The Student Government Association concluded the annual Presidential elections last Tuesday, April 2, with the victory of rising junior senators, Raymond Partolan as SGA President and Melina Hettiaratchi as Vice President.
Partolan is majoring in political science and Spanish.
He has had previous Student Government experience serving as senator last year, as well as various other forms of leadership on Mercer’s campus.
Having served on the Heritage Life Committee and worked as a Peer Advisor, Partolan intends to put his previous leadership experience to further use as he represents the voice of the student body to the senate and administration.
Hettiaratchi is majoring in education and became involved with SGA over the past year.
She also currently serves as the president of the Building Tomorrow, organization, which she helped to co-found.
As SGA Vice-President, Hettiaratchi is prepared to serve to represent the campus organizations directly to the administrative committees.
Hettiaratchi was approached by another senator about running for her senior year, but was otherwise encouraged to run this year.
“When I heard Raymond was running this semester I thought he would make a good president. We work well together,” shared Hettiaratchi.
During the SGA presidential debate, Partolan and Hettiaratchi discussed their platform in detail and answered questions about what they would do if elected. Now, they have that chance.
When recounting the choice to run together, Partolan shared, “The first time I met Melina, she came to Senate last year to ask that her organization, Building Tomorrow, be recognized. It was very clear to me that she is a hard worker, and is very passionate. I thought she would be an ideal running mate because of her hard working demeanor and dedication. She is very passionate about unity between organizations on campus and I am very passionate about Mercer’s relationship with the local community at large, so our different passions for different areas of campus make us a good team.”
As a Macon native, Partolan would like to strengthen the bond that Mercer has with the local community and hopes to do this by expanding the Paint the Town Orange Initiative. This initiative helps Mercer students find local job opportunities in their respective fields, but is mostly geared towards business and marketing students.
“I would like there to be more opportunities for students in other fields outside of the business school,” said Partolan.
As Vice President, Hettiaratchi hopes to create a larger inter-organizational community on Mercer’s campus. “It’s easy for organizations to be caught up in their own bubble. If Building Tomorrow students were only interested in Building Tomorrow, what’s the point? Why not branch out and host things with other people and organizations. We have been talking to many organizations about pushing the idea of doing more things as a campus community and increasing diversity. I think that’s something Mercer really needs.”
The plans that the President and VP intend to implement immediately, include installing water bottle filling stations, initiating a Dean’s List for the other schools outside of the CLA, and fixing up the furniture in the Connell Student Center near Bear Necessities.
Other larger plans will require more time and lobbying. They intend to talk to administration committees and get student feedback and ensure that students are comfortable with sharing their opinions.
Hettiaratchi assured that while talk of “SGA transparency” can sound cliché, “if people don’t feel like they can approach us with concerns then we aren’t doing our jobs.” It is important to both the Partolan and Hettiaratchi that there be a consistent line of communication between SGA and other students.
Partolan shared that an issue of their platform and fiscal responsibility was brought up during the presidential debates. He clarified, “while these plans sound expensive, our job as President and Vice President is to serve as the representative voice which means lobbying for these additions for campus to the administration, not necessarily SGA paying for it. It is just a matter of showing the administration that these things are important to Mercer students.”
The new SGA President went on to comment about the success of their campaign and his excitement for the future, “Melina and I went around and talked to students about the issues important to them on campus and told them about how we plan to address those issues. I appreciate all of the congratulatory remarks but I have to thank the students for electing us into office. We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support! I’m so excited about implementing the elements of our platform!”