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On the Spot with Student Body President Jonathan Dean

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted on Thursday, March 30, prior to the release of the student body election results.

The New Hampshire has followed Jonathan Dean closely since he took office as student body president on May 1, 2016. From fighting for more university funding from the state to working on improving campus-wide recycling, Dean’s term has featured a lot of action on his part. But, like with all presidential terms, his time as president will soon come to an end. Dean will serve as student body president until April 30, after which he’ll pass the baton to president-elect Carley Rotenberg. I sat down with Dean during election week to chat about his reflections on the past year and his feelings on the final weeks of his presidency. 

TNH: Year and major? 

Dean: Senior, economics major with a minor in health management and policy.

TNH: Before being elected [as student body president], how long were you involved with Student Senate? 

Dean: I was a representative of Congreve Hall my freshman and sophomore year and then I was external affairs chair my junior year, which is one of the positions in the president’s cabinet.  

TNH: How do you feel about this year’s election?  

Dean: I think there are three strong [presidential] candidates this year. I’m excited for the student body to have the choice they do. We had record numbers at the debate and from what I’m seeing, there’s a lot of chatter around this election. I think it’s very important for students to look into these positions and these three candidates all come from different circles in the university and all offer different things. 

TNH: Have you endorsed any specific candidates?  

Dean: Carley [Rotenberg] is my current vice president, so I obviously support Carely in the election. I’ve been pretty vocal about that. 

TNH: How do you feel about your term ending? 

Dean: What I always say is that this month is extraordinarily busy… In April, all of these events start popping up…I like to go to as many events as possible, so there will be plenty to do. It’s an interesting transition because the president-elect takes over as president on May 1, but I’m still the one who’s doing speaking engagements through graduation… It’s a slow and methodical transfer of power. 

TNH: Are there any specific major contributions you’ve made as president that stand out in your mind? 

Dean: This year we made great strides. The one thing I’m really proud of with this office is that we all work together and we all met with administration extensively to build relationships and I think we were able to answer any question that came our way. Some of the things that [stood out to me] were that we really pushed for the restriction on the winter parking ban [change] by, [for instance] extending hours on lots for students. We also worked to ensure the yearbook would stay around. 

TNH: Do you have any advice for the president-elect? 

Dean: Try to sleep more? No, I don’t know, I think to remember how important the job is. The student body president is really viewed with a lot of importance to not just the Durham community, but the state. You don’t necessarily get recognition for the things you’re working on, but when you mess up, people notice quickly. So, it’s important to remember that when you take a position like this that you’re no longer anonymous anymore. People recognize you. Overall [remember that it’s important to] work hard, but also take care of yourself too.  

TNH: What was the biggest challenge you faced as student body president? 

Dean: I don’t know the exact amount, but I’m responsible for being the student voice for upwards of 50-something committees. May 1, you take over and immediately have your cabinet of about eight people to oversee. You’re probably getting 50-100 emails a day all of a sudden. It becomes a time-management thing very quickly and if you don’t set yourself up and delegate tasks and really mentally prepare yourself for that, it can be overwhelming. So, the biggest challenge is just setting yourself up in a way that will work for you, so that you’re not getting overwhelmed, but the student voice is still being heard everywhere. 

TNH: What’s the biggest ‘take away’ you’ve come out of this position with? 

Dean: That’s a tough question, but I’ll take away the experience of having to manage a team and support a group of people; the managing aspect. No one’s perfect and you don’t always handle things correctly, but in the end, you work through everything and you do your best. So, you learn how to solve problems, but you also learn how to make mistakes and come back from those mistakes. [What matters] at the end of the day [is being able to] look back and say you did everything for the right reasons and that you’re doing the best to represent the people that voted for you.  

TNH: With graduation just over a month away, do you have any post-grad plans? 

Dean: I’m planning on attending law school. I’m going to take a gap year because I think it’s important to spend a lot of time studying for the LSATS. 

TNH: Have you thought about where you’d like to apply to? 

Dean: Yeah, I’m going to apply to a couple schools in the Boston area. I don’t think I’ll go much further than Pennsylvania, so I’ll apply to [the] University of Pennsylvania and Cornell. But, I’ll also apply to UNH School of Law.  

TNH: What kind of law would you like to practice? 

Dean: Well, [because of my minor in] health management… I might look into something in health law. But, I’ve got some prosecutor in my blood, so I might go down that route too. Who knows?

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