New year, new semester, new student president

By Alexandra Kukulka

As a child, Kendall Klitzke, a junior television major, wanted to be just like television personality Stephen Colbert. This aspiration naturally led Klitzke to Columbia to study the television industry in pursuit of an on-screen career, which she says showcases some of her best attributes: her sense of humor, ability to work efficiently and her endless amount of energy.

At the end of the Fall 2012 semester, Klitzke, who was formerly the executive vice president of the Student Government Association, assumed former SGA President Cassandra Norris’ position after Norris graduated a semester early.

Klitzke, who has been a member of SGA for six semesters, will be president for the duration of the Spring 2013 semester. At the end of the school year, Klitzke will have the option to run for president again, but she said it is unlikely that she will do so because she also plans to graduate early.

The Chronicle sat down with Klitzke to discuss her plans as president, SGA activities this semester and the importance of student involvement on campus.

The Chronicle: What do you plan to do as SGA president? 

Kendall Klitzke: I plan on tackling a lot of things that have never been addressed. An ongoing goal of student government is partnership with Columbia to give it a stronger sense of community. Ultimately, my goal is to make students feel like they really do have a voice at this school. Student government is the representative body that is purely there so students have a voice in decisions that are made at the college. I want to make sure Columbia students know this is an institution that is of students, by students, for students, and that they have a voice and that there are people who work very hard to do things for them.

How do you plan to improve student involvement on campus? 

Student government isn’t necessarily an event association per se, but a thing that student government can do to increase involvement is to lead by example, to be involved around campus ourselves. It’s encouraged and required for a lot of us to attend Columbia events that are not student government-related. In addition, I think student government can be one of the entities that helps foster a sense of community. When students feel like they have a community, there is something for them to go to, to do. Student government can’t do it alone. It’s definitely something that involves a lot of working in tandem with a lot of other groups, but it harkens back to this idea of community.

What will SGA focus on during the spring 2013 semester? 

This semester, like every semester, we have forum week, which is when every departmental senator hosts a student forum in order to get feedback about the academic department that they can take directly to the chair of that department. That is one of the main avenues for student advocacy that SGA has. It’s bringing students in the same department together and talking about their department. This spring, we also have the State of the College Address, which is to be scheduled, [and] is another thing that is for the entire Columbia community. It’s the one time when the president addresses the students directly in a very one-on-students way. We have our elections at the end of spring where students, in a collective, have the opportunity to run for SGA so they can represent their academic department as well as the college as a whole. Immediately following that, they vote for the candidates that have chosen to run.

Will the organization be working to improve any specific departments on campus?

Last semester, through the Faculty Senate, Cassandra Norris strongly encouraged the administration to take a look at the Advising Center and how that office can better serve students, and to work out the issues students often have with that office because that’s an entity that should be running perfectly all the time. That’s something we are tackling, and the school has already started to take a serious look at the things that are going on in that office. We have a Student Financial Services plan, which is in very early stages. Right now, we are getting the contacts for that office so we can go talk to the right people. Essentially, we want to address the issues students have with SFS that the school can actually correct because some stuff is government-related. A lot of things are just sort of the general frustration that comes from not being able to get aid.

What will SGA do to get more students involved in the organization and fill senator seats? 

In the past, a lot of it was posters. We definitely want to bulk up on our social media. I have an idea of shooting videos of senators, like 1 1/2 minute really fast things that say, ‘Hi, I am this person, I represent this department and this is why you should run for Student Government Association,’ and have about as many of those as we can get and blast them all over social media so that it is something slightly more interactive. We are definitely doing a better job of working with the student outlets that already exist, instead of trying to do everything on our own, because it is really not necessary to reinvent the wheel.

What is one thing people don’t know about you? 

I know a lot of weird songs from start to finish. Certain songs will come on, and I will know all of the words and people will be like, ‘How do you know that?’ Most things are by Earth, Wind and Fire. I know all of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” from start to finish. I know all of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” I don’t know what day I have not used the knowledge of song lyrics.

What do you picture your dream TV job to look like? What aspect of  TV do you want to work with? 

Fundamentally, I am a writer, so getting a job doing that would be awesome. I do have a very strong affection still for Comedy Central and the programing that they are doing, also HBO or Showtime. But really, I am keeping my options very open because I feel like you have to. I will work for anyone who will hire me.

With so many administrative changes taking place in the near future, what hopes do you have for Columbia’s future as an institution?  

Columbia is a best kept secret. I think that more people should know about us and I feel like that is something that takes time. I don’t think that there is anything that inspires Columbia students more than knowing of a lot of successful alumni. Part of that is we need to go out and become really successful and then care about where we got our education from. As far as the administrative changes I  want Columbia to continue to be a student-minded place. We have a very different philosophy from a lot of colleges, and that’s what I most admired about Columbia when I chose to come here. I really believed in our mission. I really believed in the values that Columbia has because they are just not the values that other colleges have. We are a unique place, and, with administrative changes, I want to preserve the good thing that we have going and take it to the next level [by] making sure that  our majors are following our industries. [To] do the good things without losing ourselves in the process.