Ethan Phillips’ first day at UNC was pretty ordinary. At 18 years old and wearing a mismatched outfit, he ate his first meal at Chase Dining Hall, walked around campus and took a photo with his new suitemates.
Phillips said he had no idea that just a few years later, he would run for student body president.
“I remember it feeling foreign and that there was so much going on,” he said. “But at the same time felt like I knew this was my home. I was ready to spend the four years here.”
Before those four years are up, Phillips hopes to make a lasting impact by becoming the University’s next student body president.
Phillips is a junior from Fairfax, Va., majoring in health policy and management. From the moment he stepped foot on campus, he wanted to continue his mental health advocacy work, which he said he began nearly a decade ago.
This work has led to roles on the Undergraduate Student Government mental health committee and the student advisory committee to the chancellor.
Phillips currently serves in the Richards administration as the director of the Department of Student Wellness and Safety. In this role, he’s led a team that has worked to support student mental health, sexual violence prevention and safety.
If elected as student body president, Phillips said, he plans to expand upon these efforts. His platform includes initiatives aimed at hiring more therapists at UNC Counseling and Psychological Services, integrating wellness training more broadly on campus and increasing flexibility for classes during the pandemic.
He said recognizing the different wellness needs of students will be a large part of his work on student government if he is elected.
“We have to do able to support all of our diverse student perspectives, needs and hopes with what their own definitions of wellness looks like,” he said. “We have to shift our focus a little bit away from this singular mission of the classroom and understand that there is so much more that affects students’ lives here at UNC.”
Phillips' platform also focuses on increasing equity and accessibility on campus by implementing multicultural programs, creating more gender-neutral restrooms, forming advocacy groups for students with disabilities and increasing student financial accessibility.
In order to carry out that mission, Phillips told The Daily Tar Heel, he would seek out cabinet members who represent the diverse backgrounds of the student body.
“This is not something I would ever intend to do alone,” he said. “I want to bring in people from the very beginning who can help me select a team that doesn’t look like me and that looks like people that are on our campus every day and that experience different perspectives, challenges, burdens that I might not have the best insight into.”
Student government reform is another key component of Phillips' platform. He said he wants to increase transparency by creating more opportunities for leadership to interact with students.
Along the campaign trail, Phillips visited residence halls in order to talk with students. Sophomore Tyra Rubin, the campaign's communications director, said Phillips was committed to visiting every dorm.
“I think it was mostly an opportunity for Ethan to actually talk face to face with students about his policies and ideas and why he would be the best candidate to vote for,” she said.
His team believes he is the best candidate because he will make the goals on his platform a reality. Sophomore Hunter Vaughn, the campaign’s outreach director, said Phillips’ leadership would have a real impact.
“I would say that Ethan is a proven advocate,” Vaughn said. “His track record on student wellness and safety and mental health advocacy is unparalleled. Beyond that, he knows what it means to be pursuing something not for the title, but for what he wants to see enacted.”
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