Barry McNamara  |   Published April 22, 2021

Quite a Year for Scots Senate

During a school year of uncertainty, leaders Minor, Matias-Cruz excelled at serving students.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Perhaps more than any other school year, student government played a critical role at Monmouth College in 2020-21.

SCOTS SENATE: President Abierre Minor '21 and Vice President Brenda Matias-Cruz '21 took ... SCOTS SENATE: President Abierre Minor '21 and Vice President Brenda Matias-Cruz '21 took time out in late April to review their year in office.Known as Scots Senate, Monmouth’s elected student leaders reflected on and celebrated a year of expanded services, new initiatives and greater communication with the College’s leadership during National Student Leadership Week, April 18-24.

“It’s been a very good year,” said Scots Senate President Abierre Minor ’21 of Chicago. “We’ve provided some highly requested services to campus and put on some big events.”

“If Monmouth students had needs, they could apply directly to Scots Care for funds for things like groceries or travel. We wanted to be able to supply the things that students really needed.”  Abierre Minor

During a very challenging year for Monmouth students because of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of those services – the Scots Care Fund to help students in need – was appreciated so much that Monmouth’s Class of 2021 decided to support it with its senior class gift.

“When I heard that, I was very excited,” said Vice President Brenda Matias-Cruz ’21 of Chicago. “It’s students giving back to students. That really supports the sense of community, which was one of our top goals when we took office.”

Minor called Scots Care “an emergency fund or a COVID fund.”

“We began working on it as soon as we started our positions,” she said. “A lot of (federal and state) government services don’t apply to students. If Monmouth students had needs, they could apply directly to Scots Care for funds for things like groceries or travel. We wanted to be able to supply the things that students really needed.”

More than a name

One of their organization’s most practical accomplishments was simply a name change.

“The name change encompasses more what we are really all about. We’re here for the students, and we want to listen to the students’ voices.” Brenda Matias-Cruz

“We opened our meetings so that any student is welcome, not just representatives of organizations,” said Matias-Cruz. “And we changed our name from the Associated Students of Monmouth College to Scots Student Senate, or Scots Senate for short. The name change encompasses more what we are really all about. We’re here for the students, and we want to listen to the students’ voices.”

Scots Senate also placed more of an emphasis on hearing directly from the source on certain issues, which is why guests such as Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt and Co-Deans of Student Life Michelle Merritt and Karen Ogorzalek were given the floor at Scots Senate meetings.

“We also had Registrar Kristi Hippen join us and (Director of Global Engagement) Christine Johnston, who talked about study abroad,” said Matias-Cruz.

“People would tell us after those talks, ‘We didn’t know that. It really changed our perspective,’” said Minor. “And that was another of our goals – transparency.”

Celebrating the campus

Other highlights of the school year included “My Story,” an event held last fall in Dahl Chapel and Auditorium where Minor said students “shared their life stories, their goals, their ambitions. It was a great time to gather and be vulnerable together.”

Other issues addressed by Scots Senate included student retention, Homecoming events, social distancing and moving classes fully online, which the College was forced to do after a spike in COVID cases in western Illinois toward the end of the fall semester.

The spring semester has gone more smoothly with regard to the pandemic, but Scots Senate still realized it has been a difficult year for everyone. That’s why the organization came up with a special event that was held April 16 – faculty and staff were treated to food and drink at Einstein Bros. Bagels in Hewes Library.

“We had the idea to have an employee appreciation day for Monmouth’s faculty and staff,” said Matias-Cruz. “We collaborated with the President’s Office, with Student Affairs and with Aramark (the College’s food service provider).”

“It’s so important for us to express our gratitude to the faculty and staff for all the good that’s happened this year, despite all the hardballs that have been lobbed at them,” said Minor. “They’ve handled it really well.”

Less than a week later, Scots Senate threw another party to observe National Student Leadership Week. The organization sponsored a cookout that also included games and a raffle.

Both Minor and Matias-Cruz believe their experience leading Scots Senate will help them in the future. Minor has applied to work with Illinois state government as a legislative assistant, with the possibility of becoming a full-time grad student at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Matias-Cruz hopes to find a job where she can “go into schools and work with kids.”

“This experience will help me with that,” she said. “I’ve grown into a stronger leader, and I’m more confident in myself.”

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Did you know?

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