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Campus Involvement Key to SBP Win

According to past UNC politicos, trying to predetermine a path to the position will leave you looking in vain. Most say there is no prewritten ingredient list.

John Dervin, who ran two student body president campaigns during the mid-1990s, said winning the race does not require becoming a staple in Suite C and building a student government resume.

Dervin said the students who become student body presidents are the ones who are in touch with student life at UNC. "The reason why they've won is because they know a lot of the campus," he said.

Dervin advises against joining student government just to climb the ladder to student body president. "People need to go and learn about the campus. ... It can't be that they camp out in Suite C," he said.

When former Student Body Presidents Mo Nathan, Reyna Walters and Nic Heinke look back on their years before the position, they say getting involved in a wide range of activities helped them the most -- not their time with student government.

Nathan, 1997-98 student body president, was involved in positions of leadership long before his term. He worked with the student body secretary, the Sonja H. Stone Black Cultural Center, Campus Y and the Student Fee Audit Committee.

But Nathan said there are no set items that must appear on a candidate's resume for them to win. "Being involved in student government is going to help," he said. "But I don't think there's a perfect formula."

Walters, 1998-99 student body president, said experiences during her freshman year brought her face to face with UNC issues. "I got really involved, really quick," she said.

Walters sat on the executive committee for the Campus Y during her first year, and that spring, she worked on Aaron Nelson's campaign for student body president.

Walters then worked in Nelson's Cabinet as assistant chief of staff and external relations chairwoman. She also joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority Inc.

But it was the Campus Y of which she spoke most highly. "I got my start at the Campus Y," she said. "It gave me a perspective that I felt not many people got."

She served as co-chairwoman of human relations during Nathan's term.

Walters said candidates interested in student body president shouldn't look for a common thread of past winners. But she did say that voters want to see that a candidate has been involved. "People need some sort of credibility," she said.

Heinke's path began when he stuck his head into a Suite C office to see how he could help with cleanup for Hurricane Fran.

From there it was working on Nathan's campaign, followed by an executive assistant spot under him.

Heinke also was director of student fund-raising for the summer Special Olympics. "This gave me a chance to pull away from the student government kind of things."

And it's experiencing other aspects of UNC life that former student body presidents stress is important.

"Some of the best student body presidents had minimal experience in the executive branch," Dervin said.

Next year's student body president will be decided today. And both candidates have resumes similar to those of past position holders.

Eric Johnson and Justin Young served in Heinke's Cabinet as executive assistants two years ago. Outside of student government experience, Johnson established Carolina Cancer Focus and Young helped with Project UNC and this year's Freshman Camp.

But Walters has advice for anyone contemplating the move to student body president:

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"Nothing can prepare you for SBP."

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