Matt Brockelman reflects on his year as Student Body President

Maggie Seppi

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

By: Maggie Seppi, Assistant News Editor

Four years ago, Matt Brockelman had no idea he would run for UNF student body president. Then, he did and he won. He sat down with the Spinnaker to tell us what he has gained from the experience and what his plans are for the future.

1. What have you learned the most about?
The biggest thing I’d say is learning how to interact with different types of people. Obviously, we are all used to having our groups of friends and even meeting new people, but in this job, I’ve had to interact with people way outside of even our normal ranges, all the way from the administrators to the people on the Board of Trustees. And they’re so far advanced in terms of where they are in life from us that, at first, it’s really hard to try and find something in common with them and make that connection. But, I think over the course of this year, I’ve learned how to do that a lot better, so that’s one of the little personal traits I’ve developed that I’m looking forward to putting to use in the future.

2. What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to make?
I would say to support the Academic Enhancement Fee when that was still going on. With the whole argument that SG made against tuition, we do feel very strongly about keeping college as affordable as we possibly can. And without the Academic Enhancement Fee, without student support, there was virtually no chance of that going through. Even with student support, it didn’t go through. But that was one of those things we had to weigh our options and see, ‘Is the cost worth the benefit?’ And a lot of students, I’m sure, would turn around and say, ‘You’re hypocritical for not supporting tuition but trying to support this fee,’ so it was really hard to get a grasp on whether or not we wanted to support it. And, at the end of the day, we did.

3. How has this experience given you a broader perspective of both college politics and state politics?
As far as college politics, it’s kind of funny because we get to talk to a lot of the other student governments in the state, and a lot of them have issues trying to get their things done because there’s so much squabbling inside of their own student government, and this year, luckily, that hasn’t been the case for us. But, in terms of state level politics and the university politics, that’s really where I think we learned a lot. And, in general, what we came to realize is that a lot of people say that higher education is important, whether that’s at a university level, at a Jacksonville level or on the state level, but you can’t really judge everybody by what they say. You have to judge them by how they act. And that’s something that, while it’s disheartening at times to see how the state looked at higher education, I think it was good for us to learn. And it’s good for all students to try to realize so we can have a bigger change on how our universities are treated at the state level.

4. What changes, if any, would you like to make to our SG system?
One thing that we actually just passed this last week was a new committee in our Senate, which was is going to be tasked with getting all of the universitywide information that normally I get, or the people I appoint to our universitywide committees get, and put that information out for the Senate to discuss and talk about on public record. Then, they’ll put it out to the students. And I think that’s one of the big things that I wish we had done earlier, which is to find a better way to get the massive amounts of information that we get on a weekly basis and find a good way to get it to our SG senators, find a better way to get it out to our students. So, that’s something that I hope continues next year, and I think that’s just one of the crucial things about [getting] students engaged in the process.

5. Who has influenced you the most [on a university level]?
I would say our Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Gonzalez. He’s been here for as long as any of us have been here, and he is one of the vice presidents of student affairs in the state that I think really and truly cares just as much about the student, if not more, than he cares about his other role, which is working under President Delaney. Again, from talking to other SGs in the state, there are actually a surprising amount of horror stories with how students and the student affairs at other state universities have really turbulent relationships. And I think that Dr. Gonzalez is somebody that all students should really recognize as being devoted to the things that we need on this campus.

6. Who or what will you miss the most about being a part of SG?
Obviously the “who” would be the students. I mean, it’s going to be strange to go from totally involved with the students to, ‘Oh, now I’m a graduate,’ so kind of minimal involvement. But as far as the “what” goes, I think it’s just the ability to project our students’ voice to the administration. There are a lot of big decisions that are being made on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, depending on what it is, and that’s going to be something that is just going to take a little bit of adjusting to. Come Friday, April 13, that night when the new administration takes office, it’s kind of like a light switch. In everyone else’s eyes at the university level, now there’s a new person, but that information stays the same. So, it’s going to be a natural process, but it’s going to be something that’s going to be hard to let go of is getting all of that information, being in the know, being in the loop with everything and having a significant voice at the table.

7. What are your plans for the future?
I want to take a year, maybe a year and a half, off before I go to grad school. I just need a break from classes for a little while, so I want to work locally in Jacksonville until then. And then I’d like to go back to grad school and pursue at least a master’s in public policy, and then hopefully, depending on where I’m at at that point, seek a joint degree and maybe get my law degree and a master’s in public policy from a school probably around the Washington, D.C., area, if everything worked out perfectly. And as far as what’s next after that, I’m not even really sure. Two years ago from now, I had no idea I’d even run for student body president, so in two years from where I am right now, I’ll be interested to see where I’m at, just because, for whatever reason, in college, despite whatever I’ve been able to have the opportunity to do, it hasn’t been this grand plan of, ‘Four years from now, I’d like to be doing this.’ So, all I know is, I want to end up somewhere in politics. I’m just not sure exactly where yet.

Email Maggie Seppi at [email protected]