Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Camden Marasco clicked on his microphone, rose to the stage and after the first question crystalized what both teams of candidates said was the work ahead for student government leaders.
Help ensure Grand Canyon University’s growth is guided in new and improved ways for students.
GCU was once a small college of a thousand students and in the near future may reach 40,000, said the candidate for student body president, so longer lines at campus events and dining options are often the result. He wants to work on initiatives to alleviate them.
The Meet the Candidates event, a question-and-answer session in Ethington Theatre on Monday featuring two teams vying to lead the Associated Students of GCU (ASGCU) in the 2021-22 academic year, remained focused on the growth theme throughout, but from slightly different angles.
Marasco and vice president running mate Tyson Cantrell provided nuts-and-bolts solutions for event check-ins, lighting improvements for safety on campus and making sure every voice is heard, what Marasco summarized as, “Advance, amplify, advocate” that is detailed on his campaign website.
George Munguia and vice president running mate Maddie Landes offered a different trio of alliteration: “Community, connection and Christian.” Munguia said his team’s focus is on maintaining the tight-knit culture of a Christ-centered community, even in the face of rapid change.
He cited Matthew 22 as the guiding principle, in summary: Love God and love your neighbor. The goal is to use his office to connect people on campus to one another, especially “the unseen and unheard,” and to off-campus opportunities to serve others and advance their careers.
Both teams look to technology to help with those solutions, and students will decide on what team can execute it when voting begins Wednesday and continues through Friday on campus.
Marasco touted an initiative to launch an agreement with a food delivery application that would help decrease waiting times at dining facilities on campus.
Munguia pitched his team’s new website where students can connect. For example, the website could help them find ways to get involved in local churches, or to create campus community-building projects such as an annual yearbook with students’ Instagram photos and an end-of-year signing event.
Munguia said he is qualified to take on the task because the business management major has focused on business development since age 17, served as the student director of the CityServe hub on campus and has worked for tech startups. Landes, a government major, has been a student leader in Welcome Programs.
Marasco also is highly visible on campus.
He served as president of Colangelo Scholars, vice president of the Honors College Student Advisory Board, is ASGCU’s director of sustainability and is a leader of STELLAR, a platform for GCU students to design, test, build and launch research projects to the International Space Station. Cantrell, who majors in psychology and behavioral health science, brings additional student government experience to the team as the current ASGCU executive chief of staff.
The candidates’ campaign tablings, featuring danceable music, posters and slogans, are on the Promenade this week. And most of the campaign is conducted on social media, said Director of Student Engagement Jeremy Mack. “They are really good at it.”
The forum was a more formal affair, all the candidates wearing smart jackets, conducting a civil exchange with no mudslinging while answering several questions from moderator Ben Claypool and a handful from students.
The job is to work as a liaison between students and University leadership, yet they often veered into big-picture initiatives.
Claypool asked them how they would execute those plans.
Cantrell described a “tangible and manageable” approach to the issues, such as working with the student senate to reach out to students to help them get involved on campus and working with Public Safety to look at ways to improve lighting for added safety in some areas.
Landes said they hope to “create a feeling, a way for GCU students to go from here to everywhere,” helping one another and the world in ministry and volunteering. “Our vision is to create this ecosystem on campus,” she said, “… where students are genuinely working and trying to help each other and love on each other.”
Claypool asked how they could pull off ideas that are typically outside the ownership of ASGCU, such as tech applications.
Munguia said their new website can create more connections for careers or even part-time gigs through more partnerships that he would help steer through administration approval.
“You guys, after college we don’t want you to go back to your mom’s or your grandma’s basement,” he said.
Marasco’s goal of improving the process of event check-in also would take buy-in from other departments, but he said it can be done.
“This is not under the direct jurisdiction of ASGCU, but with this unique position we are able to work with a lot of different departments and a lot of different colleges and a lot of people with a lot of influence,” he said. “We believe if it’s good for the University, good for students, we think it would be good to implement it.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
Here's a slideshow from the event.
How to vote
Voting booth hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, The Grove; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, Diamondback Apartments; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, Student Union Promenade.
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