SGA President aims to increase student engagement on campus

The SGA President shares her plans for UTSA this school year: ‘It’s like plugging in the TV and the power goes back on.’

Faith Kouadio, Contributing Writer

Following her year-long tenure as vice president of UTSA’s Student Government Association (SGA), Jasmin Paquet-Durand Ford noticed the vacancy in the Presidential role for the upcoming school year and with the help and support of her colleagues in the SGA, she decided to run for the position. 

“When I joined Student Government, I didn’t really have any major aspirations or really too much of an idea of what they do,” Paquet-Durand Ford said. “But I had seen the former President Jose Escobedo, I saw how hard he worked … late nights, early mornings he carried that organization … so I knew how much work it took and I knew the responsibility.” 

Not only is Paquet-Durand Ford president of SGA, but she was also elected vice chair of the UT Student Advisory Council. This school year, she feels ready to manage an almost $50,000 budget, engage with and advocate for the student body and bring back the full presence of Student Government at UTSA. 

In preparation for the Fall 2022 semester, Paquet-Durand Ford and three other executive SGA members traveled to New Jersey over the summer to attend the National Association for Campus Activities conference, where they workshopped various skills and learned how to best run Student Government. 

She intends on applying all her previous experience toward various initiatives and programs for UTSA students, such as the return of Field Day a competition between student organizations that includes games such as dodgeball and tug-of-war. The intention of Field Day is to network, promote the different resources available to participants and to simply have fun. 

Additionally, Paquet-Durand Ford hinted at developing a platform to voice the concerns of student workers on campus such as those working for Aramark — or UTSA Dining — and Federal Work-Study. SGA intends to collect information to discover what is possible for those involved. 

There are also plans to continue the #FreshStartUTSA campaign, initially created last year to “re-engage with the administration and students” following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on college life.   

“First and foremost, students are actually going to be represented now. We have consistently had over half of our senate seats open, and in this upcoming election, we are going to more than double the senators … [The students] are going to be seeing their senators actually around on campus,” Paquet-Durand Ford said. “We now I’m very happy to say have a fantastic relationship with various administrators, they support us. They support students and they’re eager to get student input.” 

Through #FreshStartUTSA, Roadrunners can anticipate seeing a “Rowdy Prize Cab” around campus, a full golf cart distributing SGA and UTSA prizes, ranging from pens to jackets. 

The many upgrades to SGA include a stronger social media presence, more events and most notably the remodeling of their office to include a more open space for students to enter as well as where they aim to host 30 in-person office hours a week. Paquet-Durand Ford’s goal for a clear communication channel and engagement between SGA and students was made with consideration of the organization’s previous pitfalls and criticisms. 

There have been controversies surrounding the SGA’s previous administrations’ alleged misuse of the budget toward personal retreats. The entire budget is sourced from student service fees included in tuition, which is charged at $16.18 per semester credit hour with up to $194.16 per semester. Paquet-Durand Ford’s summer conference and yearly UT Student Advisory Council meetings are also funded by the budget, although she tries her best to curb these types of costs where possible.   

This year’s budget is approximately $48,600 25% or less of funds will go toward SGA executive officers’ stipends. “It’s important these positions not be limited to students who have the freedom to engage in unpaid activities,” Paquet-Durand Ford said. 

She assures most of the budget will be “more appropriately” allocated toward the many programs offered than in previous years, and the rest of the budget will help fund on-campus committees and organizations as needed. 

Paquet-Durand Ford acknowledges the last few years have been “slow-moving,” but vows to bring SGA back to speed. 

“We are going to make a lot of mistakes,” she said. “I don’t mean bad mistakes, I think this year is gonna be a really big learning curve, and that is so exciting … UTSA is young. Student Government is young. For me, it’s the long term.” 

Paquet-Durand Ford encourages students to visit her office hours from 10 to 11 a.m. on Monday or from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday or by appointment to discuss anything, as well as attend the State of Student Body at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 15 in the Harris-Travis Room in the Student Union on the Main Campus.