Knowing ISS inside and out: Vice President–Internal Jenny Baldwin

When Jenny Baldwin, the newly-elected vice president-internal described her views about the Illinois Student Senate, a common word she used was “family.”

The junior in LAS said she believes that the next assembly will become “one giant family” because the inner dynamics of the organization are so similar to her own family’s. With three older sisters and a younger brother, being amid a debate’s crossfire during the University’s student government weekly meetings is not new territory for Baldwin.

“I feel like growing up in a big family really helped me with cooperating and compromising,” Baldwin said. “Sibling rivalry was huge in my family, so you learn to solve those disputes quickly and fairly.”

After being sworn in as vice president-internal on April 17, Baldwin applied the same negotiation skills she uses with her family to manage the senators’ interactions within the organization and with the student body.

Christopher Dayton, senior senator emeritus for the College of LAS and senior in LAS, has known Baldwin since his sophomore year. With a laugh, he admitted Baldwin will have to manage “interesting characters” within the senate, but he has no fear or hesitation in her holding of the position. Baldwin has the ability to ensure that everyone has a voice during debates while keeping business on track, he said.

“She’s never really gotten in a heated dispute. She’s well-respected and listened to in the student senate,” Dayton said. “She critically looks at things, and if she feels the need to voice some sort of opposition, critique or endorsement, she’ll do that. But for the most part, she lets it go to the vote — which I think is drastically important in the vice president.”

Much of her aptitude for leadership stems from her time management and organizational skills. When she’s not serving as VPI, internal affairs committee chair or LAS student senator, Baldwin can be found at one of her two part-time jobs: working as a secretary for her church on campus or as an office assistant for Weston Hall.

“It’s crazy, but I really do enjoy (being busy),” she said. “I don’t take it on unless I know I can do it well.”

Majoring in history and political science, Baldwin is also a member of Phi Alpha Theta, a history honors society. She also participates in the Campus Crusade for Christ, or Cru. 

However, Baldwin said ISS is the biggest time commitment in her schedule. Her passion for student government started in middle school in her hometown of Waterloo, Ill. From her experience on the student council, Baldwin said she has always enjoyed bringing the faculty and students together to tackle pressing issues.

Baldwin lived in Garner Hall’s LEADS living-learning community for her first two years at the University. It was there that she first heard about ISS and decided to join.

Baldwin first became an intern during her freshman year and shadowed the VPI. From becoming clerk as a sophomore, she realized that she wanted to pursue a position on the executive board. As a junior, she became chief of staff.

Baldwin was on what could be called the internal track of ISS, a path that would lead to becoming VPI, explained Jim Maskeri, LAS senator emeritus and senior in LAS. However, when the then-vice president-external Ryan Young was notified that he retroactively graduated in January and had to resign, Baldwin was approached by Maskeri and Young to run for the position. She was elected that month after being nominated by Dayton. Much to Baldwin’s surprise, she ran unopposed.

“I definitely thought that she was the best candidate available,” Maskeri said. “Obviously, it’s difficult to transition into something part way through a term, but I think she’s done it with grace.”

Baldwin admits that taking on the VPX role for three months was challenging. But now, after serving two different vice president positions within the same semester, Baldwin said she has a larger understanding of the organization as a whole.

“It opened my eyes a lot to how the Senate is seen by other groups on campus, and the students in general,” Baldwin said of her experience as VPX. “I can see where we’re falling short on the outside, and … so often that means that there’s problems on the inside. I’m going to bring those things back to VPI and hopefully fix things so … that will help us project a better image outside.”

For Baldwin, a major push for next year will be to keep senators active throughout the term. 

“It’s hard to keep those new members. It sometimes gets to be a very negative environment, when all you see is the 7 p.m. meetings in the Pine Lounge when everyone’s yelling,” she said. 

Baldwin said she hopes to remind senators of why their roles are important to this campus. Senators should be pushed to reach out more to students, which will in turn will encourage students to contact their senator, Baldwin said. 

By making the senate fun, ISS will be able to retain more senators to help unify a cohesive, interactive body.

However, outside of ISS, her mother will always be her life-long role model. 

“She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met,” she said. “She is incredible – totally self-sacrificing in ways that I don’t think I could ever be.”

As the first of her siblings to go to college more than an hour away from home, Baldwin said she is very close with her family. They Skype every Sunday, and she hopes her ability to keep in touch with her family and the mediation skills they have taught her will positively affect her in her role as VPI.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about every single one of them,” Baldwin said. “There’s five kids in my family, and I’ll tell you, none of us are the same. And so we each have our own strengths and weaknesses, and recognizing that and being able to apply that to a larger organization like (ISS) is so important.”

Sarah can be reached at [email protected]