SGA training ground for civil servants of tomorrow

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Political science sophomore Justin Wideman

Political science sophomore Justin Wideman

Student Government Association secretary changes major after becoming an active member of groups.

By Carlos Ferrand 

When Student Government Association Secretary Justin Wideman enrolled at Northwest Vista College in fall 2007, he selected a major out of appreciation of the kindness he saw as a child.

As a young boy, Wideman suffered from severe asthma and acid reflux.

According to about half the children with severe asthma also have gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The symptoms of acid reflux were causing his asthma symptoms to worsen. Wideman would need surgery to prevent severe acid reflux.

At 8 years old, Wideman under went a procedure known as nissen fundoplication, a procedure where surgeons take the upper part of the stomach and wrap it around the lower end of the esophagus to support the closing function of the lower esophageal sphincter.

He spent the following month in the hospital recovering, and it was there he witnessed kindness and care from his nurses.

When Wideman declared his major, it was no wonder he chose nursing.

“I had nurses that were really good,” Wideman said. “My intention was to go into nursing and be that nurse that loved doing what they did.”

Wideman transferred from Northwest Vista in fall 2010 to enroll at this college.

He wanted to be more active and more involved in campus clubs.

When he joined the Gay, Ally, and Lesbian Association and the Catholic Student Association, he began to network and get to know people in different organizations.

Soon after, GALA President Rene Orozco recommended Wideman as a possible Student Government Association secretary to SGA President Jacob Wong.

“I needed people that were motivated,” Wong said.

So when Wideman appeared sporting a pink mohawk during his first meeting in the summer, all Wong could say was, “OK.”

“It turned out that anything I gave him or any idea, we would start brainstorming and we created an open communication. Everything started rolling,” Wong said.

“This person was just as determined as I was to put the time and work in for SGA. I was really impressed.”

Wong appointed Wideman as secretary for fall 2012.

After his first SGA meeting, Wideman found himself in new territory.

He was excited about this new position within student government and the opportunities his new position offered him.

“It allowed me to represent students who have similar issues and concerns as I do,” Wideman said.

This position allowed him to see that nursing might not be the best fit for him.

He started looking seriously at a career in politics and public service.

Wideman also credits Professor Phillip Rogers’ government and international relations courses for his increased interest in politics.

“Dr. Rogers’ classes are so informative and they left a great impression on me,” Wideman said.

The pieces started to come together for Wideman.

His admiration for the nursing profession was still in his heart but now he wanted to help in a different way.

He ultimately wanted to be a public servant and changed his major to political science.

Wideman has been accepted to the University of Texas-San Antonio, where he will work toward earning a bachelor’s degree in public administration.

After he graduates, Wideman expects to do big things. He wants to continue his education by earning a master’s degree.

Wideman said he would like to become a city manager and work his way up through the ranks to the much loftier goal of U.S. President.

Though candidates must be at least 35 years old to serve as president, “I have plenty of time to gain the knowledge needed,” the 24 year old joked.

If the executive branch is not in the cards for Wideman, he is OK with serving in Congress.

Wideman said he does not want to be in public office for the sole purpose of having power, but rather “to be a representative who actually represents the voice of the people.”

Wideman said the shared governance model that President Robert Zeigler promotes between college administration and SGA was a great look at how democracy can work.

“It has been a great experience to get in a room with people with different views,” he said. “Administration and students coming together to think about how new policy might help students.”

During Pepsi with the President, SGA presents information to Zeigler; Dr. Robert Vela, vice president of academics and student engagement; and David Mrizek, vice president of college services.

The majority of information they present to the executive team reflects student opinion.

For now, Wideman represents the students of this college and is proud of that voice.

One initiative that Wideman is proud to discuss is the quick action SGA took to collect student input on the single textbook issue.

“In one week, we were able to get 366 surveys together. We were able to draft, write, rewrite and rewrite again our speech to district,” Wideman said.

“We wanted to focus on the key issue in those surveys … That district was not informing students of changes.”

Wideman encourages students to “get involved and stay active.”

“If you want to have your voice heard then speak up with your SGA,” he said.

SGA’s goal has always been to give students of this college a voice, he said.

As spring semester winds down, Wideman has begun to turn his attention to the legacy he leaves behind. He starts his first semester at UTSA this fall.

What path would Wideman pave for the organization that encouraged him to get involved and helped to mold a future legislator.

Wideman believes that he will be leaving behind a stronger SGA and a student body that has become more involved and aware of college issues.

Before leaving office, he also wanted to bridge the gap between outgoing SGA members and new members.

Wideman suggested new SGA members serve over the summer with current SGA members to keep continuity.

SGA’s constitution was amended in March to reflect these changes.

This will allow new members to work with members with more experience, he said.

Wideman wants SGA to be successful long after he leaves this college.

From a nursing degree to presidential hopeful, Wideman has big dreams and is grateful to this college for the experiences and guidance.

For Wideman, he said it doesn’t matter if he works in the oval office or just the floor, he wants to make change.

“Why don’t I be that change I want to see.”

For information on SGA, call 210-486-0133.


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