Young students get hands in UI government early on

By Michael Logli

When Evan Ringel, freshman in LAS, first heard about the Illinois Student Senate’s staffer program, he said he signed up to get involved on campus.

“I just wanted to try something out,” Ringel said. “(I tried it) because of the experience and to promote my small understanding of how students get involved.”

The student senate’s staffer program allows freshmen and sophomores to be involved with the senate and campus politics without running and winning their own campaign.

Emily Elsenbast, junior in LAS, is the coordinator of the program and served as a staffer for the Budget Committee during her freshman year.

“It gets new students involved and interested in student senate from the beginning,” she said.

The program receives a good deal of interest during Quad Day, and students can also turn in an application that day, Elsenbast said.

Applicants are then interviewed to determine if they are qualified to become a staffer. Generally, the program accepts 40 to 50 staffers each year, depending on how many apply, Elsenbast said.

After applicants are hired, they are paired with a committee or an executive board member in the senate.

From there, the staffer’s duties are decided by whomever he or she works with.

“A staffer can take minutes or help organize activities,” Elsenbast said. “Basically, they help out wherever they can.”

After being chosen as a staffer for the Student Life Committee on Wednesday, Ringel said he expects to have a very rewarding experience but was unsure whether or not he would join the Student Senate in the future because of previous commitments to several projects related to his major.

Unlike committee members, staffers do not have a vote in student senate proceedings.

But many current senators once served as staffers. Justin Randall, student body president and senior in LAS, said he also started his career in the senate by working as a staffer for former president Ryan Ruzic.

“I worked and learned how the school works,” Randall said. “It’s been a big help.”

Randall said he often accompanied Ruzic on lobbying trips, worked with politicians and built a strong list of contacts both in the state capital and on campus.