New ASGCU prez, VP encourage open dialogue on faith and community
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
The pressure of representing the largest student body in Grand Canyon University history weighs heavy on Suji Shin.
Shin, the president of the Associated Students of GCU student government, spent the last two years serving the University student body — though she never held an elected ASGCU leadership position. Still, students across campus and employees of the campus Office of Student Affairs described Shin as a hard-working woman with the servant’s heart and affable personality required to succeed as president.
While she possesses the ideal qualities to serve in a high-profile, public leadership position, Shin was reluctant to run last semester because she felt she lacked experience. She also faced an emotional challenge during the campaign that nearly caused her withdrawal. But Shin felt as if God was nudging her to serve Him through ASGCU.
“I believe that you can never be fully ready for these types of positions,” said Shin, 21, a junior double-major in business management and healthcare administration.
“It’s God that puts you in those positions and gives you the answers,” she said.
Shin and ASGCU vice president Samara “Samy” Carlon were elected to student government positions in February with 68 percent of the vote. Shin succeeded former ASGCU president Nick Ely and became the first female president since Danielle Rinnier, who currently serves as GCU’s director of spiritual life.
Both Shin and Carlon have previous student leadership experience. Shin served on ASGCU freshman class council and volunteered through local outreach. Carlon, a senior business major, brought attractions like local food trucks and international vendors to campus as ASGCU multicultural director last year.
Shin, a native of South Korea, and Carlon, who is originally from Mexico, brought an international perspective to ASGCU. They campaigned on enhancing communication with under-served campus groups like international students and commuters.
“One big thing we want to do is inform students of not only who the president and VP are, but ASGCU as well, and make it more visible to them on campus,” Carlon said. “We want them to know who we are and what we can do (for them).”
Aldo Gonzalez, a commuter student and member of the GCU Latino Student Union, said ASGCU struggled in the past to promote itself to students unfamiliar with popular campus clubs or organizations. He said Shin and Carlon would change that.
“Unless you’re part of an organization or club, you probably don’t know what ASGCU is or that they do much more than events,” said Gonzalez, a 27-year old pre-physical therapy major. “Most people don’t know they are doing things on campus or have responsibilities.
“But I’ve seen (Suji and Samy) out in front of the Union talking to students,” Gonzalez said. “It definitely makes them feel more welcome to have the president and vice president inviting them to events. I think that’s going to make a difference.”
FOCUS ON FAITH, DIALOGUE
Shin and Carlon heard students complaining about their perceived lack of a voice on major campus issues last semester, so they campaigned on the subject of increasing communications while growing campus unity through worship and prayer.
Some of their proposed initiatives this year include: scheduling monthly worship nights and meetings for ASGCU members, encouraging resident assistants and life leaders to talk about campus issues, and developing meetings between students and food-services staff to improve campus dining.
“We wanted to come up with creative, better ways to communicate,” Shin said. “A lot of the students, they don’t feel like they have a voice or know how to speak up. We want them to know they have a voice.”
Shin and Carlon endured some turbulence early in their spring campaign, as a handful of racially insensitive social media posts and incidents of vandalism to their campaign posters nearly forced them to give up. Shin approached Carlon with tear-streaked cheeks after the first incident, ready to drop-out.
“It was difficult for me at that time and after seeing (the comments on Facebook), it made the campaign more difficult,” Shin said. “The second day of campaigning I said to myself, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’”
The women focused on prayer, joining with their 20-member campaign team to pray multiple times during the night. When things became difficult, Shin and Carlon stepped back to pray or reflect as their team picked up the slack of creating campaign posters.
REFUSING TO QUIT
Students passing through the Canyon Hall lobby, where posters were being made, stopped and helped make signs, clean or bring the team food and water. Shin said she was humbled by the kindness of strangers willing to help.
“After seeing the support of people we didn’t know, I was like ‘We can’t give up after that,’” Shin said.
After elections, Shin and Carlon sought advice from Anthony Mann, a popular former ASGCU president and current GCU student activities coordinator. Mann advised the duo to greet every experience as an opportunity to connect with students and absorb the needs of campus.
Mann said Shin and Carlon will gain experience and understanding as leaders over the course of the year, but that their servant mindsets are invaluable traits that can’t be learned.
“Their hearts are really to serve people,” Mann said. “I think that can look like a lot of different things, but at the end of the day, students can feel cared for and that’s what’s important.”
Contact Cooper Nelson at 639.7511 or [email protected].