It is a common answer for a child when they are asked what they want to be when they grow up: President. Zac Surritt is one of the few that has carried this dream into adulthood.
Zac Surritt, senior public administration major, was elected president of the Washburn Student Government Association March 16. Surritt first became involved in WSGA during his sophomore year.
Surritt has been interested in government and politics since the 2008 presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama. Surrit was in middle school at the time.
“I remember being in my sixth grade English class and my teacher at the time, who became my debate and forensics coach, was a really great resource for me, even now,” Surritt said. “She was very involved in politics and really kind of inspired me.”
After realizing his interest in politics, Surritt’s parents gave him a “Politics for Dummies” book that included a variety of issues, including healthcare and ideological perspectives. Surritt said that the book was relatively unbiased and opened the door to his interest in politics.
Surritt started off reading general books about former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. He also has an interest in history, and was influenced by a book about Thomas Jefferson called “The Art of Power.” He is interested in what makes a successful leader, and how the role of a leader has evolved over time.
“I try to focus less on what ideology is better,” Surritt said. “It’s not only about what leadership style it takes to be a good president, but what it takes to be a good representative of the people as well.”
Surritt also recalled being inspired by a book given to him by his high school government teacher. The book was called “Leadership 101” and was a basic introduction to different leadership styles. Surritt was elected student body president in high school, and he referred back to the book regularly.
When Surritt transferred to Washburn as a sophomore, he immediately became involved in WSGA. He ran for student body president his first year and lost, but instead became budget director and used the role to his advantage.
“I got more experience,” Surritt said. “I connect with a lot more people both in administration and in the student body, so now that I have been elected student body president this year, I’m very prepared to take on the role, and I’m excited to see the progress that we make.”
Washburn faculty not only recognize Surritt’s leadership abilities, WSGA vice president Jim Henry does as well.
“Zac is a student that carries a deep passion for Washburn University and its students,” Jessica Neumann Barraclough, director of Student Activities and Greek Life, said. “He truly wants to make a better experience for all students. Zac has done an excellent job connecting to students and being a leader in different positions across campus. He is caring and accountable.”
It has been a decade since the 2008 election that sparked his interest in politics, and Surritt noted that he could not have imagined becoming the Washburn student body president.
“I want to continue to make change,” Surritt said. “Not just here at Washburn but in our community, eventually our state, our nation and even beyond.”