the student body this coming fall. “I think with the resources I have through Senate along with the connections I’ve made, I think I can do a pretty good job accomplishing the goals I said I would,” said Spina.
Photo courtesy of Sophia Spina.