Vice Chair Lexi Byler | Time Flies When You're Having Fun
written by | Lexi Byler
The time has come and it’s suddenly striking me that our entire lives are a constant memory a part from each passing moment. The saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun, and I can certainly say that’s true for my year serving as the Vice Chair of Students United. Although I’ve known since the beginning my term would end on June 30, 2018, it still managed to sneak up on me. That’s largely part to how busy we’ve been this year.
Before I reflect on our successes, I’d like to thank the students of our Minnesota State university system. I’m not only thankful they chose to put their trust in me as their elected leader – but thankful they’ve stood alongside us as we’ve fought for affordable higher education (including textbook costs), sexual violence/consent education, creating more equitable campuses, and perhaps most importantly, the affirmative consent sexual violence policy change. We cannot be successful without student support and it’s been a pleasure getting to know students from each campus.
After the State Chair and I were elected, we immediately met with each other in April 2017. Over our delicious Indian food, we discussed our goals for the year. Among many, there were two things that were on the top of our list: Changing the culture of the organization and creating an affirmative consent policy for Minnesota State. It was important to us to spread the message that although all of our students come from different universities that have different needs, that when we come together we embody our name, Students United. Whether it’s at Delegates Conferences, Advocacy Day, or another affiliated event, it was our hope to bring our students together from across the state to form one cohesive team. In retrospect, I do feel like we accomplished that. The outstanding teamwork across campuses is why we were so successful this year.
An outstanding example of cross-campus teamwork that I believe will set a precedent for the organization on how to collaborate across campuses, is the work that was done on affirmative consent. The State Chair and I traveled across the state to speak with students, faculty, staff, and administrators on our mission to get the system’s language changed. We also worked closely with Chancellor Malhotra and system administrators, who all actively listened to and worked with us. They’ve been a pleasure to work with and learn from this year. Most importantly, every single student government on each campus unanimously passed support for the system changing the language to affirmative consent – something that has not been done before. This extraordinary teamwork and collaboration played a crucial role in our success.
Another crucial and important piece to our success is our campus committees. I cannot overstate enough how important these people are as part of our team. Without the campus committees, our organization would have a much harder time connecting to students on each campus. This year they’ve done a wonderful job informing the students about who we are, as well as hosting a number of events to educate them on issues that are plaguing our students. I want to especially applaud them for their work on sexual violence prevention. Campus committees and our Campus Organizing Coordinators work has not gone unnoticed this year.
I’d also like to touch on the importance of our hardworking staff. Each staff member is so well suited for their specified role. This year I was able to experience what it’s like to work on an elite team. It was a pleasure feeding off the communal energy and passion for creating a better system for our students. The amount I’ve learned from our staff cannot be summarized. Not only have I gained a lifetime of knowledge, but I’ve also gained friendships and mentorships that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
I cannot finish my final blog without a lengthy paragraph on our board. Apart from my fellow Dragon, I didn’t know anyone on the board very well prior to serving together this year. I’m so thankful to have gotten to serve with each and every one of our board members. Each individual brought a unique perspective, which led us to make the best decisions on behalf of Minnesota State University Students. What was unique about our board is that each member listened to one another and shared ideas. It was wonderful to see an initiative from one campus be started on another. I also admired how as a board, even when we disagreed, we were able to leave those disagreements at the table, and still maintain great respect for one another. Like the staff, the amount I’ve learned from each board member cannot be summarized. I hope to stay in touch with each of them. I’m grateful that these nine people were put into my life and I’m excited to see where they go from here.
Now last, but certainly not least, my fellow officers. It has been an incredible year working with them both. Ben Uecker is the most intelligent person I know. He reinvented the treasurer position by drafting four separate budgets for our students to review and by traveling to all seven campuses to give a thorough consultation presentation to our students. He also coined the idea of hosting budget sessions at Delegates Conferences. He quite literally knew the budget like the back of his hand – rattling off numbers like it was a piece of cake. The way he was able to take complicated and at times, confusing information, and present it in a way that was digestible and easy to understand was remarkable. I continue to admire his intelligence, patience, and kindness. We never had a dull conversation because of his extensive knowledge on all things in life.
Faical Rayani. I remember during our elections, paying close attention to the State Chair election because there were a number of candidates and I had the potential to work with each of them. I would’ve enjoyed working with any of them but I’m thankful I got to work with Faical. The two of us worked side-by-side throughout the entire year. I often joked, “if only I had a dollar every time someone asked me where Faical was,” because we were so often in tandem. I can’t imagine going through this year without him by my side. We leaned on each other through challenges, constantly ran ideas across one another, challenged each other’s way of thinking, and supported one another unconditionally. Not only did I have an incredible partner in advocacy, but have gained a best friend for life. I’m so proud of him for getting a job and being able to stay in the country – most importantly Minneapolis and only 10 miles away from me.
When reflecting on the year I feel proud, grateful, and humbled. We’re leaving the organization in a great place and in the hands of great leaders. I’m confident the incoming leadership will serve the students well and I feel comfortable leaving our students in their hands. To the next board and officers: be open-minded, be patient, seek to understand, and most importantly, have fun!
For those of you who are wondering, my next adventure is underway in Senator Tina Smith St. Paul office as a Staff Assistant/Intern Coordinator. I’m thankful to have been given this opportunity and have been thoroughly enjoying it so far. I’m hoping to get some Minnesota State students interning in our office, so if you know anyone interested, send them my way! I’ll always have our student’s backs. Here is a link to the internship information.