First-ever public student government inauguration welcomes new executive board

The inauguration opened with a performance of the Alma Mater. Photo credit: Lang Hanley

On Tuesday, April 5, UMiami held its annual student government executive board inauguration, welcoming the 2022-23 executive board and executive committee and honoring this year’s group.

For the first time in the history of student government, the inauguration was held publicly for all students and faculty to attend.

Several awards recognizing contributions to student government were presented to students and administrators at the event.

Associate director of the University Center and Student Activities Center, Oscar Vasquez received the Unsung Hero award for his outstanding contributions to student government while not being involved in it or having any capacity in it.

The Butler Award for Administrative Excellence for a staff member who contributed to student government without featuring in a student government advising or involvement role was presented to administrative assistant, Ann Calix.

Lastly, two Golden Hurricane awards recognizing current student government members who made outstanding contributions in its facilitation of cohesion between students and the university were presented to junior Louisa Khan and senior Nathalia Torres.

This year’s student government executive board was led by president, Landon Coles, vice president, Ajiri Uzere, and treasurer, Grace Tenke and outgoing executive board will be replaced by president-Elect, Jamie Victoria Williams-Smith, vice president-Elect, Chika Nwosu, and treasurer-elect, Tatiana Alvarado.

In his speech, Frenk praised the outgoing executive board for their work on many initiatives taken in the past academic year.

Other speakers included Coles, senior vice president for student affairs, Patricia Whitely, and executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, Jeffery Duerk.

“I’m incredibly proud of what all of you have accomplished in spite of the fact that Covid has still been with us, we have to remember that, but we’ve prioritized collaboration, partnerships, and communication, and transparency, and that’s really important when a Student Government governance works with an administration,” Whitley said.

Both Whitely and Frenk had high praise for the out-going president with the former remembering the time she met him as a first-year student at one of her “Pancakes with Pat” events. Frenk also predicted that this will not be the last time Coles will hold a presidential title.

Following tradition, Coles was presented the Coral Gables City Seal by Vice Mayor of Coral Gables, Michael Mena.

“If you knew me as a freshman I told you that I’m going to become the student government president in my senior year. That wasn’t by accident, that was by careful planning. All of the members of my outgoing executive board didn’t start the day that they took over these roles,” Coles said.

“They served and volunteered and advocated and dedicated and built community and relationships time and time again and that is what they’ve exemplified in their roles,” Coles continued.

Coles and Frenk shared excitement for the incoming student government with Coles sharing kind words of encouragement.

“To Jamie and your amazing incoming team: advocate, shake tables, sometimes flip them over, push the envelope, do it in style, and constantly challenge how it is that we can be as a community and how we can be better, that is the job of student government,” Coles said.

Frenk reiterated the essential role student government plays at the university to president-elect, Williams-Smith.

“I’m sure you are going to pursue new ideas and set different priorities but keep in mind that your responsibility extends to students and your decisions will not only affect them but will create a lasting legacy,” Frenk said.

The new executive board was sworn in by current student government chief justice of the supreme court, Cameron Helm, after which Williams-Smith concluded the ceremony with her own speech, laying out her plans and telling the story of how she became president.

“I look forward to sparking a new era of transparency with my administration, uplifting more student voices and embarking on this journey with all of you,” Williams-Smith said.

President-elect Jamie Victoria Williams-Smith concludes the inauguration with a speech on her goals as SG president and her story leading up to the current moment.
President-Elect Jamie Victoria Williams-Smith concludes the inauguration with a speech on her goals as SG President and her story leading up to the current moment. Photo credit: Lang Hanley

In her closing statements Smith urged students to not allow self-doubt to keep them from pursuing their dreams, revealing that when she was asked last year about the idea of running for president she said no, a response she says was motivated by fear, doubt, and imposter syndrome.

“Today I urge you to avoid that little voice of doubt in your head that tells you no but to trust your intuition when it says yes,” Williams-Smith said.

“Say yes to the opportunity that keeps knocking at your door, say yes to yourself, stepping out on faith and doing things that challenge you. You can open the heaviest doors and create some of the best moments in life and when you make it to the other side remember where you came from, the people who poured into you and the moments that led to this one,” Williams-Smith continued.