UNC Pembroke’s newly elected Student Government Association President Emily Ashley will start work in July at the Board of Trustees’ retreat.
“I’m learning more and more about what the board does,” said Ashley, who is a voting member. “It’s my job to have the best interests of students in my mind. So, I will do my best.”
A junior from Chapel Hill, Ashley will double major in psychology and Spanish. She became involved with the SGA early in her college career. She is also a member of the university’s dance team.
Student engagement - for all students - is at the heart of her plans for the coming academic year. She singled out commuter students as one group with special needs.
“I see them sitting in their cars between classes,” Ashley said. “They are disconnected, and I would like to find a place where they could go to relax and connect with other students.”
Ashley would also raise school spirit. She will continue an SGA initiative to create a student section at basketball games. “I’d like to see a roped-off seating with special student tickets,” she said. “We would develop special cheers, songs and movements unique to UNCP. If students feel like they have a part in the game, they are more likely to come out and have fun.”
Early on, Ashley is meeting as many people as possible. Instead of participating with the dance team at football games, she will be working the crowd.
“I want students to know who I am and what the SGA is all about,” she said. “They should know that we can help, or at least, I can point them in the right direction.”
How the new SGA president came to UNCP and remained here is a lesson in the benefits of student engagement.
“When my mother and I were driving here past the farms and I saw the size of the town of Pembroke, I was not sure this was the place for me,” Ashley said. “When I got to Lumbee Hall, they had my name on the message board. We had a one-on-one meeting with an admissions counselor, and after that, I was sold.”
But, Ashley had misgivings during her freshman year. “I think a lot of freshmen come to that moment, because college is such a culture change,” she said. “When I devoted myself to the SGA, I found motivated people like me.
“The solution for me is to try to help motivate other students to get more involved,” Ashley said. “I think the SGA can help.”
Ashley is also a realist. “I am representing 6,000 students, and I know I can’t make them all happy,” she said. “Improving the school is what I’m about, and it will be a growing experience for me.”
Ashley is spending the summer as the arts and crafts coordinator for the YMCA summer camp that she attended as a youngster. Her job is to make sure everyone is motivated, engaged and having fun.
As the SGA’s newest leader, she would apply the same principle. This philosophy was summed up in a statement Ashley made to The Pine Needle student newspaper before the election.
“I was raised to make sure other people benefit. I want to make sure everyone has a positive experience,” she told the newspaper. “If we tap the resources of involved students, we can be the greatest school in North Carolina.