In this podcast we talk with Sierra Niesen ‘24AUD, executive board student council treasurer, and Chase Sereno ‘24AUD, student member of the board of trustees (SMOTBOT). They talk to us about the importance of student council on campus and their experience on the board.
What is student council and what is its role on campus?
Niesen: Student council kind of has a couple different branches to it. We have two advisors, Dr. Caldwell, who is the dean of Student Affairs, and Monae Kelsey, who is the director of student activities. They kind of oversee what the executive board does, which is what Chase and I are a part of.

Then underneath that you have the three different tiers. You have the class councils, program representatives, and then clubs and organizations. Each college or program, and each graduation class has its own council that kind of serves as the go-between, between the rest of their class and professors or anything like that. A lot of times what they do is organize nights out or study groups, talk to professors about possibly needing to move exams.

And the program representatives are kind of the same thing for those who are in the smaller programs. Like, the accelerated audiology classes only have one person who represents each graduating year. The Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS) has the same type of representative.

Then of course we have interest and affinity groups with our organizations and clubs. We have quite a few different things. Some that are related to the different programs, like SAA, which is the Student Academy of Audiology. We have a Private Practice Club. There is Sports Vision for optometry. And then we also have ones like the Salus Christian fellowship and Salam Salus, which is the name for our Muslim student association.

We also have a couple committees as well that organize intramural sports, our Salus Scoop, which is kind of an interest fair that we have in the fall. We have our Salus Soiree, our Salus Awards Gala. And so basically it's the opportunity for students to kind of get involved in the different things that we have on campus, to help with different social events, or getting specific guest speakers on campus. It really just kind of depends on what level you might want to be a part of.
Why did you want to be on student council?
Sereno: First, I was in the student executive assistant position, which I wanted to be a part of a leadership position and help continue to grow and develop myself professionally. And I like taking usually a little bit of a bigger role rather than, you know, more of just a smaller leader of a smaller group. I like to be a part of the bigger thing.

After I did that in my role as the assistant, I was more of a generalist. So I helped everyone within the council. I had my own specific roles, but I also had to assist everyone else, which helped me see what all the various positions were about, and what they do, and get a hands-on feel for each of them. So when the SMOTBOT position came up, I wanted to step up and do that. This role is much bigger than it was before, where you go to the administration and meetings for those kind of things.

Niesen: It was something I wasn't sure I was going to do for grad school. Because you know, everyone's always like, how do you have the time? But I really kind of wanted to challenge myself and get involved in the school outside of just the academics.

Last year I was the assistant treasurer and it was one of my close friends who was the executive treasurer. So I got to work closely with her, which was a really great opportunity. And then we were kind of coming out of the lockdown of COVID, but we also didn’t have complete free range, we were kind of limited in what we got to do on campus as a student council. So I decided to come back again this year to hopefully be able to do more things on campus.
I had never been in an organization like this. The only time I ever did student council, I was in middle school, and that's completely different than doing an executive student council board during graduate school. I just wanted to challenge myself and see what kind of leader I can be when I get put in a role like this. And so it's been an interesting challenge, but I really enjoyed it.
What is the process to be on student council?
Sereno: To get onto student council, there's three ways to apply. The first one is for our four main positions, which is the president, vice president, treasurer, and parliamentarian. You put in and then the general student body will vote. We usually do this around November and then by January, the new officers are sworn in.

And then there's three appointed positions below that, which is the assistant treasurer, the executive assistant, and the two executive assistants. For those positions, you put in an application and then after the four primary officers are elected, the president will appoint the other positions.

For each of the individual organizations, they hold their own elections and you can apply. If you just talk to the officers of those individual organizations, they'll help you out and tell you when the application process happens.

For the SMOTBOT, that position's a little bit different than all the others. I'll put out an email when it comes close to January where you'll put in and then we need three candidates that'll run. The three candidates will go in front of the student council, so all of the student leaders do an interview process with all them and you present why you think they would be a good SMOTBOT for the University.

And then once all vote, they'll send so many to the actual board of trustees of the University, where you'll have an interview with them. And then they'll decide one student to become the new SMOTBOT or student member of the board of trustees. So those are the various processes that can get you into a student leader position.
What are some of the responsibilities that you have on the board?
Niesen: As treasurer, I'm basically the bank that helps student council run. So student council gets a specific budget from the University and we kind of have different buckets that money goes into. We have our class council bucket where it's a certain amount per class member. So let's say the occupational therapy class of 2023 has like 20 students. There's a certain amount that they get per student. And then they can do kind of what they want with that.

Then you have the clubs and organizations get a certain amount of money from the budget. Then there's a couple other things that we could do with it. Like student council helps the University run orientation, so we have an orientation budget. We help students offset the cost to go to various conferences and that's our travel budget. And then basically each class and club also has a private account that they can fundraise and get donations for, and that's kind of their fun money in that special bank account. But I basically take the time to write various people checks and reimbursement and all that kind of stuff. So I am responsible for anything fiscal.

Sereno: My responsibilities as the SMOTBOT are to bring the students’ perspective up to the board of trustees, along with all the meetings with administration where student perspective is involved. So like our university decisions — right now, we're going to renovate the first floor of the University. And I've been going into meetings and bringing students opinions and what they think, what we would like to see more of. I have to go out and speak with the whole University and all the various programs to get all of their perspectives and think about what collectively will benefit the whole University, or the student body.

A lot of these board of trustees meetings that the SMOTBOT attends, we take reports that come from each of the various organizations. So two or three times a year, a report goes out requesting what organizations have been doing, what they're thinking about, what they want to see more of or less of and all these things. And then I bring collectively all this information together, distill it down into a report that goes up to the board of trustees to hear how we're doing, and what we would like to see or not see more.

Pretty interesting position because you know the SMOTBOT doesn't necessarily live on student council as a primary role of any kind. So I attend meetings and I listen to what everyone's saying and just really kind of gather as much information as I can.
What do you get out of being on student council, personally or professionally?
Niesen: It's a couple different things. I really wanted to give myself a challenge outside of academics. I believe I actually talked about this, about wanting to be a peer mentor. I also in the future want to kind of give back to the field of audiology, by possibly being a preceptor at some point. So being in a leadership role, later on down the road is something that I want to have the skills to do. Student council definitely helps me with that, but also I kind of like being a part of something bigger than just my class and being kind of, not necessarily like in control, but definitely on a bigger governing body. And so that's been interesting.

One thing that was really fun was helping with orientation and getting to meet all the new students back in August. Being able to actually make some professional relationships with other people and other programs, because you have the student council from other programs or other clubs and organizations that you have to kind of work with. And I literally give out my cell phone number so that people can call me or text me when they have questions about reimbursements or I need to meet up with them on campus to give them a check and all that kind of stuff.

It's just another chance to kind of get to know the community of Salus. Coming from a large undergrad that was really big on student life, Salus is very unique where you don't necessarily have that unless you create it. And I really wanted to kind of help facilitate some of that because I think Salus is very unique in what we offer. So being able to kind of have people connect with what makes Salus different is something that's really important.
Why do you think others should join student council?
Sereno: I think others should participate and join the council because it's a huge opportunity to connect. Networking is important. And you don't know what a networking opportunity will bring you at some point. Even if it's not immediately, at some point in your life that connection you make could benefit you, and the other person a lot more down the road. It's also an opportunity to really build up your professional skills. We do a lot of public speaking. We go in front of this student body pretty regularly. If not for our regular meetings, it's for University orientation where we meet the entire incoming classes. So it's a really good way to build up those professional skills, presenting yourself and building an image for yourself.
To learn more about student life at Salus, you can visit Salus.edu/life.