Vermont State University students establish historic student government constitution

Interim VTSU President David Bergh, far right, ratified at signing ceremony; Congresswoman Becca Balint was on hand and applauded student leaders for vision and collaboration

VTSU photo of Interim President David Bergh and Congresswoman Becca Balint pose with VTSU student government representatives after new SGA constitution is formerly adopted.

Interim VTSU President David Bergh, far right, ratified at signing ceremony; Congresswoman Becca Balint was on hand and applauded student leaders for vision and collaboration

Vermont Business Magazine When Northern Vermont University merged with Castleton University and Vermont Tech, leaders at the three institutions envisioned a feeling of collaboration between the new Vermont State University (VTSU) campuses. Less than a year into the VTSU’s first year, student leaders on each campus have been at the forefront of sharing ideas and creating a unified spirit among all students. Notably, the student government groups from the VTSU campuses have adopted a common constitution, which they formally adopted on Friday May 3.

"The process our students followed to develop this new student government constitution was truly impressive,” said David Bergh, interim president of VTSU, who himself was a leader in student government during his undergraduate career. “It was done so purposefully, so thoughtfully, and with such incredible focus on inclusive and collective decision-making – I have no doubt that this document will be a strong, reliable source of powerful and relevant guidance for the VTSU student body for many years to come.”

The student government groups on the campuses have evolved in different somewhat—some have more officers than others, for example.

Matthew Patry, director of student activities for VTSU, explained, “The chapter will maintain some of these differences, as the campuses do have different needs, but the student leaders have taken great steps to make sure they’re on the same page to ensure that student voices get heard.”

“This new structure will work well for Vermont State, as it retains individual campus identities while supporting an entirely new system-wide organizational structure,” commented Perry Ragouzis, outgoing president of the Castleton Student, who was instrumental in moving the joint constitution forward. “This structure will also potentially provide a template for rural institutions across the nation who are seeking to help bring their students together and find ways to unify groups that are otherwise geographically so far apart. I am so thankful and grateful for all of the incredible staff, faculty and administrative support that this project received over the last academic year and look forward to passing the baton over to next year’s fresh group of student leaders.”

One such leader, Amelia Vlahogiannis, newly elected president of the Randolph Chapter, said, “The two biggest benefits from this SGA structure, as we see it, are the possibilities for collaboration between campuses to expand the scope of what we do, as well as the increased legitimacy and leverage within VTSU to expand our ability to make student voices heard and to do more for the student body,” she added.

“These students do really direct where the University is going from a student perspective, so it’s very important that they form a strong network of student leaders on all campuses,” Patry noted. “Higher education is unique among businesses in that our customer, the student, is also our product, so it’s important that we have active leaders in student government. I don’t consider these roles extracurricular—instead they should be viewed as co-curricular, since they are so important to the University and to the students themselves, who gain valuable skills and experiences through leading, managing budgets, etc.”

Patry noted that student government leaders will have a gathering during part of the Fall 2024 semester’s October break.

“The students who are leading the student governments at that time will be able to have a face-to-face meeting and discuss topics important to the direction VTSU is going. I anticipate great decisions and can’t wait to learn what comes out of those meetings,” he said.

Congresswoman Becca Balint visited with students after the Bergh signed the constitution to congratulate them on their hard work.

“I’m so impressed by the thoughtful political engagement demonstrated through VTSU’s new student government. It’s exciting to see democratic values at work here on Vermont’s campuses,” she noted.

“It was an honor to sign this constitution into University law, and to have the opportunity to celebrate these students, both for this incredible achievement, and for the outstanding collaborative effort that led to it,” remarked Bergh. “It’s inspiring. And as I keep saying, our students really are leading the way in our transition to a unified system] They are creating an example for the rest of the VTSU community to follow as we continue to weave together the unique qualities and shared strengths of Vermont’s State Colleges under a unified VTSU banner."

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