Alliyah Edwards has one voice, but she’s using it to advocate for a united student body from all three campuses — Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee — as part of her initiative to bring representation to the forefront of Student Government’s (SG) mission in the upcoming term.
After being part of USF’s SG for three years, Edwards was elected Senate president for the 61st term, and first consolidated term, as she starts graduate school to earn her master’s degree in criminal justice administration.
Edwards transferred to USF her junior year after attending St. Petersburg College, where she said all she had to do to be a senator at the college’s SG was attend the meetings.
Upon arriving at USF, she became interested in what the university’s Senate was like.
After orientation ended and school began, Edwards said she knew some friends involved in SG and was looking to make more friends, so she ran for Senate.
In the 58th term, she was elected to be a midterm senator. However, making friends was not her only motivator.
“I wanted an opportunity to reach more students, really make an impact and leave a legacy,” Edwards said. “When I realized what Student Government was and how big of an impact I could make, it was very appealing to me.”
She went on to be elected in the 59th term as policy vice chair and was elected to move up to policy chair. Then, in the 60th term, she was elected relations chair.
Last year, Edwards ran for Senate president, but came in third place.
“I was disappointed when I lost, because I got into this mindset of preparing and I thought, ‘I know I can do this,’” Edwards said. “I knew I had the experience and credentials. I wondered what I was doing wrong, and it was about the fourth election I had lost in my Senate career, but I saw the opportunity to run for relations. Now, I am able to bring what I learned into my new term.”
This year, she ran uncontested.
However, just because there was no competition did not mean she was going to have an easy election. During the election process, Edwards went through a vote of confidence.
A vote of confidence is when candidates present why they have the skills necessary to obtain the desired position in the Senate, according to Edwards. Then, the Senate has a Q&A session with the candidate followed by a discussion between the senators.
After Edwards presented, the Senate voted on if it was confident in her abilities to be the new Senate president.
Unanimously, she was voted in by her fellow senators.
Edwards said she is excited to be Senate president, but it was not initially on her radar when she first joined SG.
“I realized being president is not about power, but wanting to accomplish things that this position allows for, and you can make real change when you have resources available, like the ones that come with this position,” Edwards said.
For Edwards, representation and the students’ voices are her top priorities.
“I will make sure senators are advocating for the students,” she said. “I will be acting as the mentor and liaison to them, making sure my senators are fully aware of what they need to do.”
Edwards’ platform is called S.T.A.R., which stands for success, transparency, artistry and representation.
“Student representation is important and the issue I ran on,” Edwards said. “I want to make sure students feel represented. Many senators are advocating so much for the students, and I want students to know we care about them so much.”
For Edwards, this means including students across all three campuses now that this year marks the first consolidated term.
Using a website she will develop, Edwards is already working on getting students more involved with SG.
Through what she has termed the Live Business Tracker, students will have access to members and committees and be able to watch what is going on in the legislative branch, according to Edwards.
Unfortunately, she’s already had bumps in her presidency, as the coronavirus pandemic caused meetings between the three campuses to take place online.
She is currently planning how meetings will look come fall.
“Maybe we could do outside meetings with people 6 feet apart,” she said. “I want to make the meetings as interactive as possible.”
Despite the setback, Edwards said she is grateful for the opportunity to serve as Senate president, and is confident that she will be able to represent those who traditionally have been underrepresented in political offices.
“I have always tried to push myself out of my comfort zone and advocate for representation,” Edwards said. “I am excited to showcase a woman of color and her capabilities. Losing the last election gave me the push to run for president this year and show that when you are really passionate about it, things will happen.”
Edwards’ overall message is to never give up on a passion, and she said she hopes to reach as many students as possible during her tenure.
“The impossible is possible,” Edwards said. “If you have a dream and face challenges, you can still do the things you want. I have struggled, but here I am, and you can do it too.”