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A conversation with outgoing USG president James Hale

brendan goodwine,/ office of student acitivities and leadership
Outgoing Undergraduate Student Government president James Hale speaks at Tuesday’s Dorothy Pijan Student Leadership Awards ceremony.

James Hale wants to know about you. With the USG inauguration on April 30, the nostalgic senior, nearing the end of his term as the 2012-2013 USG president, is still asking, “If there is one thing that USG should be working on right now, what is it?” Here is what James Hale had to say about his experience when The Observer sat down with him to reflect on his years of leaderships roles in USG.

JM (Jenna Millemaci): How do you feel about wrapping up this year as president of USG?

JH (James Hale): That’s a tough question. I wish we had been more productive. I think we squandered potential in some places, but I think between working really hard on the funding bylaws so we change the way we work with student organizations next year, and then just the myriad of tiny little projects that all the committees worked on, we took a pretty good chunk out of some stuff we could work on. So definitely a positive, productive year, but still it’s probably the same story every year, but [there was] some potential we could have made better use of.

JM: What surprised you most about being the president of USG?

JH: Maybe not just being president, but just being in USG, a surprising thing is your ability to build relationships with the administrative staff – folks that seem so inaccessible at the school, but are really just people. Glenn Nicholls is the vice president for Student Affairs for the university, and he’s somebody that seems super inaccessible. He’s on the president’s council, but at the same time, whenever I get a chance, I’ll sit in his office for two hours and talk about Colorado. Nothing productive, nothing related to USG or what’s going on. That was something that I did not expect and took a lot of pleasure in being able to do throughout the year. You wouldn’t think about President Snyder being an approachable person that you could just have a cup of coffee with and chat.

JM: What was the most unexpected or biggest challenge you faced as the president of USG?

JH: I think the biggest challenge with any big group like this, especially in college where a lot of it is centered around learning about yourself and how to work with a group, is balancing your desire to get stuff done, USG, and your desire to have an impact on the campus. Also, with maintaining relationships with your peers and making sure you’re being an effective team player, and being open to making mistakes and admitting when they happen… is a tough challenge. We [USG] have different perspectives, so making sure to take time to find that middle ground and spend time on that doesn’t immediately seem like it’s a productive use of time, but then without it you just squander everything you’re working on.

JM: What was the most rewarding aspect of being the president of USG?

JH: I don’t think it’s occurred yet, but I anticipate it happening, and that is looking back and thinking about something that I worked on, or thinking about something that I helped people work on, and seeing that it actually had a tangible impact somewhere – influenced something. A lot of the stuff that the USG president works on is not very immediate, I guess. The president works with the board of trustees, the president’s office, and the provost office on things like changing the smoking policy, looking at a policy for internationalization, or helping to gather feedback for the strategic plan. But all those things will take tens of years before you’ll be able to measure how much they change the university. I cannot wrap my mind around what they might influence, but to have the opportunity to see that some day is pretty exciting.

It’s kind of a bummer too, because some of the coolest stuff that I think USG gets to work on is also some of the stuff that students care least about right now. And not to say that they should or shouldn’t, but what student cares about the strategic plan? It affects people five years from now, but how does it affect “me?” But then again, the fact that USG is given a lot of opportunity to provide input and build ideas around that means students today really are active in the university pretty deep down into what the university really does five years from now. Although if I had a choice, maybe I’d work harder on getting AC in the dorms, because I know people would care about that. But it’s a trade off on how much impact you can have.

JM: What do you think about Dan Gallo being inaugurated as the new president?

JH: I’m really excited for Dan. To answer your reward question again, a more immediate reward is getting to see people fill roles that I know will do better than I did. The incoming vice president of Student Life, Taylor Gladys, is going to be awesome. I think she’s going to do a great job, certainly better than I did two years ago [as VP of Student Life]. And Dan coming in as president, I think he has a skill set that I worked to build and foster throughout my year, but he’s coming in already far beyond where I was coming in as president. So, I think he has a lot more potential to do some awesome stuff.

JM: What was being president of USG like as a leadership position? Was it comparable to anything else on campus?

JH: I think that being the president of a fraternity or a president of a club can be just as busy or busier, depending on how you approach it. [With] any role, you make it out to be whatever you want it to be… It’s both fun and kind of daunting when you are the one student that any staff member, any administrator will email and say, “Dear USG president, I need feedback from students on this, what do you think?” And you have to either speak, or gather opinions and then speak on behalf of 4,000 undergraduates. It’s kind of a scary task. Generally I think it’s a cool position because you feel like you’re a staff member of the university. You feel like a peer to people who make decisions at the university… It’s easy to get distracted from class though, because it’s a little intoxicating.

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