When former USF St. Pete governor Sean Schrader walked through the weekly Bull Market as a freshman, he never gave the Student Government (SG) booth a second glance.
“I didn’t think there was any benefit to it,” Schrader said. “I just totally bypassed it. I didn’t see any real ability to make change happen.”
Before stepping foot onto any of USF’s campuses, Schrader said he had a passion for the people of Tampa Bay. A Clearwater native, he spent his highschool years collaborating with local officials to create a nonprofit focused on student empowerment.
Though it never came to fruition, it opened a door to work with one of the nonprofit’s sponsors, former Congressman Charlie Crist.
“When I emailed his office to thank him, they said ‘We love your passion. We want you to consider being an intern in our district office,’” Schrader said.
Schrader said his motivation for joining the world of politics was the lack of student perspective he saw in Tampa Bay’s current affairs. He continued to work for Crist while getting his bachelor’s degree in business management at the St. Pete campus.
Even though his schedule was already full, the pandemic brought out a concern about the wellbeing of students, and Schrader made the decision to run for SG senator.
Schrader said he wanted to give students who had social anxieties about returning to in-person learning the chance to reconnect. He saw that while opportunities to get connected existed, many students were unaware of them.
“After the pandemic, I had a change of heart,” he said. “Student engagement was getting low and I thought ‘Well, maybe I can make a change’.”
After being elected as an SG senator, Schrader made the decision to run for governor in 2022 after deciding to stay at USF to earn his MBA.
Throughout his time at SG, Schrader was still interning for Crist and was offered the role of District Office Manager. Feeling conflicted about the weight of taking on both roles, he turned to his parents for guidance.
“I talked to my parents and they said ‘Yes, if you do this it will probably be the busiest year of your life’,” Schrader said. “‘But how often will you get an opportunity like this?’ So I said yes, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Schrader continued to work for Crist until the closing of his congressional office in December 2022. After campaigning and securing the role of USF St. Pete’s campus governor, the new position came with a new goal –– reestablishing SG’s presence across all three campuses.
Schrader was able to implement new ideas of student engagement across the campuses. Working alongside USF leaders and city officials of St. Pete, SG was able to create new avenues of engagement by catering to different degree paths. Offerings ranged from casual as getting students together to watch a movie to more formal like political science majors being able to meet with the mayor of St. Pete.
When St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch declared an official USF St. Pete Student Government day at City Hall, Schrader said he felt his desire to see the students and the city reconnected begin to come alive.
“From a personal perspective, to see student voices being valued, to see people in power care so much about what they have to say that they would make a whole day proclaiming that, [it] made me very proud,” he said.
USF Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree said she remembers Schrader immediately welcoming her upon entering her position.
“He was in one of my very first meetings when I became chancellor, and he actually gave me a proclamation, so we had a ‘Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree Day’,” she said.
“It just showed me how devoted he is to every role he’s in. He was a servant leader, and for him that meant being a representative for both majority and minority voices. He was incredibly thoughtful about the role we played in the community.”
As Schrader’s term as governor drew to a close this spring, he said he was asked if he would consider running for student body president. However, he made the decision to step down.
While his desire to serve the student body was still strong, he knew there was one thing he didn’t have that the position needed –– time. As a graduate student, the needs of undergraduates were not as visible as they had been before.
“I knew it was time to let new students who want to make a difference in, especially if they’re an undergrad,” he said. “They have the best chance at making that connection.”
While Schrader’s time as governor was coming to a close, he still had one year left at USF. Never one to idle, he made the decision to join USF’s Ambassadors Association.
Alumni Association’s Executive Director Bill McCausland said the ambassadors are a link between the student body, alumni and the Tampa Bay community. This involves coordinating and making appearances at events across all campuses, such as fundraisers and Homecoming celebrations.
For a group created to embody “The spirit of USF,” McCausland knew no one who was better suited to don the ambassador’s signature Green Jacket.
“He’s wise beyond his years. He’s extremely smart and articulate, and he packages it together with a wonderful personality,” McCausland said.
“He’s a true leader, someone that people are inspired by and will follow. He has experience as a student, someone who’s been in politics and someone in business. He’s extremely valuable for the work that we do.”
From implementing widespread connections to Tampa Bay and the school, facilitating student empowerment and “drinking lots and lots of coffee,” Schrader’s time at USF has been memorable. But even as he hangs up the Green Jacket when he graduates next spring, he knows his experience at USF has changed both him and the university for the better.
“Every faculty member and every public official I’ve worked with, they’ve been so eager to work with students,” he said. “That’s something I didn’t anticipate happening. I thought our concerns would be dismissed, but it’s been the complete opposite. That was eye opening, and it’s been my driver for staying so involved.”
“It’s been rewarding in so many different ways. It makes me still want to be involved in any ways that I can.”