Student Senate leaders attend national conference, prepare for busy school year

Student Senate leaders President Erik Garino, left, Secretary Brandi Reyes and Vice President Nicole Garcia stand in front of the U.S. Capitol during their recent trip to Washington, D.C., for the American Student Government Association National Student Government Summit.

The executive officers of the University of Houston-Victoria Student Senate got the new school year off to a good start by recently attending the American Student Government Association National Student Government Summit in Washington, D.C.

President Erik Garino, Vice President Nicole Garcia and Secretary Brandi Reyes traveled with the organization’s adviser, Janet Foerster, who works as a UHV student services generalist, for three days of workshops, networking and brainstorming from Sept. 24 to 27.

“It was a really great experience,” Garcia said. “We were able to get together each evening and review what we learned out of each session, determine what our goals would be for the upcoming year and plan how we would implement them after we got back.”

Workshop topics included information about increasing student involvement in the Senate, community volunteerism and using parliamentary procedure to make meetings run smoother.

“It was a great learning experience to see how the many different student governments function,” Reyes said. “I believe by using the knowledge we have gained from this experience, we will impact and promote positive change within our student body, our university and our community.”

The quartet came home with a host of new ideas for the school year.

“This year, we want the Student Senate to serve the whole community, as well as UHV students,” Garino said.

For example, the organization is now collecting school supply donations for students at O’Connor Elementary School in Victoria. Students and community members can bring supplies ranging from colored pencils to hand sanitizer to a box located in the UHV University West Student Lounge.

“We also want to get more students involved in the Senate this year and be more visible to the student body,” Garino said. “We’ll be conducting surveys and getting feedback from students so the Senate can better provide a voice for the students.”

The Senate will hold special elections in the spring semester to fill seven vacant Senate seats. The leaders are planning ways to increase the number of students who run for office and vote for senators. In the process, hopefully more students will become involved with the organization, Garino said.

The Senate also plans to prepare for the arrival of underclassmen in the fall of 2010 by rewriting the organization’s bylaws, he said.

The UHV senators met their counterparts from the University of Houston during the Washington, D.C., conference and plan to collaborate with the other organization to help rewrite bylaws and develop parliamentary procedures that will let the Senate grow with the university, Garino said. Those efforts may involve a trip to the Houston campus later in the school year to watch the UH Student Senate in session.

The conference also offered opportunities for Foerster.

“It’s a time to bond with the student government and learn their goals and expectations for the coming year,” she said. “That’s the best part for me. I also learned a lot of things in the workshops that I hope will improve the student government here at UHV.”

The seven senators will travel without the executive officers to a conference Nov. 7 in Dallas, Garino said. The event also is put on by the American 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.

Thomas Doyle 361-570-4342