Driving Change in Higher Education.

Challenges and Opportunities

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By Geoff Dittberner

MSCSA President 2011-12

I feel as though it would not be right to start without paying respects to my predecessor former President Travis Johnson. I could have not asked for a better “boss” than Travis. Many of you reading this know that in student leadership just as any other organization disagreements and drama sometimes just come with the elected position. I can honestly say that there was not one time this year where I had a negative experience in working with Travis. 

One of the reasons that may have been the case could very well be the respect that we hold for each other in our roles. One thing that we have in common and that I admire about Travis is how serious he takes his work. For both of us these positions are treated no differently from any other nine-to-five and we “clock in” every day and work diligently for students. I know that I will make a much better President this year because of the example Travis has set forth. I look forward to using him as a resource and having him back as an alumnus in the future. 

Now, on to the story!

One of the most common questions I was asked while running for President was, “What are your plans for next year?” and to each person I gave the same answer. You see, from what I have learned, the President of MSCSA does not really determine the direction of the Association so much as do the challenges and opportunities that occur with the ebb and flow of the academic and legislative calendar. Last year this included getting students out to the polls to vote with our record breaking Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign and making our voices heard in the heated budget debates at the Capitol. The coming year will have its own unique challenges and opportunities. 

Admittedly I first thought that this coming year HAD to be a lighter load because of the fact that there will not be a budget year in the legislature and the 2012 elections are in the next year. However I soon realized that this coming year could possibly be far busier than my year as Vice President. There are two important tasks ahead of us–first, establishing a relationship with the next Chancellor of the MnSCU system Steven Rosenstone and second, preparing for the 2012 elections. 

In outgoing Chancellor James McCormick, we have been very fortunate to have a Chancellor who has always kept students at the forefront of the discussions. Chancellor McCormick will truly be missed and we will work to make sure that the same degree of respect is mutually held between our organization and the incoming Chancellor. 

I am really excited about our GOTV 2012 campaign. We are doing something very different this year with the very early start of the 2012 GOTV campaign. Instead of waiting until the summer of the election we will be kicking it into gear in the spring to make sure that we are prepared for the challenge in the Fall of 2012. This past year we were able to register a record number of over 5,400 students to vote. In 2012 I KNOW we can double that. We will only be able to do that with the help of the student leaders of MSCSA. This year we will ramp up leadership development and training at conferences to make sure that the student senates of MSCSA have the tools necessary to make sure that students make an impact in the 2012 election. Although it will be a lot of work, the MSCSA Staff and Cabinet have big plans. When I was running for president I talked about building on our success and I am confident that we are well positioned to make this year the most active that MSCSA has ever had! 

Let me end by saying that I am humbled and honored by this opportunity that I have to serve as President of MSCSA. When I first started at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) I just wanted to get in and out and start working. I would never have imagined myself feeling like I was part of a larger movement before my first MSCSA Advocacy Day at the Capitol. I remember seeing people speak at the podium in the Capitol rotunda and I wondered how people get over their nerves to address a crowd. Now I won’t shut up when I have the microphone! Student leadership has been one of the most significant growing experiences that I have had and it is all culminating in this position during the my final year at MCTC. I know that these experiences will stay with me for quite some time. To the person reading this who is not involved on campus or with MSCSA, just jump in! It just may change your life as it most certainly did mine. 

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