Student electoral candidates share visions for upcoming year
Hopefully, students have seen the campaign posters spiking the Biola lawns, attended Monday’s election chapel, and got some tangy apple pie served at the presidential debate on Tuesday. Regardless, elections are coming up soon and students have an opportunity to influence Biola.
The Student Missionary Union president oversees the directors of Missions Conference, missional development and short-term mission trips along with other departments. There are 26 staff members within SMU, and current SMU president Luke Payton, said that it is the best leadership equipping tool that Biola has to offer.
The three candidates for this position are juniors Chris Johnson, Thilini De Visser and Brian Smith. Each are approaching Biola’s mission from a different angle.
SMU candidate Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson said he wants to use students’ individual strengths to further the great commission.
“People do not follow programs,” Johnson said. “They follow people.”
Students must focus their passions, talents and dreams on discipleship, Johnson said, praising the mission trips to Nepal and Belize, which use dancing and sports within ministry. Johnson also said he wants to specifically target fixing the communication between on-campus ministries and SMU.
SMU candidate Thilini De Visser
International student De Visser said she offers “a different point of view” to SMU. Growing up in Sri Lanka, De Visser said that she was often on the receiving end of many mission organizations. She has seen children in the sex trade, persecution and war raging around her, and she emphasized the importance of understanding the suffering that millions face globally.
“Biola, we live in a broken world,” she said.
Visser said her holistic approach will help these topics and “bring in a worldview that will challenge our thinking.”
SMU candidate Brian Smith
Smith, as a then-freshman, went into SMU to ask if there were toilets to clean or floors to vacuum, and today he is on the SMU board of directors. He has led mission trips to Kosovo and China and is an intercultural studies major and business minor. Having had his own mission trip to Paraguay denied by SMU, Smith said he wants to be sure that SMU is accessible to everyone and additionally wants to create a meaningful follow-up to Missions Conference.
Other students in the running to be senators for dorms, apartments and commuters hope to create a working voice between Associated Students and the student body. Funding for AS comes out of every student’s tuition, and in order to be heard, students need effective representation. While some dorms, like Stewart Hall, have just one candidate running for the position, others like Hart Hall have several. During the election chapel, video clips were shown from each candidate promising good representation and asking for votes.
Presidential and vice-presidential candidates
The last two positions available are that of AS president and vice-president. During the presidential debate on Tuesday, current AS president Lizzie Neely said that the AS president gives students a voice, meets with administration, conducts AS meetings, and makes decisions for the student body. With these duties in mind, Neely told students to listen for their heart and for their passion, and listen to who they are.
Junior Tomas Gustafson emphasized during the election chapel that all Christians have “a calling, a passion, a zeal.” He and vice president nominee, Alexis Hinton want to see students act on this.
Gustafson recalled heading to English class on Sept. 7, 2007 when his dad called to say his friend, 21-year-old Farfield city councilman Matt Garcia, had been shot and killed. Gustafson made a promise not to let down Garcia, who was the youngest elected official in the nation, and he has been living out this promise ever since. During his freshman year, he felt God calling him to run for a future AS presidency, and he called for students to “never underestimate the power of passion.”
During the presidential debate, vice presidential candidate, junior Kevin Zimmerman, said there was a lack of unity within AS, reaching to both events and services. Presidential candidate junior Kelsey Seitz said she wants to make AS more open and told students at chapel, “You are AS as a student of Biola University.” Zimmerman said on Tuesday that he hopes that transparency in leadership trickles down to the Biola community.
Junior John Drebinger, current AS vice president, and 2011-2012 presidential hopeful said on Tuesday that few students understand the full scope of AS, which is to advocate changes, not just events.
“If we do our jobs excellently but fail to connect and grow, we fail at our jobs,” Drebinger said.
Sophomore Janine Marderian, Drebinger’s running mate, said in chapel that she wants to foster the idea of lasting change and “effectively engage and merge classroom experiences with real life knowledge and application.”
Biola is already moving and growing as a university, Drebinger said at Tuesday’s debate. “The student body must keep moving forward and keep moving upward,” Drebinger said.