Kelsey Weaver served as the UTC student body president for the 2016-2017 year, and if you ever meet her the first thing she’ll tell you is “May 6th 1pm” (AKA her graduation date. I have it memorized). She has served in almost every capacity imaginable at UTC. These include (but are certainly not limited to): student body president, vice president, committee chair, senator, and first year experience mentor. On top of being an incredibly involved student, she also works at McKee Foods as a project management intern, has a great fiancé, and a half wiener dog-half shih tzu named Beaux. She juggles all of that while still managing to give 100% to each thing she is involved in. I sat down with her to figure out how she manages to thrive in her 100 mph life.
What is a typical day like for you?
KW: Well it depends on the day but usually I go to work in the morning at McKee foods, and I typically work for about 6ish hours. Then from work, I go straight to school and have a few afternoon classes, then have office hours for SGA, go to a few meetings, and by that point it’s probably 10 pm. Then I work on my homework until about 2 AM, and tend to my dog and fiancé. Each week I have 5 office hours, a 2 hour executive meeting, a 2 hour SGA general meeting. Then I have meetings that I serve on for the chancellor, meetings with administrators bi-weekly, and meetings with my advisors.
How do you stay balanced?
Kw: I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I have learned to say no to things. I try to say no to things that I know I can’t give 100% to, or that I’m not super passionate about. I also try to make sure that my school schedule is conducive to my working environment. I typically only have one day a week, Monday this semester, where I only have school and SGA meetings. I try to be smart and realistic about how much time I need to transition from work to school. I used to not do that. I would eat food in the car, and it was terrible for my mental health. Now, I leave about 30 minutes for me to collect my thoughts, play with my dog, and relax before jumping into my next task. I used to not stay balanced at all. This time last year, I was more stressed than I had ever been. I found myself not wanting to go to work in the morning, which is completely uncharacteristic. I knew that something had to give, and worked hard on prioritizing my life and delegating tasks.
What was the greatest challenge of representing all the students of UTC as president?
KW: The biggest challenge is trying to represent everyone at once. People have differing opinions, and it’s impossible to make everyone happy. I knew that I was going to get pushback from someone no matter what people did. However, I realized that at the end of the day I would’ve done my job if the majority of the students that I serve were bettered by my actions.
Were you able to overcome this challenge? If so, how?
KW: I had to take a step back, and realize that not everyone is a white female with my background. Sometimes what was best for me, wouldn’t be best for someone else. I had to check myself and think “Am I only advocating for 21 year old white heterosexual females?” I now have learned to accept pushback, and realize that it is all a part of the process. If I’m not getting pushback, that means that they aren’t paying attention or don’t care. I just try to do the best for the most amount of people on my campus. If I can justify and point to the reasons behind my actions, then I can sleep at night and know that just because one person emails me that I’m a cultural marxist it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true or that I am.
What was your favorite part of serving as president?
KW: I would have to say that my favorite part is probably, this is cheesy, enacting positive change and getting to be a part of something that is bigger than myself. For every email that I get that is something negative, I usually get a positive one. Sometimes it’s hard to see how your work is affecting people and helping them. But it’s nice getting to see that something I did made someone feel safe and welcomed here. It’s the most beneficial and rewarding part of this job.
What woman has inspired you and why?
KW: Emma Watson is really inspiring to me. I know some people are going to read this and think “wow that’s so lame” but the reason why is because I really admire her for not letting her fame get to her, finishing college, and becoming an ambassador for the United Nations which is super cool. She started the feminist movement He for She. I just think it’s incredible how she took one thing, acting, that could’ve been her entire life, and used it to enact positive change. It’s amazing how she acts and is also an ambassador. She does a good job in not taking herself too seriously while also being an incredibly strong and powerful woman.
What do you think your leadership style is?
KW: So I’ve taken all those tests, and all mine have led back to encouraging the heart, nurturing, and caring about people. That’s where my leadership stems from. Words of affirmation and making sure that everyone has what they need drives my leadership. That’s how I thrive in my positions. It’s definitely is a vulnerable stance to be in. People lean on me, and it’s a lot to handle. It makes it harder when you have to make tough decisions. Sometimes you have to sit down with them and explain that it’s not because you’re not their friend, but because you are trying to make the best decision for the most amount of people. Having to clarify and have those tough conversations can be challenging.
What should future SGA president's know about this position?
KW: Not to take yourself too seriously. Yes, what you are doing is important, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, you’re are still a student. You’re not the president of the United States. It’s okay to ask questions when you don’t know something. You don’t always have to have to answers. That doesn’t make you bad or wrong, that just means you are a human and need help. Don’t go into this thinking that you have to do everything. Being SGA President also means setting up SGA to thrive in the future. It’s not always the goal to be able to look back and have four great things that you did that your mom can hang up on the fridge and look back on and think “look what my daughter did” because that’s not what the position is about.
What is something about you that would surprise someone who doesn't know you outside of your position?
KW: People would probably be surprised about a lot of things about me. One is probably that I’m from Dickson, TN which is lot different from Chattanooga. It’s a pretty small minded and country place. There is no reason to go to Dickson other than picking up Arby’s on the way to Memphis. There is nothing great or historic about it. People would probably be surprised about my political views since that was my upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, though, I go muddin with the rest of them, and I definitely have my roots there. Another thing that would probably surprise people is that I’m like a child. I basically love Girl Meets World, it’s one of my all time favorite shows. I listen to the theme song to empower me, which is super dorky. I don’t go home and read about politics, I do normal things that normal college students do.
What will you miss most about being president?
I will definitely miss, once again going for the cheese, the people, and my experiences. I have had more laughs in my time in SGA than I will probably ever have. I truly love the people, and know that they care about students. Being around students who are that passionate about something is really inspiring.
Unfortunately, Kelsey’s time as a UTC student will be coming to a close on May 6 at 1PM, but her legacy will be remembered. She has given her all to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and great example of how every Moc should strive to be.