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Jess Sonnenfeld: Learning the Ins and Outs of SGA

On any given night of the week, members of Skidmore’s SGA can be found debating policy or hammering out details for an upcoming campus event.  Considering the fact that SGA oversees so many aspects of student life at Skidmore, these dedicated members of our community certainly have their hands full.  Her Campus sat down with Jess Sonnenfeld ’14, current VP of Residential Affairs and a presidential candidate for the upcoming year, to learn what it takes to be involved with student government and to get up to speed with SGA’s current priorities. 

Her Campus: How did you first become involved with SGA?

Jess Sonnenfeld: September of my freshman year, we had our first building meeting to talk about fire safety and general dorm rules.  All of the building officers introduced themselves and they told us that they still needed a president, which caught my attention.  In high school, I was a member of the debate team and was interested in policy.  I also like to plan and organize events, so this seemed like the perfect thing for me to do.  So, I ran in a contested election and won, becoming president of my dorm and a part of senate.   After that, I came to appreciate the community aspect of SGA. I also enjoyed senate and being informed on the current policy debates on campus.   Later that year, I became a member of other committees such as Club Affairs, Inter Hall Board, and the RCIA committee.  Sophomore year, I was president of Howe-Rounds, joined Interclass Council as Sophomore Class Social Chair.  This year, I am VP of Residential Affairs, which means I am in charge of planning Moorebid and Fun Day.  My campaign promise for this current position and my baby last year was fall Fun Day.  Although it was something that had never been done, it was a huge success and I’d like to see it happen again next year. 

HC: What are some of the most common issues brought up in response to student needs?

JS: Well, we are constantly working on increasing transparency between the administration and the students.  SGA wants to be able to focus on finding out what students want out of the college and their time here.  We have always really worked to get student opinions.  In order to do this, we have things such as the bake free, where students get a cookie for submitting an idea.  A lot of things suggested are actually done.  This year, one of the major things we looked at was the effectiveness of Inter Hall board, which is supposed to focus on student life.  I actually chair the committee and it is the same one that plans Moorebid and Fun Day.  By nature of that, I also sit on the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPCC) on Student Affairs. IPPC is co-chaired by SGA President Matt Walsh and Dean Rochelle Calhoun and focuses on student concerns. Out of that came the smoking survey that we are reviewing.  Another major project this year was establishing the Skidmore Emergency Medical Services Program.  SGA has accomplished so much this year through everyone’s combined efforts!

HC: Especially after this year, it seems like there will be a lot more opportunities for both students and faculty to provide input.  Is that something that SGA values?

JS: Yes, definitely.  For instance, in senate this semester, we worked with Michael Arnush, a classics professor, who is currently revising the dean’s forms.  Those are the surveys distributed to each student at the end of the semester with three questions about each class and we helped give feedback.  Things like this provide us the opportunity to be involved in something that directly affects the students for a lasting period of time.  We always focus on what will benefit the students the most.


HC: In addition to the issue of transparency, what will be the main objectives for SGA moving forward and what changes can students expect?

JS: Again, we always try to get student voice whenever possible.  We want to try to understand what students want out of SGA and how we can help them.  I think one big thing we will be focusing on is uniting the campus.  Currently, Skidmore is kind of divided.  You can see this if you look at things like the red side and blue side of D-Hall.  It would be interesting to do a campaign about what makes a Skidmore student and how each person can really pursue their individual interests here. I think SGA can work on uniting everyone under a common bond due to the diversity of our group.   A lot of people don’t realize how everything is connected to SGA. Since every club is a part of SGA and there are so many committees, I would say that we are fairly representative of the student body.

HC: How do you think SGA embodies the ideals and mission of Skidmore College?

JS: Obviously Skidmore focuses on creativity and individuality, or what you can do as a student.  I think SGA is a really good avenue for students to express that.  Co-sponsorship of events is a good way to bridge gaps between clubs and we try to support those kinds of initiatives.  If we have support from the students, it is much easier to be an effective governing body.  That being said, SGA needs to communicate more between members and the rest of the student body.  Once something is brought to our attention, we need to follow up, but the students need to follow up as well.  Going forward, it will be important for SGA to maintain and further communication in order to accomplish as much as possible and to be able to promote the creativity and individuality of student opinions.

HC: How do you see your involvement with SGA implicating your future? 

JS: So, I’m a Business and International Affairs double major and my family actually just incorporated a production company this past October.  We’ve been working on it all year and I really want to go into the business side of film and management.  Through SGA, I’ve definitely learned a lot about organization in general.  I’ve also been able to identify my own voice as well as my strengths and weaknesses when working with others. I think I attribute most of my growth in college to SGA. 


Clearly, SGA works tirelessly to improve student life and the Skidmore experience.  Be sure to participate in the election this Thursday to support the efforts of all of our passionate candidates! 


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