Student government president passionate about helping students
Tiarah Figueroa took over the reins last year as the University of Houston-Victoria Student Government Association president with a goal of helping students feel comfortable and getting more involved. Now, she’s ready to continue to work for her fellow students.
Figueroa, a UHV senior from San Antonio, was appointed president of the Student Government Association for the 2021-2022 school year.
“I am extremely excited to be back again and to be with the SGA to advocate for all of the student body’s needs,” she said. “Last year, everything was virtual, and things felt a little undone at the end of the school year, so now we want to make sure we continue the work we started.”
Figueroa is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in communication with a minor in humanities. Figueroa’s sole focus outside the classroom in addition to her studies is leading the association. The Student Government Association serves as the liaison between students and the university’s administration. It also enhances student life by sponsoring and promoting participation in student activities. Figueroa is serving as the student representative on the UHV President’s Cabinet and is involved in several university committees, including the Diversity and Race Task Force and the COVID-19 Task Force.
During the 2020-2021 academic year, the student body and university faced challenges that the university had not seen before because of the pandemic, said Michael Wilkinson, UHV’s senior director of Student Services & Judicial Affairs who also serves as SGA advisor. Because of the uncertainty most felt about the pandemic and the changes in the university and society, the association worked even harder to stay connected with students and advocate for students’ needs.
An advantage the association has this year is that most of the members and Figueroa are returning, which helps with continuity, especially now that the university is having in-person classes and activities again, Wilkinson said.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the work the Student Government Association did last year,” Wilkinson said. “The group was on top of everything and didn’t let anything slip through the cracks. They held individuals accountable on behalf of the student body. I am thrilled with the job the group did last year, with Tiarah setting the tone as their leader. She handled the challenges and the pressure with grace and helped make a positive impact on campus. She’s an all-star, and I look forward to the work she and the rest of the organization will continue to do this year.”
One of the goals the group has this year is keeping the student body connected and involved with campus initiatives, events and committees.
Although the campus had virtual learning last year, the virtual association meetings helped to keep students involved and vocal, including nontraditional students, graduate students, international students and students taking classes at UHV Katy, Figueroa said. The group plans to host hybrid meetings this school year so that students can attend meetings both in person and virtually.
One of the new initiatives the student group started was a faculty and staff spotlight series to help students get to know the university faculty and staff while learning virtually. The group also advocated for academic engagement to ensure that faculty members provided flexibility and communication during virtual learning.
Another goal the group wants to continue working on is advocating for mental health services. Many students said they needed more motivation to study and work through the pandemic, and so the group made sure to speak more about the services available to students, including the UHV Counseling Center and Therapy Assistance Online, also known as TAO.
The group also plans to help first- and second-year students become familiar with the UHV campus and help them feel welcome now that everyone is back on campus.
“I applaud the work the association members did last year and the time they dedicated to helping the student body, especially considering the circumstances,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to advocate for students, and the students know that they can go to an SGA representative and share their concerns. We’re here to help the students, and we will be taking the time this year to make sure we can accomplish as much as possible.”
Wilkinson also encourages more faculty and staff to become involved with the association by speaking at the group’s meetings and helping in other ways.
“The Student Government Association is the voice of the student body, and the university is student-centered. As such, it is good for students to see not just their fellow Jaguars advocating on their behalf but the faculty and staff as well,” he said. “Together, we can all help our students grow and make their mark.”
Other students elected to the 2021-2022 Student Government Association are:
- Ashley Reyna of Harlingen, vice president
- Erik Faeltstroem of Vejbystrand, Sweden, director of finance
- Wendy Hughes of Victoria, speaker of the senate
- Xavier Hopkins of Victoria, chief justice
- Jacquelyn Velazquez of Eagle Pass, director of student organizations
- Darby Brady of Humble, graduate senator
- Shilpa Bhatkande of Katy, graduate senator
- Aisha Raji of Katy, senator
- Jamile Bahra of Beirut, Lebanon, graduate senator
- Cesar Pineda of Katy, senator
- Bruce Cory Hill of Victoria, senator
For more information about the UHV Student Government Association, visit www.uhv.edu/student-government-association.
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.