The Daily Campus had the chance to sit down with the new Student Body President David Shirzad, Vice President Nathan DeVera and Secretary Davis Wells, for the 2017-2018 academic school year.
The new Student Senate Executive Board discussed everything from their hobbies to reactions to their new positions and their plans for the next academic year.
Student Body President: David Shirzad
Hometown: Arlington, Va.
Shirzad said he was ecstatic when he first heard the news that he had been elected as the 2017-2018 Student Body President.
“Relief. Excitement. When Blake called I screamed,” Shirzad said. “I heard on the phone, jumped up and down a little bit. Called my dad. Walked back to my fraternity house and told all of the guys.”
Shirzad considered running for student body president this year.
“It really wasn’t until this semester that I started thinking this was something I could be really good at and it would be an awesome opportunity to help SMU grow and move forward,” Shirzad said.
One of Shirzad’s short-term goals is learning as much as possible from current Student Body President Blake Rainey.
“I think right now priority is going to be making sure that I learn everything that I can from Blake,” Shirzad said.
Something the student body may not know about Shirzad is that he enjoys being outdoors.
“I love mountain biking,” Shirzad said. “I raced pretty competitively in high school and then this summer, I’m actually training right now to do a 100-mile race in Colorado.”
Both Shirzad and Nathan DeVera were candidates in the runoff elections. Shirzad said he does not plan to shift his platform to cater to those that voted for his opponent.
“It’s not that I need to adjust my platform it’s that I know that they are still going to work very hard to accomplish what they had set forth and talked about and brought to the attention of the student body with their campaigns,” Shirzad said. “What I will do is work to give them the tools and the ability to get those things done in every sense of the word and everything possible.”
Shirzad said he is confident he and his fellow Executive Board members are prepared for their tenure in their respective positions.
“You have to be ready for anything and I think that’s more in the reasons of why we were both elected is that our student constituents know that we’re people who can quickly adjust and be ready for whatever gets thrown our way,” he said.
Shirzad’s main focus is to find a solution to every issue that may arise.
“I think people who followed my campaign closely know that my platform was very much, here’s a problem on campus and here’s a solution.”
Shirzad’s platform focuses on athletics, mental health, research opportunities, unity, maintenance and Greek life. Shirzad elaborated on his ideas for the health center.
“I want to focus on the health center and make sure that we have adequate counseling resources,” Shirzad said. “During my campaign I met with the head of the health center Randy Jones and he talked to me about different options that we have moving forward.”
Access to mental health resources on campus is on Shirzad’s top agenda, among other issues.
“We’ll probably be reaching out to the Engaged Learning office about finding better resources for counseling, definitely reaching out to Athletics to work on the mob ticket issue as well as possibly moving our student section at football games and working closely with IFC and Panhellenic and all four Greek councils to make sure that they have a strong united vision on where they want to see their organizations move as well,” Shirzad said.
Division among the four Greek on-campus councils has been a long-time issue. However, Shirzad has ideas to enable the four councils to become more united.
“I’m actually on the All-Greek Council and IFC’s representative to a group of students. It’s essentially our job to try to work and bring the councils together and work on different Greek life issues with the school,” Shirzad said. “One thing that we are working on possibly doing right now is creating a big, Greek-wide barbecue or Greek-wide sort of cookout or event on Dallas Hall lawn where we bring the councils together.”
Shirzad’s goal is to ensure that all four on-campus Greek councils are given the same platform.
“We’re definitely focusing on making sure that all students that come into SMU have a grasp on every one of the councils and don’t just think that it’s only one part of the school,” Shirzad said.
Shirzad believes that on-campus culture associated with sexual assault can also be changed.
“I think that our challenge as a student senate and student body officers is to really focus on changing the culture of the school when it comes to sexual assault, how it’s treated, how it’s viewed and making sure that our student body doesn’t turn a blind eye to it,” Shirzad said. “Groups like Not on My Campus are extremely important to issues like this. And I think that we’ve seen a shift in our culture at SMU through the actions of different student leaders.”
Making sure that every Mustang is heard and represented is also on Shirzad’s to-do list.
“You’re going to find students who are out there and they’re cheering in the stands in every basketball game and every football game… When they are not there they are involved in 10 different clubs and we understand that that is not every student at SMU,” Shirzad said. “It’s about really making change that not just one part of SMU sees but every part of SMU can embrace and work on.”
Shirzad also hopes to improve how students contact facilities management for assistance.
“Possibly putting in a hotline for that would be something, rather than having to go through an online website where it’s very hard to actually even find it where it is,” Shirzad said.
Shirzad also discussed what he would change about SMU if given the chance.
“Approachability. I think it’s super important that every administrative and everyone else on campus feels approachable,” Shirzad said.
Shirzad looks forward to the upcoming school year and to implementing the changes and improvements he envisions for the student body and for SMU.
“In terms of what we want to do and to get done, people all over the school who we will be working with, most of them already know that we’re coming for them,” Shirzad said. “It’s going to be a really fun, and like we talked about, an-action oriented year for Senate and especially for us.”
Vice President: Nathan DeVera
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev.
