McKenzy Heavlin, a third-year studying electrical engineering and the current student body vice president, is running for student body president this year. His running mate is Natalie Bress, a third-year studying electrical engineering.
“All of our platform points come from a direct student concern [from] conversations with students...throughout my time at NC State,” Heavlin said. “The president’s and vice president’s role is, in my opinion, [is to] address student concerns, connect them with resources and then go to administration and talk about how we can make sure that this problem doesn't exist in the future.”
Heavlin and Bress said that while they share the same major, their different personal experiences at NC State provide different lenses on how they approach engaging with students and advocating on their behalf.
Heavlin and Bress have plans to push for the creation of Living and Learning Villages for women of color, as well as a Pride village for members of the LGBTQ+ community. They also hope to speak with students on the intersectionality of identities in villages and have conversations with the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity on the implementation of the recommendations offered in the UNC Board of Governors Racial Equity Task Force report.
“We've been very intentional about how we've crafted our platform and points, specifically relating to diversity outreach, being hyperaware of the identities that Nat and I hold and do not hold in the University and how this will impact our community as we're advocating for them,” Heavlin said. “There's an education piece on our platform for Student Government members, so that, as constituents come to them with concerns about what Student Government can do, they know how to best support students, even if they don't share the similar identities of the students.”
In relation to graduate student mental health, Bress said their platform will work to create more flexibility in terms of working hours and financial support, as well as fostering healthier mentor-graduate relationships.
“We're very passionate about the mental health of each of our students,” Bress said. “College alone gives us a lot of stress and anxiety...but especially now with COVID...we want to make sure that we help students and provide them with remedies for this as much as possible.”
Heavlin said his positions as orientation leader and vice president of media and marketing for the Inter-Residence Council gave him his first sense of advocacy for students. Bress said her roles as a group fitness instructor and Park Scholar have taught her how to be an effective leader, as well as how to identify and address personal biases in a leadership position.
“[As the current student body vice president], I've been able to address a lot of student concerns that have come up throughout the session, especially the COVID-19, the racial inequities that really came to a head over the summer and then the food and housing insecurity that is exacerbated due to COVID-19,” Heavlin said. “That position has really well-rounded me and given me a holistic view of what the student body president’s role is within the University, both as a student advocate but also as the leader of Student Government.”
According to Heavlin and Bress, they are running on a ticket focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and student wellness for both undergraduate and graduate students. Their complete platform can be found on their website.
Students can vote all day Monday, March 15, and Tuesday, March 16, through the Get Involved website.