Driven by a desire to get to know the Newman University campus and students’ wants and needs better, President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., recently established the President’s Student Cabinet.
The cabinet, which launched this month and includes 13 students, will meet on a monthly basis and enable Jagger, who assumed her position on July 1, 2020, to meet directly with students to share information, seek their feedback and answer their questions.
“It really is a two-way communication link to students,” Jagger said. “You get to brainstorm with them and ask them questions. They also get to see the president as somebody who is just another human being, not some mythological creature that wears the president’s hat.”
According to Jagger, it’s imperative that the cabinet represent as many different areas of campus as possible to reflect the diversity of Newman, including students from different years and majors, from student-athletes to musicians to those who commute to campus.
“It’d be nice to eventually have a graduate student on the group, too, so that really all of our different populations of students could feel like they had some kind of a link to communicating with the president,” she said.
Jagger enlisted the help of Dean of Students Christine Schneikart-Luebbe to prepare the application and recommendation form for the President’s Student Cabinet. All Newman students were sent the information and encouraged to apply for the charter group. Schneikart-Luebbe reviewed each of the applications and was “impressed with the group we selected.”
One of the chosen students, Elizabeth Raehpour, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, looks forward to what she believes will be a positive experience.
“I want to do everything I can to have students’ voices heard on campus,” she said. “Meeting with President Jagger and these great students is a fantastic opportunity to do so.”
The cabinet’s first meeting was March 29 for dinner when they got to know each other. The next meeting is planned to be with Newman’s senior leadership team. Jagger plans to host some sessions where she will meet with the student group and other meetings with her university cabinet members in attendance.
“What makes it really valuable to me is to hear different students’ points of view,” Jagger said. “We’re here to help them, and knowing them better as a group, hearing what they’re interested in, what they’re concerned about, what they’re worried about, what they’re happy about, you know, hearing everything that they have to say, I think is going to be what makes it valuable to me. It’ll give me a better lens with which to think about the future of Newman.”
Benefits for Newman students and President Jagger
The President’s Student Cabinet will ultimately benefit both students and the president.
“This cabinet is yet another opportunity for our students to engage and become involved on our campus,” Schneikart-Luebbe said. “This cabinet will provide a direct pipeline that could impact real change on our campus. President Jagger already has open office hours where students are encouraged to drop in and see her. This expands that reach and intentionally creates a mechanism for her to work directly with our greatest and most precious resource: our students. It is exciting to have a president who is so committed to interacting with our students.”
For students specifically, part of the value of being on the cabinet is the ability to hone their leadership skills.
“It’s a way for them to get to know what it’s like to lead a university,” Jagger said. “I think it’s going to be a way for them to see the complexities of leadership. And I’m assuming that many of our students who graduate from Newman will go on to be leaders in their community — whether it’s in their parish, whether it’s in their job or whether it’s in whatever volunteer activities they participate in or commit themselves to — so I think (they’ll have) ringside seats for some interesting decision-making.”
For this reason, biochemistry sophomore Nkama Kimfuema believes his involvement on the President’s Student Cabinet will help him become a better leader.
“As an SGA senator, I have experience implementing initiatives, but through the President’s Student Cabinet, I hope to form bigger ideas that can impact the university,” he said. “I am excited to formulate newer relations with the president and other members of the cabinet.”
Being part of the cabinet excites Daniel Knolla, a junior majoring in biochemistry, as well because he’ll get to know his university more in-depth.
“I chose to apply to the cabinet so that I could represent the departments that I participate in and get to know President Jagger,” he said. “I think it will give me a better ‘big picture’ perspective on Newman.”