As the school year ends, junior Savannah Putnam is taking on the role of student body president in senior Elizabeth Adkins’ place. In her administration, Adkins focused on mental health, diversity and sexual assault prevention.
Throughout the year, Adkins said her administration faced many unexpected challenges that diverted attention away from some of her administration’s goals. These challenges included the UNC Civil Rights Center litigation ban and a rewriting of student government’s constitution after the Graduate and Professional Student Federation (GPSF) split with the undergraduate student government. Improving relations with graduate students and the GPSF was one of Adkins’ greatest accomplishments.
“I think that we were really able to work together this year to improve relations to make sure that those bodies are represented equally to administration and that all bodies are advocated for on the Board of Trustees," Adkins said. "But also to put those measurements in place in the constitution and the code to ensure that this communication and the two bodies working together that we have this year will continue on even after we're no longer in office."
Adkins continued the legacy of minorities serving as UNC student body president after Bradley Opere passed the torch to Adkins last year. Before running for student body president, Adkins worried that her identity as an Asian-American woman would hold her back.
“Being a minority woman, (that) was something I was really worried about when I was running for student body president,” Adkins said. “I didn't think people would vote for me because of different parts of my identity. I'm not the typical version of a leader. That was something that was hard for me at first, but I was able to take that in stride and celebrate that and celebrate being able to represent fellow women on this campus.”
Adkins said this year’s student body president election was special to see because both candidates were women, something she had not previously observed at UNC. Adkins imparted advice to Putnam, to always cherish her team and remember her job. Adkins has known Putnam since Putnam’s first year at UNC.
“Always remember that at the end of the day, her one job is to represent the students and to amplify their voices and their opinions,” Adkins said. “The students elect her to represent them in the spaces they are not able to be in, and that's what's so incredibly important about being student body president. There is an immense pressure to represent so many people, but as I said, that's why she was elected, because people believe in her.”
Adkins will finish her year helping the new administration transition into their roles, but after graduation, she hopes to work in Washington, D.C., in political consulting.
As Putnam looks to fill Adkins’ shoes, Putnam is especially looking forward to building on the work Adkins did to make student government more approachable to the average student.