Nathan DeVera was excited when he received the call about his new position on Senate as well.
“Right when I got the call, it was just like pure joy and pure excitement initially. And then from there I just had a bunch of ideas flowing through my head, everything I wanted to do,” he said.
He hopes to implement new ideas and continue the work that he has started on Senate, particularly with the South Quad of campus.
“I’ve been noticing that there is a lot of issues there whether it is safety issues with lighting, whether it’s ground or facilities and upkeep,” DeVera said. “I’ve met with the RC architect, administrators, the vice president for business and finance to see the funding of it all and tons of different committees.”
DeVera said that he believes it is the responsibility of the University to keep up with their motto of being one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.
“If you’re going to sell that you are the most beautiful campus in the United States and sell mugs that say ‘Life’s too short to go to college on an ugly campus,’ then let’s really fulfill it,” he said.
DeVera also hopes to bridge the gap between students and Student Senate.
“I think just connecting the Student Senate to the student body,” he said. “In my time here, at least, I’ve seen such a disconnect and such an ambiguity with what exactly Student Senate does.”
DeVera hopes to bridge this gap by having Senate Officers become more involved in on-campus organizations.
“Increasing student voice and really getting the students to represent how they feel, what they feel and how they can be implemented to the people to make decisions on this campus — I think that that is something that is No. 1 priority,” DeVera said.
DeVera said that he believes one of the most important aspects of being a student leader is to be flexible with one’s platform.
“I didn’t push exactly a firm platform because I know that every single year, issues change. You know, certain things came up this year, we would have had no idea that those issues would have been presented to the student body,” Devera said. “I think that that’s really the key of any student leadership, is being able to gauge what the student body needs at that point in time and really tailoring it to their needs and desires.”
DeVera is committed to making an impact on the student body and SMU.
“Culture’s don’t change overnight, Rome wasn’t built in a day.. Whether it’s sexual assault or diversity issues on campus or the student voice, things like that take time,” DeVera said. “That’s something we’re committed to. We will take the time to do that because that’s something that we’re passionate about.”
If DeVera could change one thing about SMU, he would create a more united on-campus culture.
“I would say the biggest thing I would change about SMU is the unity,” DeVera said. “But with that is the sense of normality, that everyone just feels comfortable in their own skin.”
Secretary: Davis Wells
Hometown: Paris, Tenn.
Davis Wells was at the Student Election Results Party in Hughes-Trigg when he first heard the news of his election.
“I was the first one that they called and so, I was of course, really excited and cried a little bit — it was happy tears,” Wells said. “I was so happy and proud of myself and so happy for David and Nathan for even getting the runoff and then I was so sad for the people who didn’t make it. It was up and down and really, really emotional.”
Something that a lot of people may now know about Wells is that he also has a passion for cycling, like Shirzad.
“I work at Soul Cycle, I’m actually really passionate about that,” Wells said. “I started working out there as soon as it opened here in Dallas.”
Wells also enjoys being out in nature.
“Spare time is a luxury for sure, but I really love traveling. Snowboarding is one of my favorite hobbies. I try to do that as often as I can. I love scuba diving,” Wells said. “If I ever get a free weekend or long weekend I try to get away if I can and really decompress in another environment.”
One of Wells’ main priorities for the student body is to help his fellow classmates grow.
“My priority is building others up. One question I got asked in an interview for a position in Student Foundation was, ‘If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be?’ I said, ‘The Aspen tree actually stems from one central root and it branches out to grow others,’” Wells said. “In a sense, you are growing yourself but in a much more broader sense you’re growing and building others up. That’s what I want to do with the SMU community, the connections I have and have made here with all different types of students, faculty and administration.”
Wells is looking forward to serving the student body.
“I really want to be an encouraging force and give people the resources they need, the motivation they need as well as giving my input and helping others do what the students want and need to do,” Wells said.
Regarding issues of sexual assault and crime on campus, Wells said that he is concerned with the safety of the victim first.
“I’m about protecting the victim,” Wells said. “In terms of that, their privacy and then making sure that the perpetrator is punished in the appropriate sense.”
Wells discussed the various ways that SMU combats these issues.
“The campus is very well-lit; we do the light walk every couple of months with different groups that go to different parts of campus and write down, ‘Oh well this side of campus isn’t super well lit, we need a new light here, this is where we need more of our awesome SMU police officers,’” Wells said. “SMU goes above and beyond, comparable to schools like Baylor and TCU in terms of our police force and alerting the students in terms of sexual assault.”
The first item on Well’s agenda as secretary is improving library research.
“One thing that is most fresh on my mind that was actually brought to me by my TA, who’s a graduate student here and it was a part of David’s campaign as well, is the library system here,” Wells said. “The research system is not what it could be comparable to other institutions not even as prestigious as SMU.”
Like Shirzad, Wells expressed the importance of representing all students on campus.
“It’s important to note that as student body executive officers, we’re not just the undergraduate ones but also for the entire graduate school,” Wells said.
Wells looks forward to starting his plan of action in the fall semester – something the three Executive Board members have already begun.
“David, Nathan and I have started that the day that they got elected.. We’re already talking about our concerns,” Wells said.