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Leading Her Peers

Editor’s Note: Follow Kelly online at her new NCSU.EDU blog, “Off The Hook.”

Kelly Hook’s election as student body president has been the driving force behind a positive shift in student government’s ability to connect with the larger student body, as well as an improved relationship with NC State faculty, staff and administrators. For Hook, the sixth woman president in student government history, the opportunity to give voice to her fellow students was one she couldn’t pass up.

As new student orientations, summer sessions and the fall semester – when we’ll welcome record numbers of freshmen and transfer students into the NC State family – quickly approach, we talked with Hook about her campaign success and what lies ahead for her and her fellow students.

Throughout the coming months, Hook will be a regular contributor to our staff (you can find her first few columns and briefs here) and, more importantly, welcomes comments and questions from NC State students, faculty, staff and administrators.

Dave Pond, University Communications: First of all, congratulations on your election. It’s been more than a decade since NC State had a female student body president. Has your gender allowed you any unique opportunities as it pertains to your position?

KH: I think I have been especially well-received by different student organizations that represent diversity at NC State, and for that reason, I think we have a tremendous opportunity to further advance diversity on our campus. Student Government has never focused much on diversity in the past, and I’m really excited about the opportunity.

It’s been exciting– a lot of the high-level administrators on our campus are women, so I have a lot of great role models here. That being said, I haven’t differentiated myself – or felt like I have had to – at all. When I speak, I hope I represent all women on campus well, but more importantly, I hope I represent all my fellow students well. I think I’ve been able to do that, and that’s the way it should be. It’s all about the job.

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DP: What are some of the things you hope to accomplish this year through your work in Student Government?

KH: I want to connect students to each other – doing that will help connect them to the university at the same time. In my opinion, our campus-wide feeling of ‘Wolfpack Pride’ could be strengthened throughout all of our different student organizations, and I want Student Government to play a big part in that. Over the next year, Student Government leaders will be talking in classrooms and various organizational meetings, trying to make students aware of what’s going on all the time. It’s an appropriate role for us to fill, and we’re certainly one of the groups with the resources to do it.

Secondly, we’re an innovative campus with some of the brightest students in the sustainability realm, and I want Student Government to focus on that. We have a project called Think Outside the Brick – which gives students money to create projects that will help NC State become a more sustainable campus.

Overall, Student Government should be a resource. At times, I think we’ve made the mistake of being too project-oriented, which can cause us to lose focus and spend too much time on too wide a range of projects. So, this year, it’s going to be quality over quantity.

For example, I’d like Student Government to be the resource through which all sustainability organizations on campus would connect to each other. Instead of Student Government always being the group trying to start the projects, I think it’s far more efficient to work with great on-campus organizations that have a more-centered focus and provide them with the opportunities and the resources to make it happen.

Finally, we want to lay the foundation for a central calendar system for student assignments, due dates, etc. We want to simplify and consolidate the online systems: Wolf Wiki, Webassign, Vista, Course Compass, Maple, Moodle – it’s just information overload and extremely frustrating to students. So, we want to work toward a simplified system so if you have an assignment due, you’ll get reminder notifications in one place – as a text, email, or however else you want it.

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DP: How has Student Government been able to impact or affect change on our campus during your years of involvement?  (Editor’s note: Among other roles within the organization, Hook served as a two-year Student Senator, Chief-of-Staff for former student body president Jim Ceresnak and was the project head for NC State’s Howl for Haiti efforts.)

KH: There is a difference between having power and influence. SG has a lot of influence on campus, and if we present smart, well-thought-out choices to administrators, we will be heard. Over the next year, I want to create an avenue for students to present those types of ideas. We’re going to work hard to earn the respect of students and administrators, and provide that avenue for students to help other students.

NC State’s faculty, staff and administrators have been extremely receptive to us – to me, and other members of the executive branch, especially. They are always willing to meet with us, listen to our ideas and help us accomplish goals. Each of my commission chairs have great contacts within their respective areas, because I think the administrators realize that they need student input equally as much as we need their help.

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DP: As student body president, you represent more than 33,000 students here at NC State. How will you increase your accessibility and visibility to members of the student body that, in turn, will allow you to shed light on an increased number of student issues before campus administrators?

KH: I can’t do anything without student input. It’s the only way for us to know what’s going on, and the only way for me to know how to best represent students at the meetings I attend.

At some point this year, every organization on our campus will be hearing from Student Government. We’d like to stand in front of them and share what we do – and hear what they do as well, so we can have the opportunity to truly connect and find ways to be a resource for them.

In addition, we’re going to make a conscious effort to be out on the Brickyard and on Centennial Campus as often as we are allowed. We hope students will feel free to come up and talk with us, or at least drop comments or suggestions in our information boxes.

Finally, I’ve begun an online column that I will be updating at least once a month, and hope that I’ll receive some great questions or comments that I can address there. Feel free to call my office at 513-4002 or shoot me an e-mail. I’m also on Twitter, which I hope I’ll be able to use as a resource to quickly poll students on issues, among other things.

We will create an environment in which students realize Student Government can influence policy at the university. There will always be feedback opportunities for students, and opportunities for them to get involved.

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DP: And what about students interested in Student Government?

KH: The fastest way for them to get connected is to email me. Or, head over to the Student Government Web site and check out all of the different commissions. If you see something you like, let me know. We even have students emailing and saying, ‘Hey, this is my major, and I want to get involved. How can I help?’

I’ve been extremely fortunate to work alongside a team of great leaders who are so smart and proactive. What we do is really exciting – we have about 150 or so involved in Student Government right now – and we’re always looking to add people. There are never enough students involved. There’s absolutely, always a place for every student.

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DP: Without getting involved in Student Government, what’s the single-most-important thing that members of NC State’s community can do?

KH: We need to shout what we’re about. There’s never been enough emphasis on what our university does and how amazing it is. Doing that garners pride among students, but also shows those off campus what’s going on here. One of my personal projects will be to work toward a big, popular NC State campaign that people can be excited about and one that will help us all stay connected to our university long after graduation.