Change of powers at Kean’s student organization
By Marco Rodriguez
As Gerard Smithwrick steps out into the bright sunshine and embraces the spring weather, he’s aware that a new season has come to Kean University in more ways than one.
Smithwrick, Kean’s current Student Organization President, is aware of these constant life changes as he prepares to leave office to make way for president-elect, Nigel Donald.
As he reflects on his last days and the work he’s done over the past two semesters, Smithwrick, a senior at Kean, takes it all in with a bittersweet sense. On one hand, he’ll miss serving the student body, and on the other, he’s confident that his successor will thrive in his current position.
“The presidency is all about being approachable and visible to the people who put you in office,” said Smithwrick. “Thankfully, I will graduate knowing that I’ve left the students in great hands with Nigel.”
Donald, a junior at Kean majoring in Economics and minoring in Political Science, won the election for President after beating out three competitors by securing 40.57 percent of the votes. The elections were held April 7 to April 8 on Cougar Link.
Carli Hench, Managing Assistant Director for the Student Organization, expressed her office’s approval with the turnout that awarded Donald the winner in the presidential elections.
“We were satisfied with the voter turnout,” said Hench. “There were 382 voters in the Student Org Executive Board election, compared to last year’s 273 voters.”
The office of President of the Student Organization is one that both Smithwrick and Donald have been after since their respective freshman year at Kean. For a young Smithwrick, his aspirations to become President revolved around making a difference at the University and being a servant to the students of Kean.
Furthermore, he desired to give them everything they needed to have the best experience at the university.
Donald, who has been involved with student governments since high school, approached his university experience with a strong desire to serve and represent.
As a Battalion Executive Officer his senior year in high school in the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) program, his responsibilities included consulting with enlisted cadets on how the program was running and how it could be improved.
Additionally, he ran for senior class President his senior year which gave him the valuable experience of programming and running a campaign.
The two students bonded and climbed the ranks in Kean’s campus politics, with the crowning moment coming last year when Smithwrick was elected President and Donald Vice President. This experience, according to Donald, was strengthened by their belief that the well being of students should always be first.
“My relationship with Gerard was and is great,” said Donald. “We were elected individually for our positions last year, but the commonality that we have is that we want to see students succeed more than anything.”
As he prepares to go, Smithwrick believes the time is now for Donald to occupy the position he has worked so hard to get.
“Nigel is an analytical thinker, a researcher, a planner and a leader, who has the potential to make some real moves to benefit the student body,” said Smithwrick. “I’ve been preparing him for the seat of office, and I believe he is now ready to step into this position.”
Donald will be sure to have his hand fullonce he takes office in May as his predecessor’s accomplishments stand before him. Among the work that Smithwrick is most proud of, is his work with Gourmet Dining to secure several outside franchise entities to come on campus for students to enjoy.
“Students should expect to see names like Jersey Mike’s and Auntie Anne’s very soon on campus,” Smithwrick said. “We want to advance our campus dining experience, which is why we took these steps.”
In addition to the improved dining experience, Smithwrick’s team received approval from Kean’s facilities division to move forward on plans to upgrade the trolley transportation infrastructure. According to Smithwrick, the trolleys will soon be fitted with TV’s and Wi-Fi capabilities for students to enjoy as they make their way around campus.
Smithwrick has made it a point to lead by example, but has also taken Donald under his wing to prepare him for what is ahead.
“The advice I’ve given Nigel is to be strong yet gentle and confident yet humble,” said Smithwrick. “I am so pleased and overjoyed to have him as my successor this upcoming school year, because I know he will succeed.”
Donald also recognizes that he’s learned much from Smithwrick in their time together, as the latter prepares to graduate and move on to Barry University in pursuit of his Master’s degree.
“Gerard has taught me to be more even more passionate about life at Kean,” said Donald. “His advice has always been to continue to exert my passion on everything that I am involved with here in the university and I plan to do so.”
While Smithwrick does admit that the most difficult part of the job is not being able to please everyone, both he and Donald agree that the best aspect of being president is the students.
“I had the privilege and honor of meeting with students of all different aspects of the Kean community,” Smithwrick said. “I got to hear their ideas, answer their questions, and inspire them to get more involved in the Kean culture.”
“The students I encounter every day, and the ability to serve as their representative in the eyes of the administrative staff of Kean is the best part about the job,” said Donald. “I love meeting students at Kean because we are such a diverse university and that allows you to learn the life story of every student and more importantly, understand what we have in common.”