by Caroline (Tomlinson) Kimball, Managing Editor
Cedarville's campus community would not be possible without the leadership of our students, whether that be in public for others to see or behind the scenes and barely noticed. Cedarville students are amazing!
But how does Cedarville consistently find and equip confident and competent student leaders? First, we benefit from the strong families and parents who build into these students for the first 18 years of their lives. Then, when they arrive at Cedarville, it’s the mentoring from godly faculty members. It’s the life-on-life discipleship. But it’s also the model that students see every Friday on the chapel stage — the student leaders who are a part of the Student Government Association (SGA).
When you ask an SGA President — current or former —about why they ran for office, they quickly talk about the SGA President from their freshman year and what a profound impact he or she had.
Every year, students witness what servant leadership looks like by seeing what SGA does for the student body. The example that SGA sets inspires students to lead in the residence halls, discipleship groups, or even pursue SGA leadership themselves.
But what is SGA, what exactly do they do, and how do they inspire student leaders? Many students don’t understand all that goes into serving on SGA. Some may say, “They’re just the face of the student body” or “They really don’t do anything.”
Behind The Scenes
But SGA is much more than what meets the eye: much more than faces, much more than titles, and much more than what students see in SGA chapel each week.
SGA leaders spend the school year setting an example of what servant leadership looks like by offering their time to students and administration to help build community across campus.
“It means being in about six to eight hours of meetings a week. It looks like interpersonal communication and interacting with people almost constantly,” noted Sage Showers ’23, 2022–2023 SGA president. “We get to serve as the glue and the connecting point between different groups across campus. It’s one of the most rewarding, but also probably most invisible, parts of the job.”
But it’s not just the President and Vice President. SGA is made up of nine positions. These include President, Vice President, Chaplain, Events Director, Involvement Directors, Campus Community Directors, and the Worship Band Leader. The team supports the campus community, encourages the student body, and provides cohesion between groups across campus.
The President and Vice President lead the team and communicate with administration. The Chaplain delivers a sermon each week to the student body. The Worship Band Leader leads the student body in worship at the start of every SGA chapel. The Events Director creates memories like Elliv, the end-of-year student talent show, and Junior/Senior. The Involvement Directors lead the dozens of student organizations on campus. The Campus Community Directors put on annual events like The Banana Project — an event in which thousands of bananas are offered to the student body with the requirement of leaving an encouraging note for someone else.
These student leaders work together to create the campus community that students have come to expect.
Though many of the roles are responsible for creating experiences for the students, the SGA President and Vice President have the unique responsibility of serving as the liaison between students and administration.
There is so much work in the SGA office that goes unnoticed. Hundreds of emails, dozens of meetings — it can be exhausting at times. But it’s the impact on the student body that encourages the SGA team.
“Their job is to represent the student body to administrators. They meet with Jon Wood (Vice President for Student Life and Christian Ministries) weekly to share what they’re hearing from the student body,” said Brian Burns ’95, Director of Campus Experience. “They also represent Cedarville to the students. Maybe it’s updating the students on how we’ve changed our parking policy or Residence Life.”
SGA serves administration by communicating weekly with the students by email and in SGA chapel, delivering announcements to boost student morale, and supporting the mission and vision of Cedarville.
The goal of SGA is not to promote personal agendas or combat administration. Instead, the SGA President works closely with administrators like Burns and Wood.
This close working relationship not only benefits the student body as a whole, but it builds leaders out of those humbly willing to learn.
What this looks like day to day has changed over the years and looks different with each President.
Regardless of how they choose to lead, you can’t talk to an SGA President without the words “servant leadership” coming to mind. Whether they say it directly, or it’s delicately laced between their words, this is truly the one thing each SGA President has in common.
While most students only see the SGA President on the chapel stage once a week, this represents just one small piece of a much larger commitment.
“I think about 10% of SGA was seen on the chapel stage. The other 90% really was behind the scenes on vision casting, talking with the administration, leading the team, and seeking solutions for the student body,” explained Ryan Smith ’19, 2018–2019 SGA president.
On The Stage
In addition to weekly meetings with the SGA team, administration, and different groups across campus, the SGA President and Vice President have the weekly responsibility of leading SGA chapel, perhaps the most visible part of the SGA experience.
The first time an SGA officer steps onto the chapel stage is before they’re even elected. SGA election chapel in the spring gives running parties the chance to introduce themselves.
Once elected, it becomes a weekly responsibility. The Chaplain delivers a sermon every week, while the President and Vice President deliver announcements.
One of the most unique and memorable chapels of the year is Live@10 — the late-night, early morning show that takes hundreds of hours to produce.
Rahul Jacob ’17, MBA ’21, started Live@10 during his year as SGA president, 2016–2017.
“I had this idea of a late-night talk show for the chapel hour. Nothing like this had ever been done before, but I wanted the student body to laugh together,” said Jacob.
Live@10 is no small undertaking. It takes script writing, coordinating with production services, receiving approval from administration, not to mention the dozens of meetings leading up to this one-hour event.
“When you add it all together, it was probably over 1,000 hours of everyone working tirelessly to pull this off. The result was better than we could have imagined. Just a full hour of students having fun and bonding together over shared experiences and a love for their community,” added Jacob.
This show is co-hosted by the SGA president and University President Thomas White. With skits, videos, music, and jokes, Live@10 always leaves students with a smile on their face.
While SGA chapel is fun, and Live@10 creates long-lasting memories, they wouldn’t exist without the tender hearts and passion for people that every SGA leader possesses.
At The Heart
Beyond the work that they do and the positions they hold, the greatest way that SGA impacts students is through the character of those who serve in these positions.
Each SGA leader has had different reasons for seeking office. They had unique slogans like “Let’s Get Real,” or “Better Together,” or “Press In,” to name a few.
Getting up on stage once a week can look glamorous to some, but that’s not what you hear when you talk to SGA team members.
“Sometimes leading can feel very lonely. I’ve learned that to be visible also means to be attentive. You can’t just be a face in a position, you have to be a person in a position. And that sometimes means many late nights and early mornings,” commented Showers. “I ran for SGA because I love Cedarville and I love people. My ultimate ‘why’ is to serve.”
Jake Johnson ’21, 2020–2021 SGA President, stated, “It was during Live@10 my freshman year when I first became interested in SGA. The President had a unique opportunity to bring joy and unity to the student body.”
Jacob added, “I wanted to give the students an opportunity to be real with one another, to laugh, and build relationships.”
For the SGA leaders, it’s not about personal fame. It’s not about hidden agendas.
“We as SGA are to manifest and encourage Cedarville’s core values. That is how we have success,” noted Smith. When asked about his ‘why,’ Smith said, “For me, success was defined not by numbers but by being an example of someone who loves God, loves others, lives with integrity, and works with excellence.”
When you talk to SGA leaders, their love for Cedarville is clearly evident. They didn’t pursue leadership because they were popular or because they wanted recognition. They did so because they humbly signed up for the task of loving God, loving others, having integrity, and working with excellence.
SGA not only makes leaders out of the students who serve, but it inspires the next class of students by modeling what humble leadership looks like both on and off the stage.