Missouri State University's Student Government Association is entering uncharted waters as the university, along with the rest of the world, navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. As the unusual fall semester commences, SGA’s purpose in representing the student body remains vital as ever.

The newly-appointed Student Body President Tara Orr faces the school year with Vice President Blake Haynes and the rest of the cabinet under unique circumstances. Many of their upcoming events have been planned to be held virtually. From seminars to happy hours, Zoom sessions remain the safest form of large gatherings and will be utilized by SGA.

“Challenges that we are facing this semester are just having to rethink the way we do everything,” Orr said. “SGA during this time is extremely important. We are trying to bring students’ voices to life and we are also trying to advocate for students but having to find a unique way to do that. We rely on students to come with ideas, concerns and so much more to advocate for.”

Despite the pandemic limiting social interactions, Orr remains excited for the semester and said she believes the situation offers a great way for better connections, though it’s virtual.

The first meeting of the fall semester, on August 25, began with Orr and Haynes welcoming attendees and briefly introducing cabinet members. Each introduction was paired with each member’s involvement and executive reports.

“Wear your masks,” Orr said in the meeting. “Utilize Magers (Health and Wellness Center) if you aren’t feeling well or for mental health resources. Make sure to take care of yourself and keep up all the good work academically.”

Emily Ziegler, director of health and wellness, reiterated Orr’s note on health resources.

“We’re looking into a virtual health and wellness week and started talking to the counseling center about group sessions,” Ziegler said.

Haynes encouraged students to read Clif's Notes, which outline contingency plans that will be based on various guiding principles and factors as the semester progresses to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Chief Sustainability Commissioner Mackenzie Morris looks to spend this year educating the student body on sustainability and the climate crisis. 

“We are working on creating a ‘Green Election Guide' to outline different candidates’ platforms regarding climate solutions on the national, state and local levels so students can be informed when they head to the polls in November,” Morris said.

On August 26, Orr sent out a University-wide email introducing herself as Student Body President and gave encouraging words surrounding the uncertainty of campus life. She noted the COVID-19 resources available to students on campus and briefed on guidelines set forth before providing her personal email and willingness to help in any way possible.

To get involved with SGA, their website links two downloadable applications to become a senator or commissioner. Weekly meetings and most events are open to the public without prior engagement to the organization. Haynes, in the Aug. 25 meeting, announced their intent to have an open-door policy throughout the semester, whether that be via email, Zoom or in person. 

SGA’s website also offers an online “suggestion box” where students can voice their opinions to be heard by their executive and legislative branches. Survey idea submissions are found on the same page and play an important role in hearing the student body voice their opinions about certain topics.

Weekly meetings are held every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Traywick Parliamentary Room, PSU 313 or can be attended through Zoom. For more information contact Chief of Staff Apryl Myers at Amj1998@live.missouristate.edu or call the main office at 417-836-5500.