When Jess Errico started her campaign for student body president, advocacy formed the core theme.
“That advocacy can be on behalf of students, making sure it’s rooted in the real issues and rooted in real concerns of students,” says the mechanical and aerospace engineering senior from Shelby, North Carolina. “It can also be supporting students in their own advocacy.”
Advocacy will remain Errico’s priority when she takes office on March 28. She and running mate Meredith Spence Beaulieu, a Ph.D. student and president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association, campaigned on the platform of PACK: professionalism, advocacy, communication and kinship. That’s still their plan once they take office.
“We’re making sure that we are doing everything we can to challenge the Wolfpack community to be as inclusive as possible,” says Errico, a Caldwell Fellow.
Errico already has identified “small-term things” to work on, many of which involve working with professors. She wants faculty to take advantage of open-source course materials and open pedagogy grants from NCSU Libraries that promote alternatives to traditional textbooks and cut down the cost of instruction materials. She supports two bills proposed under the previous student administration that ask professors to include specific clauses in their syllabi, one that points students to mental health resources and another that assures transgender students that instructors will use their preferred names and pronouns. She stresses that professors should include the clauses only if they feel comfortable doing so.
“We definitely don’t want anyone to include something they do not mean,” she says. She says she would also like to hear suggestions for how students can help faculty in the classroom.
One of her long-term initiatives is to implement Beyond the Box, a U.S. Department of Education initiative that aims to make it easier for people with criminal convictions to continue their learning.
Sustainability is an important part of all these plans, she says. Student government funds can kick-start projects but can’t support them indefinitely. She would like to see other units in the university adopt viable projects and keep them going. That way student government can “keep being the voice of students and start new initiatives, but not carry the burden of initiatives past.”
Putting PACK into Practice
Implementing these plans means collaborating with people across campus. Errico is no stranger to that. She has worked in student government for four years and currently serves as chief justice of the judicial branch, an arm of the Office of Student Conduct. In that role, she says, she communicated to students on behalf of the administration, such as explaining NC State standards and regulations. She considers her working relationships with administrators one of her strengths now she’s president.
“I have yet to meet a single administrator who has not wanted the best for NC State,” she says.
She hopes to strengthen the bonds between students and the administration during her tenure. That’s where PACK comes in — the promotion of professional, open communication between parties who want the best for students and to create a strong, inclusive community. That’s the ultimate goal.
“I find myself thinking that NC State is lucky and fortunate to have students, leadership, administration, faculty, staff and alumni who all want the university to be successful,” Errico says. “I think sometimes we don’t see eye to eye on what that means, but at the end of the day, I do know that we are all seeking one outcome in term of student success and NC State success.”