Students vote Riley, Thompson for positions

UNA junior Will Riley hugs his girlfriend, Kaitlin Chappell, in the GUC performance center March 14 after learning he would be next year’s Student Government Association president.

In the final moments before the clock struck 6 p.m. March 14 when SGA voting polls closed, UNA junior Will Riley felt nervous about hearing the results. He had campaigned tirelessly for weeks to become next year’s SGA president.

He was sitting with friends in the performance center watching Zeta Tau Alpha’s Big Man on Campus event when he learned that he was the overall winner with 66 percent of the presidential vote.

Riley said his phone battery eventually died Wednesday evening after he heard the news because he received a plethora of text messages from friends and loved ones congratulating him on his victory.

“It’s an absolute honor,” Riley said March 16 after learning he would be the new SGA president. “To me, this is one of the highest (positions) you can get at UNA.”

Riley took the SGA presidential title with 322 student votes, while opposing candidate William Nash received 166 votes. Secretarial candidate Robby Thompson received a majority of 271 votes against opponent Mary Frances Wilson who received 217 votes.

Vice President of Senate elect Jordan Brasher, Vice President of UPC elect Jori Chatman and SGA Treasurer elect Laura Giles won unopposed.

Outgoing SGA President Ralph Akalonu, who will graduate in May, said he has watched Riley climb the student governmental ladder since he began attending UNA in 2009.

“I’ve seen Will Riley pretty much since he first joined Freshman Forum and watched how he has risen up the ranks until now as SGA president,” he said. “He has the experience to be able to lead the student body, and I wish him the best of luck.”

Riley, of Sheffield, is a 2009 Deshler High School graduate and public relations major at UNA. He has worked as the UPC vice president, live acts chair and public relations chairman during his time on campus.

He said he has received the highest education so far of anyone in his immediate family, and that his loved ones back home are thrilled to see him take on the SGA presidential position.

“I’m the first one of my family to pursue student government, and for me to be recognized as the president completely blew my family away,” he said. “It’s a passion that has been generated since I began college to pursue student government.”

Riley—who ran on the platforms of conservation, coordination and communication—said one of his immediate tasks when he takes on the presidential title is to begin creating a consistent SGA brand to make people more aware of student government at UNA.

He also plans to implement an SGA information board outside the new SGA office—which will soon be located in the former Disability Support Services building in the GUC. Additionally, Riley plans to continue research on veterans affairs at UNA as well as create a food pantry for students on campus.

Riley wants to see more diversity in SGA, build a stronger relationship with the board of trustees and reassess student fees to see whether students are benefiting from them.

On top of being the new SGA president and a full-time student, Riley is also the head SOAR counselor, a member of LaGrange Society, a member of Alpha Tau Omega and is involved in a number of other activities on and off campus.

“If I wasn’t doing this, I’d find something else to do to be busy,” he said. “I thrive off of serving others.”