The Student Government Association is starting the new semester with goals to improve relations between SGA and the student body and promote positive mental health throughout the academic year. 

SGA President Matthew White and Vice President Kennedi Brown-Willis strive to get students involved in SGA events after almost two years of virtual learning. 

“One of the primary goals that we do have is that we are going to focus on mental health,” Brown-Willis said. “We are going to do a test run this year, this fall semester, with a series called ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ and partner with different organizations on campus to take care of mental health and have those discussions.” 

The SGA plans to launch a podcast for “Wellness Wednesdays” in partnership with the campus counseling center on September 15. 

“We [planned] that in the summer to actually get that conversation started and to build that momentum,” she said. 

Depending on the series’ success, “Wellness Wednesdays” could become a full series going forward in the academic year. 

Aside from starting a conversation on mental health, the leaders of the SGA wish to improve the internal structure of the association and improve student outreach. 

“Something that we both took issue with during the campaign was when you talk about SGA on campus, there are a lot of students that don’t even know that the Student Government Association exists, and that’s a real problem,” White said. “And that’s where we plan on focusing a lot of our efforts, like ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ and things like that. Those are student outreach events and ways to get students involved with the Student Government Association.” 

The need for an increase in morale and student involvement could not be more pertinent after 18 months of virtual learning. 

“COVID-19 has taught me that we all need each other,” Brown-Willis said. “Going virtual for about a year-and-a-half, almost two has kind of made us feel nervous about interaction and engagement, so we have to build that encouragement back up.” 

With COVID-19 resurging throughout the country and Shelby County, the SGA has little control over how events can be held on campus but guarantees that something will be in place to keep students engaged. 

“We have no control over what we can and can’t do, whether it’s virtual or in-person,” White said. “The Centers for Disease Control as well as the University of Memphis set guidelines for what we can and can’t do, so we’re just going to follow those guidelines and make whatever adjustments we have to.” 

Programs like Mr. and Ms. U of M, a scholarship program that rewards two students who are involved in campus and community advancement, will continue this year. 

“The program will continue, but how it looks is going to depend on Shelby County guidelines, CDC guidelines, and University of Memphis guidelines,” White said. 

Nominations for Mr. and Ms. U of M begin September 7 and potential nominees can submit applications starting September 8. Students can get more information about nominations on the SGA page of the U of M website.

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