Turning a new chapter: Student government’s executive board welcomed with an inaugural ceremony

2023-2024 incoming student government Photo credit: Maya Broadwater

This article was updated on April 23, 2023, 3:10 p.m. to reflect that the proper spelling of Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely, Jamie Williams-Smith and Dr. Christopher Clarke.

A new government is in power at the University of Miami. Following the Student Government Inauguration ceremony, senior Niles Niseem has entered the presidency joined by Vice President Angela Ansah and Treasurer Paige-Tatum Hawthorne.

The annual event, held on Monday, April 17, welcomes the new executive board and honors the accomplishments of the outgoing group, awarding students and staff who have demonstrated exceptional contributions to the university community throughout the academic year.

One such award recipient was graduating senior and outgoing President Jamie Williams-Smith. Smith received The Golden Hurricane Award which celebrates members of the student government who have fostered exceptional cohesion between students and the university. She also reflected on the past year’s achievements and offered words of encouragement to the incoming executive board.

“You have a unique opportunity to lead and make a difference. I encourage you to embrace the challenge and work tirelessly on behalf of our student body,” Williams said.

Other awardees included Dr. Christopher Clarke, Director of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Dean Steven Moore. Clarke received the Unsung Hero Award that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions that are not widely known or acknowledged. Moore was presented with the Butler Award for Administrative Excellence, for his outstanding contributions to the student government while not being formally involved in advising student government.

During the ceremony, Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago commended the student leaders for their dedication to public service.

“It takes a lot of courage to run for public office. That is what I believe is most impactful, to truly leave a lasting legacy and fingerprint on the future, and I think what you will do in the next few years at the University of Miami is just the beginning,” Lago said.

Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely acknowledged the graduating seniors for their unwavering commitment to the student body during challenging times.

“When I think about those of you who are graduating, you guys were first year freshmen when we shut down for COVID. Yet in that time, you still devoted yourselves to the student body. All of this is about commitment, collaboration, about providing services and help to students, so thank you for showing us the way,” Whitely said.

The new executive board was then sworn in by current student government chief justice of the supreme court, Carina Steininger.

The three new executives sat down with the Hurricane before the inauguration to talk about some of their initiatives in the upcoming school year.

“We want to bring the tailgate culture to basketball season next year,” said Hawthorne. “We’re already talking to frat presidents on how to make this happen so stay tuned.”

The goals for the 2023-2034 year are a combination of the platforms from the two party groups, Undeniable U and All About U with Hawthorne and Ansah running on the latter ticket.

“This upcoming year, we really want to foster a culture of transparency and inclusiveness. That means enhancing our culture of DEI and making sure students know exactly what they have access to and who to reach out to if they’re having trouble,” Ansah said.

Other objectives mentioned included parking pass scholarships, creating more inclusive dining options and fostering academic and professional connections between undergraduate and graduate students.

Niseem commented on concerns some students may have about the executive team coming from a split ticket.

“Both UndeniableU and All About U ran on very similar platforms, we’re like different flavors with the same objective. And honestly there hasn’t even been enough time for the three of us to recognize that we ran on separate tickets, we just mesh so well. The student body recognized our attributes individually and this trio is going to make the most electrifying stamp this school has seen,” Niseem said.

At the ceremony, Niseem spoke on his story of becoming president.

“If you ever wonder why I’m always trying to live up to an expectation of being the best person I can be, it’s because of my mom. When the world said I wasn’t going to be anything, she told me that I have the power to redefine what it means to be somebody,” Niseem said.

He concluded the event with some words of wisdom to the incoming group of students in student government.

“This campus is our canvas. I want you to see yourself not as liaisons or executive people, but as artists. Artists who wake up everyday to have an indelible impact of paint on this campus. This campus is our canvas, the people are our paint, and America is the exhibition for what higher education looks like at its finest… and that is the U.”