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ECU’s Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a banquet April 11, where several members were given awards and students executives were sworn in.

East Carolina University’s Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a virtual banquet on April 11 where all committee members were recognized, a variety awards were given out and the 2021-2022 President Chandler Ward and Vice President Savannah Slade were sworn into their executive positions.

SGA Advisor and Director of Student Activities and Organizations Justin Janak led the event and said he and the 2020-2021 SGA students leaders and members have overcome many challenges. He said he is proud of former President Tucker Robbins and former Vice President Laura Hayes for their leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vern Davenport, chair of ECU Board of Trustees, said he is proud of the SGA student leaders and their accomplishments thus far, especially through pandemic. He said he appreciates SGA's hard work, commitment, patience and leadership to the university.

“The only reason this university exists is for students, and all of our (ECU) collective efforts are to ensure the success of the education experience for students. I am really proud of the university,” Davenport said.

While Davenport said he plans to finish his 10-year contract within the coming weeks, he said he is excited for the 2021-2022 student executives. He said Robbins and Hayes have done a notable job as they have continued to be passionate about student rights and success and they have led the ECU community with diligence.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Virginia Hardy said she is thankful for Ron Mitchelson, ECU’s former interim chancellor, as well as for Robbins and Hayes’ growth and leadership. Hardy said she is proud of the accomplishments SGA members have achieved and will continue to do as Ward and Slade lead.

“It has truly been a pleasure to work with you, Tucker, and to watch you grow as a leader over these last few months,” Hardy said. “How you have handled yourself and still kept your finger on the pulse of students, and to be able to share with us what students were thinking and feeling and what their needs were, and always being an advocate for students, so we thank you tremendously for a job well done, to Tucker and to Laura, very much appreciated.”

Members of SGA were recognized for their hard work over the past year. SGA’s Shipmates, Assembly Members, Elections Commission and the Executive Cabinet were honored.

Throughout the award portion of the banquet, Executive Service Awards were given to several executive members of SGA, which included Robbins, Hayes, Student Body Treasurer Morgan Fried, Student Body Secretary Danielle Maurice, Speaker of the Student Assembly Matthew Miller as well as Student Body Attorney General Madison Stamper.

Excellence in Leadership awards were given to Shipmate and At-Large Representative Rutvi Sachania, Student Assembly Member and former At-Large Representative Raymond Tunoa-Scanlan, Executive Cabinet Member and former At-Large Representative Kaitlyn Smith as well as Robbins.

“This award (Helen Banson Award) is named after the first East Carolina University Student Government Association (SGA) president. This award is presented to an SGA member who shows constant dedication to the student body in conjunction with the experiencing note-worthy character and integrity,” Fried said.

Holden Williams, a SGA at-large representative, was awarded the Helen Banson Award for his diligent work and dedication to the ECU community’s safety, accessibility to campus and his continuation to make improvements for the university.

Emma Goldberg, director of SGA’s Health and Wellness, was given the Cupola Award by Maurice, who said Goldberg was chosen to receive this award for her ability to “foster a positive students’ image” as well as promote student well-being, diversity and inclusion on-campus. Lynn Roeder, dean of students and associate vice chancellor, was the faculty member chosen to receive this award for her respect, integrity, support and for her dedication as a student advocate.

Robbins spoke for both himself and Hayes as he said this past year has been a remarkable one filled with many accomplishments, despite the challenges COVID-19 has brought on.

“Let me be the first to say that giving these farewell remarks, it’s bittersweet,” Tucker said. “It seems just like yesterday Laura and I were transitioning into these roles from the previous administration. While I know I will not cover all of our feelings, I will try my best to formulate our gratitude and appreciation for such a unique year.”

Robbins said he had different plans for the ECU community, which included the improvement and leadership of and advocation for ECU student life, when he first stepped into office. However, he said the pandemic forced them to change direction as he and Hayes had to figure out a way to continue to lead, support and advocate for students and their needs.

Tucker said he and Hayes have improved the communication and relationships with the local first responders, accessibility to campus as well as financial transparency with ECU. He said he, along with Hayes, appreciate and are thankful for the entirety of SGA as well as the university community for their support.

Hayes swore Slade into office and Tucker swore in Ward, both of which were conducted in-person with face masks on. Both Ward and Slade had to recite the Oath of Office, which can be found in Section 11 of SGA’s bylaws document.

“I ________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will uphold the Constitution and By-Laws of the Student Government Association of East Carolina University. During my term, I will embody the motto of our University, Ad Servire, meaning ‘To Serve,’ so that I may faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of my office to the best of my ability,” the document said.

Ward said he and Slade appreciate the opportunity to lead as well as to serve ECU. He said he is thankful for the guidance he has received from the SGA and campus staff and faculty. He said he along with Slade will be dedicated to the success of all students and the university and will advocate for a “return to normalcy” for the fall semester.

Robbins and Hayes, as well as the other SGA members, were thanked by Ward for their help to make the transitions of their positions easier. Ward said he is grateful to ECU students and for their support as he “will not let them down.”

Ward said he will continue to conduct the work that has been completed before him and as he plans to continue to promote and improve on-campus safety, social media engagement as well as mental health awareness. He said he looks forward to working with Chancellor Philip Rogers throughout Ward’s term in office.

“As Savannah (Slade) and I look to the future of this upcoming year, I think we can all agree there’s a certain level of excitement to bring on campus and the surrounding community,” Ward said.

Mitchelson closed the banquet as he said he is proud of Robbins and Hayes’ accomplishments and hard work they have shown ECU, and he looks forward to see what Ward and Slade accomplish in the 2021-2022 academic year. There has been a strong foundation put in place for Ward and Slade, according to Mitchelson, and he is excited to see a continuation of student voices being heard, a more normal fall semester and more initiatives brought to campus.

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