UCF's Cait & Jarell talk leadership goals, progress
For newly elected Student Body President and Vice President Cait Zona and Jarell Jones, being transparent with the rest of the student body is a top priority, including letting them know where they are with the platform points they promised last spring.
At a media roundtable luncheon Friday, Zona and Jones discussed their current progress on goals from campus safety to lobbying in Tallahassee for student rights. And with an online platform tracker in the works to keep themselves accountable, Zona said she and Jones are doing all they can to keep their efforts known.
Students don't always know what to ask, so we want to make sure they know about all the resources available to them, Zona said.
Campus safety measures
An evident goal throughout her campaign in spring, Zona emphasized her efforts to heighten student safety measures on and around campus. With car-part thefts becoming a common concern, among the newest updates that her cabinet has been working on with UCF Parking and Transportation is implementing the first campus parking garage security camera, which will be in Garage B, with the Libra garage likely to follow, she said.
In the future, Zona said she is closely watching the progress of a license plate recognition system in parking garages to address crimes and parking permit violations. The effort is in collaboration with the UCF Police Department and UCF Parking and Transportation.
Pedestrian bridge alternatives
In the past decade, more than a few pedestrian fatalities occurred at the intersection of Alafaya Trail and University Boulevard. Though the implementation of a pedestrian bridge has long been in the talks and was a platform point for past SGA presidential candidates, Zona said the concept would "never work."
Instead, she and Jones are looking to add more KnightLynx shuttle service stops along the two major streets. She also wants to increase awareness of the KnightFlight service — which offers traveling students rides to the airport during winter break — and increase bike rental stations across campus, including to student housing locations.
As the internal vice chair to the Florida Student Association, Zona has recently spoken on safety panels and mentioned working with other university student body presidents across the state to brainstorm campus safety programs.
We represent more than 340,000 students and need to stand collectively, she said. Though a Chief's Advisory Council meeting was recently postponed due to weather, she hopes the safety discussion will progress at the next meeting.
Steps for diversity initiatives and inclusion
Working with Knights' Pantry and observing other schools, Zona and Jones are taking steps to start Knightro's Suit, which would offer formal clothes for interviews and jobs to students who can't afford them. The SGA community outreach team is connecting with places like Men's Warehouse, she said.
Along with upcoming events like the Rally for Respect with President Hitt and an LGBTQ Spirit Day, Zona and Jones discussed that they want to interweave diversity in their programs by connecting with target populations on campus.
"If we know we're missing a population, we want to find out how to reach out to them," Zona said.
Along with efforts at the main campus, Jones said he is adamant about making sure students at regional and satellite campuses are not feeling left out from the UCF community. Two weeks ago, he and Zona visited the Rosen College of Hospitality campus to speak to students and tour the campus.
"We want to have SGA Day at Rosen just like we do here to add excitement to their campus, because the culture is a lot different [at regional campuses] than the main campus here in Orlando," Jones said.
Sometimes, they don't feel like they have the same resources, and we wanted to let them know that they have access to them too, Zona said.
Streamlining common services to digital platforms
To keep students updated with new resources on campus, Zona and Jones developed an app called KnightLife, where different campus departments such as the Office of Student Involvement and the Recreation and Wellness Center can post contact information, hours and other information.
"We're revamping the website to make it more user-friendly ... so students can access pretty much anything from a distance," Zona said, adding that she is working with UCF News and Information to analyze which methods are most effective in getting students to be more aware of what is available to them.
Though senator elections are quickly approaching at the end of this month, Jones said they are looking to add an SGA voting portal on Webcourses in the future.
Lobbying in Tallahassee
Zona said she is also working with the Florida Student Association to address issues that affect students statewide — not just at UCF. She posed ideas she was discussing with other SGA members across the state, such as eliminating the requirement for summer class enrollment or, on the other hand, exploring whether it would be possible to lobby for summer Bright Futures financial aid availability.
Nada Hassanein is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @nhassanein_ or email her at NadaH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.