Photo Courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.
DURHAM – Sparked by their desire to initiate change on the University of New Hampshire (UNH) campus, senior Emily Dennison and sophomore Dina Rathke take on their roles as Student Body President and Vice President. After spending their summer in the MUB (Memorial Union Building) meeting with organizations campus-wide, their biggest goals entering the new school year revolve around making sure students feel safe, heard and included on campus.
Dennison, a political science and justice studies major from Acton, Massachusetts, and Rathke, a communication major and Philadelphia, Pa. native, were named to their positions last spring.
“The whole thing is very exciting,” says Rathke. “It’s a lot of opportunity to make changes and really connect with people we would’ve never encountered before, if not in our positions.”
One connection the pair made was with UNH president, James Dean. Dennison, Rathke and Dean discussed some of the biggest issues believed to face UNH and how they will be addressed on campus. This included parking issues, diversity, equity and inclusion issues and UNH’s Comprehensive Prevention Plan authored by Health & Wellness and SHARPP.
“We are working with SHARPP right now to hopefully implement their goals,” explains Dennison. “They have a beautifully written prevention plan to prevent rape on campus, especially with what happened last year. A wide array of campus partners are working on it and they are really passionate about it, so hopefully we will see good change from it.”
As they continue to make changes on campus, Dennison and Rathke plan to work in close collaboration with the Student Senate and their Cabinet. Later this year they plan for each member of their Cabinet to host an event to reach different outlets across UNH.
“Senate has been through a rocky road,” says Dennison. “Our main goal in the Student Senate is to make it a stronger organization so that it is sustainable for the long-term.”
As a member of Student Senate two-years-ago and witnessing weaker leadership in the past, Dennison aspires to bring a stronger sense of leadership to the organization. Both Dennison and Rathke have been working on institutional changes to the operation of the Student Senate, such as the recent introduction of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair to their Cabinet.
Through their administration, Dennison and Rathke are finding ways to create a relationship with the student body. They encourage students to take advantage of the designated “Submit Your Issue” feature on the Student Senate webpage. Along with the webpage they created a newsletter, an initiative started by Rathke, that is designed to help students stay in-the-know with what they are working on.
“In this role I go into it wanting everyone to love this campus as much as I do, and it would be very naive of me to think every student here has had the same experience as I have, because I know that’s not true,” says Rathke. “I want to make it a better place for the students who haven’t had great experiences yet.”