Mikkelsen, Rodriguez look to future after winning WSGA presidential election

Adam Vlach

Taking 413 of the 728 ballots cast, Malcolm Mikkelsen and Nikki Rodriguez were announced Friday, March 11 as the 2016-2017 Washburn Student Government Association President and Vice President, respectively. Mikkelsen and Rodriguez will officially take office April 20.

Mikkelsen and Rodriguez both said they are glad the campaigning is over. Mikkelsen, who campaigned last year as now-outgoing WSGA President Blake Porter’s running mate, said this year’s campaign felt “different” than last year’s.

“It just felt different to me than last year,” Mikkelsen said. “It was very drawn out, comparatively. Last year it was two weeks [of campaigning]. Constitutionally it’s supposed to be four weeks, but last year we only got two weeks.”

This year Mikkelsen and Rodriguez and opponents Natasha Martinez and Jack Van Dam campaigned for the full four weeks.

“Last year there was just the one debate,” Mikkelsen said. “The two debates [this year] gave us an opportunity to see what students cared most about.”

Rodriguez said she had never run a campaign before.

“It was hectic,” Rodriguez said. “It felt like a very long time period to me. I’ve never worked on any campaign or anything before, so it was definitely crazy and busy, but it was a good experience to get to meet with a lot of different students and really hear their thoughts.”

“I think, overall, it was a pretty good experience,” Mikkelsen said. “Definitely happy it’s over now, though.”

As for the key to their success, Mikkelsen said he believes persistent tabling, talking with students one-on-one and running a platform based on major issues about which students care deeply were major factors. Rodriguez added that being clear on their platform and being consistent in the message the two were sending when meeting with student organizations was crucial as well.

“I think we picked issues that we knew students care a lot about, because they’re things that people have been talking about for the past year, and things we’ve been working on for the past year,” Mikkelsen said. “I think students saw that the things we were talking about were things that would help the whole student body, not just a few people.”

But with the victory under their belts, Mikkelsen and Rodriguez are now looking to start implementing the ideas and plans on which they built their platform for campaigning, as well as working to address immediate issues.

“The first thing we really need to focus on, and we can start now, is filling Senate seats, because I think we only had 11 senators elected,” Mikkelsen said. “Outside that, I want to work on getting the open-access onto campus as fast as possible.”

Bringing open-access textbooks to campus – electronic versions of certain textbooks that would be free to students with the university’s payment of a fee – was a major talking point in Mikkelsen’s platform. Mikkelsen said he has been in contact with Alan Bearman, dean of university libraries, to help bring this resource to campus. Mikkelsen said Bearman is a proponent of open-access textbooks. While there is no definite timeline as to when this would be available to Washburn students, Mikkelsen said he believes it is at least possible to have open-access textbooks at Washburn by the start of next school year.

“If we could have it so that next semester people didn’t have to pay for textbooks, that’d be ideal,” Mikkelsen said.

Increasing lighting on campus was another issue that Mikkelsen and Rodriguez advocated for during their campaign – an issue that Rodriguez has been working on closely over this past school year. Mikkelsen said plans to increase lighting are growing close to fruition.

“We’re going to have an official walkthrough – an insurance walkthrough to determine whether there are actual places that, due to insurance purposes, need to have lighting improved,” Rodriguez said. “So if we find there are, [University] Facilities would put up new lighting poles, but if not, we’ll still just talk about areas that we think students don’t feel there is enough lighting and try to work with Facilities to get that taken care of.”

Big plans can present big challenges, but Mikkelsen said he is aware of that, citing the greatest challenge being not letting any one project fall through the cracks.

“We picked large [issues], and so they’re all going to be ongoing projects, and so just making sure we’re working on all of them continually and not letting one fall back, because I think every one is going to be dealing with different administrators on campus,” Mikkelsen said.

For students looking to be on Mikkelsen’s executive staff, applications are available now in the WSGA office and at www.mywsga.com. Applications for an executive staff spot were made available Monday and are due Monday, March 28.

This year’s WSGA executive staff consisted of seven members, but there will be six positions under Mikkelsen’s administration, as the Service Director and Special Events Director positions are being merged.

Decisions on hiring executive staff will hopefully be made by Friday, April 1, Mikkelsen said. Those selected will shadow outgoing executive staff members for two weeks. Students do not need to currently be a member of WSGA to be a part of the executive staff.