UNC Asheville’s Student Government Association is the voice of the student body. And this year, senior Courtney Galatioto has the megaphone. Galatioto, an Asheville native majoring in History, was recently sworn in as the 2010–11 SGA president. She’s already hard at work, advocating for students’ rights and interests.
Following are excerpts from a conversation with an enthusiastic Galatioto prior to the beginning of classes:
Why did you want to run for president?
I’ve been involved with Student Government since I was a freshman, so it seemed natural to take the next step to become president. There was no where else to go but up!
I’ve also come to understand the university and how it works, and I’ve come to understand Student Government and how it works. I’ve learned how to see a problem, have an idea for a solution and turn that into action to get things done.
Give us some examples of the things SGA has accomplished during the years you’ve been a member.
We’ve been pretty active on sustainability issues. For example, we helped eliminate trays in the Dining Hall and get timers on lights in some buildings. We’ve also worked with the Humanities Program to get more student input on the general education classes we all have to take.
Were you a member of a committee that accomplished something you are especially proud of?
Yes, Bulldog Bargains. Over the past several years, students have collected a list of different businesses that give student discounts. Last year we really revamped it. We contacted a lot of local businesses and we now have a pretty hefty list of places that give us discounts. We print the list up as a brochure at the beginning of each school year to give to freshmen and to place around campus. That’s something that I’ve worked very closely with over the past two years.
Tell us some of the things you’d like to accomplish during your term as SGA president.
This year it has become really important that students have more of a say in the tuition and fees process. Over the years, SGA has been really involved in the fee process. We’d like to mimic that in the tuition process.
But most dear to me is working with students who live off-campus and the non-traditional student population. Yes, one-third of the students live on campus, and we have staff dedicated to them, their issues and their problems. But we don’t have as many resources dedicated to our off-campus and non-traditional students. It’s a little bit different when you’re 30 years old and in school—it’s going to be different than if you are 21. If you live a mile from here, what’s going to bring you back to campus and make you feel like you are a part of the community? I believe there are ways we can all feel linked together and I like to work on that.
Do you live off-campus?
Yes. I lived on-campus my first two years, but these last two years I have been a non-resident student.
The SGA president has important roles on university boards. Can you talk about that?
As SGA president, I am the only student who is a member of both the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board. I think what some students might not realize is that I am more than the head of the Student Government Association—I am also a voting member of the Board of Trustees. So, I am the student voice when I’m in a room full of the other trustees. That’s a big responsibility, but I’m not timid. They know who I am.
You’re obviously a proponent of a liberal arts education. Why?
I think it’s absolutely valuable for two reasons. The first one is more immediate. The environment of a liberal arts school is one where ideas can be discussed. There is dialogue about differences in opinion on historical topics and contemporary issues. I think that’s important because it makes us stronger thinkers and communicators.
Two, long-term, it’s also important. We live in a really, really global world where the kinds of people we deal with and the values we encounter are getting bigger and bigger every day. We no longer can be comfortable in our small little communities—we are part of a bigger community. It takes the skills of a liberal arts education to really address those issues.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a native Ashevillian, so I have a strong love for downtown Asheville. I like to walk around downtown, shop, get dinner. It’s such a great city; I love it.
And I’ve got mad Bulldog pride! I usually wear a bulldog necklace for good luck and I drive a Bulldog blue Subaru.