When Katherine Spalding arrived at Western Carolina University as a freshman two years ago, joining the Student Government Association was the farthest thing from her mind.
It wasn’t until later that year that recent graduate Elizabeth Boney suggested Spalding join. “She said, ‘I think you’d be really good at it. You’re someone who cares about helping other people,’ ” Spalding said. That initial push led to Spalding becoming elected SGA president for the upcoming 2017-18 academic year. In that position, she also will serve as an ex officio member of the WCU Board of Trustees.
After joining SGA as a freshman, Spalding immediately immersed herself into the organization. As a senator that year, she often attended state conferences with the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments, where she really became hooked.
“I learned about what goes on at the state level at all the (UNC) universities,” Spalding said. “I kind of fell in love with the whole idea of helping students voice their opinions on a state level. Once I realized that, I thought the only way to really do that and bring my own ideas and make sure all the student voices are heard is to be student body president. From then on, I wanted to join the executive staff and work my way up to be student body president.”
Last year, Spalding served as chief of staff and also worked on the Inter-Club Council. Now that she’s president, the junior psychology major from Fuquay-Varina has a list of things she would like to accomplish, starting with continuing the work of former SGA executive member Emily Ranson to raise awareness about student financial literacy.
Before graduating in May, Ranson completed a project in which 87.9 percent of nearly 400 WCU students who completed a financial literacy assessment failed it. Spalding would like to look at ways to improve those numbers, including possibly having a financial literacy course become a liberal studies requirement.
Spalding said she would also like to create a centralized campus “lost-and-found.” That idea stemmed from losing her keys one day and having to check several buildings, each of which have a lost-and-found area, before finally tracking them down.
“After that, I kind of made it my goal to do that,” she said. “Each building has their own lost-and-found. We might try to ask everyone to bring (the lost items) to the SGA office and we can handle it. We haven’t figured it out yet. I’m sure there’s a way.”
Spalding also plans to address two issues brought up by students. The first comes from concerns regarding online cheating. Students have reported there is no motivation to study because it’s become increasingly easy to cheat on online tests, she said.
“Students were saying they wanted to work with faculty on a way to stop that, which I thought was awesome that students were worried about other students and themselves cheating,” Spalding said. “That was exciting.”
Students also have voiced complaints about the way some of their classes are conducted and say there is nothing being done about it, Spalding said. She added that currently there is no way to report issues without going to the professor, which many students are apprehensive about doing.
Spalding said she would like to create a mid-semester course evaluation in which students could report anonymously any concerns they have, and instructors would be able to change their methods during the second half of the semester, rather than the following semester.
One final big picture item Spalding would like SGA to tackle is finding a way to get students more motivated to participate in events around campus, such as attending athletic events.
“We hope to try to find ways to work with athletics to get students there and keep up the school spirit because I think here at Western there’s a lack of motivation to do anything,” Spalding said. “That’s a huge issue that we’re going to try to work on. We’re going to start with ourselves and try to make sure that all of us are going to things and representing SGA.”
If her year as SGA president is successful, Spalding said she would love to run again next year to continue what she hopes to start this year.