Diverse candidates make case for student leadership

ASGCU student body president candidate Jagaar Halverson speaks during the Meet the Candidates event on the Quad.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

A pair of teams with diverse backgrounds square off this week in the election for president and vice president of the Grand Canyon University student body for the 2023-24 academic year. Voting began today for students on the GCU Engage app.

Jagaar Halverson and his vice president running mate Amaya De La Cruz touted themselves as the gender-diverse choice during Monday’s Meet the Candidates Q&A on the Quad. De La Cruz, a junior in communications with an emphasis in broadcasting and new media, is a Sacramento, California, native and captain of the women’s rugby team. Halverson, a junior in government with an emphasis is state and local policy, is a small-town Iowa native who has already jumped into politics, interning in the Iowa statehouse and for U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) in Washington, D.C.

Their opponents, Jake Martin and Tristan John-Jandles, are internationally diverse. Martin is a junior business administration major and native of Brisbane, Australia. John-Jandles, a sophomore in government with an emphasis in legal studies, is from Kitchener, Ontario. Last year, he served on the Arizona Department of Education’s student African American Advisory Board under former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.

All four have experience this year in the Associated Students of Grand Canyon University, GCU's student government organization: Halverson is chief of staff, De La Cruz is Senate Director, Martin is ASGCU’s Director of Community Engagement and John-Jandles is a senator.

ASGCU student body president candidate Jake Martin pitched his "can-do" spirit.

Talking points

Martin and John-Jandles said they have worked on a plan to "enhance GCU" based on student feedback, including more food options on campus, parking and sustainability improvements, faster mail service and a new idea for housing selection.

Halverson and De La Cruz tout goals that are attainable within a year, including adding loading zones outside residence halls, free laundry services and a plan to use federal grants to improve safety in parking garages.

Amaya De La Cruz, who is running for ASGCU student body vice president, touts her leadership skills.

Sound bites

Halverson: “We want to make an impact within one year and make sure we have a unified campus. We are one student body. We are all one under the body of Christ.”

Martin: “I like to use the phrase, ‘I’m a can-do person.’ I set out a goal and I am going to achieve it.”

De La Cruz: “I am captain of the women’s rugby team. When you can get 30 girls to aggressively tackle people, I think you can do anything. It’s just encouraging people to do things they don’t think they can do.”

John-Jandles: “We faced adversity, and both of us come from far-away places. We’re both able to work with all kinds of people. So what sets us apart is perspective. We are able to walk in other’s shoes.”

Tristan Jandles, a candidate for ASGCU student body vice president, says his team will represent all students.

Qualifying answers

After describing their prior experience, current ASGCU President Camden Marasco and students put several questions to the candidates during Monday’s forum.

Representation was key to their pitches on what sets them apart.

John-Jandles said: “What makes a good leader is someone who can understand and represent the experiences of people who are not traditionally represented. When you can represent people who are not traditionally represented, you can represent anyone.”

De La Cruz said: “Obviously we are a split ticket, and I think a boy and girl running together offers a cool perspective to the campus. Along with that, Jagaar and I are first-generation students, and ASGCU has taken that initiative far.”

Martin said: “I’m a can-do person. That ties in with life experience. I work for the Arizona Cardinals. It’s a fast-paced environment, and we have to get stuff done on time. Just knowing we can make a commitment and follow through is what sets us apart.”

Halverson said: “My experience has taken me a bunch of different ways. ... I worked for the majority leader’s office in Iowa, worked as an intern in Washington, D.C., this summer for Congressman Randy Feenstra and then for ASGCU. I’m really excited to work for you guys. We want to make sure every voice is heard.”

Senior Destiney Ramirez directs a question to the ASGCU candidates.

Original plans

This year, candidates had a new focus: improvements to the parking garages.

Halverson’s team is pushing a plan for campus garages to use a red light/green light system to identify when parking spaces are open, thereby lessening the traffic circling garages and increasing safety. He said there are federal funds available for that effort.

Martin’s team touts a plan to add solar panels to the top of parking garages to generate power and increase campus sustainability while providing additional shaded parking.

Improving the housing selection process, meeting the needs of students with disabilities and efforts to hear the concerns of all students while acting as a liaison to University administration also were discussed.

Voting continues through Friday.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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Related content:

GCU News: How a campout led to buy-in for student leaders

GCU News: GCU's first-generation students find their footing

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