President of Student Government Leads by Listening

Cris Powell speaking at block party event on campus

Cris Powell has some insight on what life is like as a CSUCI student and what he has experienced and learned might be a little surprising. Contrary to the understanding that today’s students have iPods and cell phones growing out of their ears and their definition of an inner social circle is the World Wide Web, Powell says students want to be part of something bigger: they want community.

Learning more about what Cal State Channel Islands students do and what they like wasn’t a perspective that struck Powell, a senior, out-of-the-blue. It took a lot of listening, a couple years as a resident assistant in Anacapa Village, and being part of the student culture at CSUCI.

“I thought that students needed and should have night and weekend programming, and creating a safe program for nights and weekends for 18 and 19-year-olds is something our school needed to do,” Powell explained. Powell is the President of CSUCI’s Student Government for the 2007-2008 year.

It was Powell’s thought and the creative planning of Chelsee Bente, president of the Student Programming Board, which spawned the first block party at CSUCI. The event was held on the second Friday of September and was a huge success.

“The block party was great! People didn’t just show up, grab some food and then run back to their rooms and close the door. They stayed and listened to the music. People were enjoying each other and talking,” Powell said.

More than 400 students filled the street between Anacapa and Santa Cruz villages playing games and just getting out and getting to know each other. Powell said the event showed more than just students having a good time, it proved that CSUCI students aren’t all about their own worlds of music and instant messaging, and one of the things they are hungry for is being part of a community.

The block party wasn’t an event put on by CSUCI Student Government, but it was a great way for Powell and other members of Student Government to see that there are students interested in being involved in community in a variety of ways including engagement in student government.

Powell, 21 of Palmdale, took office in June, and will serve until the end of May 2008. He didn’t take the helm with his own agenda, but he does want to see a few things happen during his term. One objective embraced by Student Government is on the short-list, and directly relates to getting students involved and helping a member of the extended community.

Each year CSUCI students raise money for a special cause, and when Powell learned about Mary’s Wish, he knew it would hit home with CSUCI students.

Mary’s Wish is a fundraising effort for Mary Remotti, an 18-year-old in Connecticut, who suffers from a rare debilitating neurological disease that leaves her in intense pain and unable to move. Money is needed for a costly treatment not covered by insurance that could give her the ability to move again like others her age. Mary is the sister of Melissa Remotti, who is an executive analyst for University President Richard R. Rush.

“This is a cause students can relate too, it’s someone their age who needs help and their support can make a difference for her,” Powell said.

In September, Student Government teamed up with Associated Students Incorporated at the Patch Adams event held on campus and collected more than $1,200 for Mary’s Wish in a single night.

Another of Powell’s objectives is getting students involved with committees on campus, and adding accountability to those roles. There are dozens of campus committees that students are appointed to for each year, and Powell is developing an agreement for the students who serve on those committees that shows that the members of Student Government are depending on each student representative to come back and share information.

“We as a student body need to take the initiative on our educational experience through getting involved on campus, and positively contribute to the learning environment for each student today as well as the students tomorrow,” Powell said. “Working towards the betterment of each student is what Student Government is all about.”