SGA President Josh Lawson reflects on experience

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Photographs courtesy of Tiffany Chin

John Kurecki, Features Reporter

After being elected president of the Student Government Association (SGA) last spring, Josh Lawson has spent the last year heading the student body’s government in a tumultuous period for higher education in Illinois.

Over the last year, in addition to helping organize multiple Lobby Days, the SGA has made strides toward implementing a green fee to bolster campus sustainability efforts and also has made arrangements for the creation of an endowed scholarship to be funded by the SGA over the next five years.

Lawson says that, while he has leadership experience from his time with the Illinois National Guard, his position as SGA president was a new, rewarding challenge.

“Leading a student body of 5,000-plus students was a completely different experience than anything I’d experienced before. Dealing with student issues on a day-to-day basis was really rewarding for the most part.”

Overall, Lawson feels that SGA has had a positive year despite difficulties, and said, “It’s been a good year, but there was definitely a lot of hurdles over the year. We had three Lobby Days that I helped coordinate. […] Having three Lobby Days made it a little bit more difficult, and they were state-level, state-coordinated Lobby Days, so it was across all public universities in the state.”

Regardless of these unique challenges facing higher education in Illinois this year, Lawson says he still enjoyed his tenure.

“Given the lack of a budget in the state, it’s made my job a little bit more difficult this year, but it was still enjoyable for the most part,” Lawson said.

On the importance of Lobby Days, Lawson believes that students must be heard, even though it sometimes may appear that their complaints are ignored.

Lawson described how he views the Lobby Days’ effectiveness, stating, “We definitely got the word out that we’re not just going to lay down and let the legislators mess with our future. […] Obviously we still don’t have a higher education budget and we still don’t have MAP grants, so as far as the effectiveness of them, I’m not sure how effective they exactly were, but at least we used our voice, which is essentially what we wanted to do anyways.”

While the issues within the Illinois state government have held much of the public attention, SGA has also furthered a number of other initiatives.

According to Lawson, “We had all kinds of initiatives throughout the year – the changing of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ day, we also have a green fee initiative that we’re working on currently […] we’re also setting up a scholarship fund […] we’ll pay into it over the next five years and then student government will have their own endowed scholarship for all of eternity.”

The scholarship is planned to pay out $1,000 per year in perpetuity, awarded based on need, leadership ability, and campus involvement.

Lawson will be leaving the SGA and UIS after this semester to attend the University of Kansas to study law.

“I am excited, it’s been fun here, but I’m ready to get done with law school and start my career,” the departing SGA president said. The next SGA president will be decided in this year’s elections on April 13 and April 14.