Senior Ysa Leon Reflects on Time as SGA President

Ysa Leon, '23-'24 SGA President

Ysa Leon, a Transylvania senior who is soon to graduate with the class of 2024, recently completed their term as President of the Student Government Association, being succeeded by rising junior Sean Gannon following elections on April 2nd. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Leon several weeks later to discuss how their expectations of the President role matched their experience and what they hope will be remembered about their time as President.

When campaigning for the role of SGA President a little over a year ago, Leon often touted their experience in various campus leadership roles, whether it be as a First Engagement Scholar or as the Academic Affairs Chair on SGA. A year later, Leon regarded this experience as invaluable to their success as President. Leon specifically highlighted the experience they gained from two years of being a First Engagements Scholar, arguing that they “learned a lot more about how to engage with people who are maybe a little more timid or weren’t super involved in high school. So seeing first-year senators really grow over the year and thrive and get projects done, that was one of my favorite parts of being President.” Outside of specific experiences as a First Engagements Scholar, Leon expressed a belief that all of their leadership positions, including SGA President, have contributed to their organizational skills, stating, “Everything that I have done here has worked together to make me a better leader.” Leon expressed optimism that their experience in SGA would help them in life after graduation, saying, “SGA, in general, has prepared me for so much…various situations have taught me more about being a leader, being a better person, and a better person to work with. Everything I have learned from SGéA, from freshman to senior year, has prepared me to work with others.”

One of Leon’s guiding goals both before and during their time as SGA President was increasing communication and transparency between SGA and the student body. In this regard, Leon followed up on campaign promises, helping to establish a monthly newsletter that was sent to every student starting in the winter semester, and hosting open office hours in the campus center. Leon also credited other senators for helping SGA serve as a liaison between the student body and administration, particularly highlighting freshman Quincy Elliot for his work with Transy Dining and Bon Appétit. Leon believed that their efforts helped this year’s SGA be more present on campus than previous years, stating, “I think we had a lot more visibility on campus and we were trying to show students what SGA was doing. A lot of what we do is behind the scenes and not flashy or glamorous, but it makes student’s lives better on campus. I really wanted to make sure people knew we were there for them and supporting them.” Leon hoped that the increased knowledge of SGA and its ability to serve as a voice for students and affect change on campus would lead to more students coming to SGA with their issues in the future, asserting that “we have a lot of power in numbers in pressuring the administration.”

One method of increasing SGA visibility that Leon continually advocated for was greater collaboration with other campus organizations. Leon prioritized using the budget of SGA to support student organizations and student projects, stating, “We try to strike a balance between funding our own projects and funding other student orgs because the work that they do is super important too…I think we did a really good job of that.” This year SGA worked to partner with organizations such as the Conservation Action Committee, Muslim Student Alliance, and Asian Student Alliance to fund events that had significant campus outreach, as well as funding projects by individual students. If there is one campus organization that Leon wished they could have worked more with, it was the Student Activities Board, one of the two largest student organizations on campus along with SGA. Leon stressed the importance of continuing to build cooperation between SGA and SAB, both next year and beyond, recalling “I really stressed to Sean [Gannon] that I want them to partner with SAB. We shouldn’t be working separately because we are both here for the student body.”

In terms of specific accomplishments during their time as SGA President, Leon highlighted the DEI forum that SGA hosted on February 29th over House Bill 9, a proposed bill that would have eliminated all diversity, equity, and inclusion departments and initiatives at Kentucky universities. The forum brought community leaders, such as Kentucky House Representative George Brown Jr., and Transy leaders, such as professors Dr. Steve Hess and Dr. Tiffany Wheeler and DEI director Krissalyn Love, to discuss the legislation and its potential consequences. Leon was proud of the turnout and support for the event, adding “It was really cool to see that we want to prioritize DEI on campus and we can all come together and have a respectful and vibrant conversation about those issues. I think that is what being at a liberal arts college is all about, people from all different walks of life coming together to talk about social issues and ways we can use people power to make change.” Leon said that while there were minor things about their time as President that they could have done better, such as starting the SGA newsletter earlier and hosting even more open hours to further increase visibility, there is very little that they would wish to change about the past year, arguing, “I put my heart and soul into this position. I love SGA and I love Transy. Anything that I did, I did to the best of my ability…I believe that and I hope that I made everyone proud.”

Despite their term being over, Leon expressed excitement for the new SGA executive council and the future of SGA as a whole. Leon described how they had previously worked closely with new President Sean Gannon, both when he was their First Engagements student and this past year when he served as SGA Vice President, commenting that “seeing his growth has been really amazing. I have full faith that he will do a great job and put just as much effort and love into being President.” Leon described new Vice President Abby Muncy as a dedicated senator for the past three years who they had no doubt would do great in the role. Leon previously highlighted new Chief of Staff Quincy Elliot’s work with Bon Appétit, calling him not only one of SGA’s best first-year senators but one of SGA’s best senators as a whole. Leon expressed excitement for the New Chief of Finance Nora Reader, especially after learning the details of the position from Olivia Greinke, who previously served as Chief of Finance for three years. Overall, Leon expressed excitement for the entire executive council, especially the rising sophomores who were gaining leadership positions. Leon argued that it represented an excellent chance for them to grow as leaders.

When looking back on their time at Transy as a whole, Leon predicted that part of their legacy would be how involved they were in different things across campus, which they thought helped them serve the position of SGA President better due to a greater knowledge of student concerns. Leon hoped that their greatest impact on Transy would be how they not only boosted the visibility of SGA but also made SGA more accessible to diverse groups on campus. As the first openly transgender SGA President, Leon expressed hope that their position would allow LGBTQ+ students to see a place for themselves in student government, saying, “We have a vibrant and amazing queer population here at Transy. I definitely think and hope that my leadership and using my position to raise awareness, especially about trans issues will be part of my legacy.” The most impactful lesson that Leon has taken from their time as President, and one they hope will be remembered after they graduate, is the capacity each person has for change. They asserted, “There is always going to be something that can be better. I think that is a big lesson that I learned as President. Seeing all of the different parts of campus that work together to make Transy such a cool place helped me realize that even if changes are small, they are still there, and things can always be better.”

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