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Student Leadership Wins Three SUNY-Wide Awards

Members of the Geneseo Student Association during a recent Zoom meeting. (Photo provided)

The State University of New York Student Assembly recently recognized outstanding student efforts with three 2021 SUNY Student Government Association awards — Student Government Association of the Year, Club of the Year, and Best COVID-19 Leadership and Advocacy.

“These awards provide recognition how we, as a student body, have been asked to gather unimaginable perseverance and transcended expectations. The Student Association (SA) strives to amplify the student voice and enhance the undergraduate student experience,” says Kaitlyn Bertleff ’21, SA president. “The reason we were able to accomplish so much in such a difficult year has been our active students, who wrote petitions, met, marched, emailed, and attended governance meetings with us. Collaboration is at the heart of these awards — students and administration alike — and we couldn't be more excited! These awards represent a genuine, student-centered win for our institution.”

SUNY Student Assembly is the official student governance organization for all 64 SUNY campuses. Geneseo won awards in three of five categories:

Student Government Association of the Year: Awarded to the Geneseo Student Association (SA)
The Geneseo SA was honored for its outstanding advocacy for the college’s students and campus. Members were recognized for SA’s administrative advocacy for improvements related to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, as well as programming that engaged students in remote and on campus learning. SA was also commended for "The Referendum Games" social media campaign, which shared information with students about the student activity fee vote, in which 25 percent of students voted. “The campaign engaged numerous student clubs and hundreds of students, truly connecting us in a time of distance,” Bertleff says.

Best Covid-19 Leadership and Advocacy Initiative Award: Awarded to the Geneseo Student Association (SA)
The Geneseo SA was recognized for advocacy for an extension of the pass/fail policy in fall 2020 to include major, minor, and concentration credits in ongoing transition to remote classroom learning. Bertleff says the effort was in direct response to students sharing their stories about the complexity and difficulty of the transition, and need for flexibility. Bertleff says SA worked with student petition writers and the Division of Academic Affairs on the initiative. “It genuinely shows the power of a collaborative governance at institutions,” she says.

BSU board members Student Club/Organization of the Year Award: Awarded to Geneseo Black Student Union (BSU)
Geneseo BSU received this new award for how well club efforts improve the student community members represent and serve. The Assembly noted BSU’s continued and engaging programming in difficult times, including bringing impactful speakers to Geneseo and raising awareness of the SA referendum vote. SUNY SA also noted BSU's dedication to bring awareness to the struggles and triumphs of the Black community and their heightened visibility and leadership. BSU efforts and events included hosting the club’s annual haunted house, Curl Fest, and Women’s History Bingo, and collaborating with SA and the Office Multicultural Programs to bring nationally recognized civil rights activist Tamika Mallory to speak at Geneseo. “We fought for our community while also upholding programming and making an impact on campus,” says Michaelena Ferraro ’21, BSU president. "Our freshmen members had to quickly realize the norms at Geneseo and understand our role extended far beyond regular club programming. We had to step into activism roles and stay strong through the constant fight. I think that truly embodies pride and commitment from our executive board members.”

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Kris Dreessen
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