Illinois State students Samiat Solebo, Jada Turner, and Hannah Woody made history last semester by becoming the first all-female executive ticket elected to the Student Government Association (SGA).
Solebo is following in the footsteps of Redbird alumna VaNatta Ford ’00, Ph.D., who was the first black woman to be elected as Illinois State’s Student Body president in 1999.
“It still feels surreal,” said Solebo, a junior political science major from Plainfield. “It hasn’t resonated yet; I’ve just been doing my job.”
This year’s election was held April 1–3. Each of these executive branch members will serve a one-year term in office.
“My main goal is to keep ISU heading in the right direction,” said Solebo. “I want more transparency between the faculty and the student body so that everyone is on the same page.”
Turner is the new Student Body vice president. “My vision is for all students to feel like they have a voice,” she said. “I want students to know that they can come to SGA and speak their mind.”
Woody, a senior history education major from Harvard, Illinois, is SGA’s newly elected chief of staff. She is responsible for overseeing SGA’s budget, payroll, and hiring. “It’s similar to being a chief financial officer,” said Woody.
Since arriving at Illinois State, Turner has been involved in a wide variety of activities, including Welcome Week, Business Week, the Emerging Leaders Program, and Minority Students for Political Change. Additionally, she has worked as a social media influencer for the Division of Student Affairs and as a University College mentor.
“I’ve always been an advocate for trying new things and putting yourself out there,” said Turner, a junior marketing and fashion design major from Peoria. “One of my main goals is to inspire new students and make them feel comfortable at ISU. I want to be a role model, especially for minority students. I want to show them that if I can do it, so can they.”
Solebo shares the same vision as Turner, striving to make Illinois State as inclusive as possible. “Everybody pays tuition, so everybody should feel at home here,” said Solebo. “I want to show that we are taking the right steps towards improving student life.”
Another shared vision between Solebo and Turner is the creation of a multicultural center on Illinois State’s campus. “The multicultural center is something that ISU needs, and there are now steps being taken to create one,” said Solebo. “It’s good to see that minority students are getting more of a voice on campus.”
Founded in 1923, SGA focuses on advocating for student needs while initiating programs and services to enhance student life. The association is composed of a 20-member Senate and an executive branch, which comprises the Student Body president, Student Body vice president, chief of staff, and eight Cabinet members.
Related Article: Psychology major Sarah Aguilar became the first female, Hispanic student trustee on the Board of Trustees for Illinois State University.
Solebo, Turner, and Woody all noted SGA as a driving force behind improving student life at Illinois State, providing students with a platform to be heard.
“SGA fights for the students,” said Turner. “SGA works to make student life the best it can be.”
Growing up, Woody was intrigued by student government. Once she arrived at Illinois State, Woody became involved in the Association of Residence Halls. From there, she worked her way up through the ranks of student involvement, becoming a mentor for the Emerging Leaders Program and a SGA student life senator for health and wellness.
Woody wants to expand SGA’s marketing so more people are aware of what student government does.
“I really want to expand the reach of SGA,” said Woody.
While the three have big goals for their time in office, they have even bigger goals for life after graduation. Solebo has always dreamed of being a lawyer and strives to go to law school after graduation. “No matter what law path I go down, I just want to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Solebo. She credits her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, for inspiring her.
Turner is excited to enter the business world after graduation. “I just want to be happy and continue to build my confidence,” said Turner. “I want to be a strong woman in the business world and lead others in the right direction.”
Woody, who is set to graduate next spring, looks forward to becoming an educator. “Ideally, I would love to teach high school close to home,” said Woody. “Further down the road, I would love to become a principal.”