April 20, 2024

A discussion with President Ben Bjarnson about student life and making progress


This archived article was written by: Morgan Verdi

Student body president Ben Bjarnson is finishing up his first semester as president, and finding the position much harder than he anticipated.
Bjarnson said, “It’s a lot more work than I originally thought, and so much of the work goes unnoticed, but I’m actually okay with that.” He was able to implement some of his ideas. “The TV’s that I wanted to get hung about three months ago are finally getting there. “Administration finally contacted me and the first one has been hung in the Reeves Building and the others are on schedule to be hung in the next week or two, so I’m excited about that.”
The job of student body president is much different than Bjarnson thought it would be. “In year’s past, I had a lot of interaction with student government, with how they operated, with their events and different things like that, but it was as a student and not so much on the inside, but from the outside looking in.
“This position has given me a new perspective on how things really work. You can talk to anyone who was on student government last year versus this year and it’s not really a huge change, it’s not that different even though I thought it would be extremely different. In fact it’s very similar, so being on the inside, I really see it’s so much harder than I thought it would be.”
Bjarnson has seen many improvements in USU Eastern over this semester. “I’ve seen a lot of positive change with the relationship we have with our administration. At the beginning of the semester, it was strained. We had a lot of questionable actions that had taken place, with terminations of employees we had grown to love, to money being spent on projects that students weren’t involved in, however, that has improved dramatically since then. I’ve formed a much better relationship with the chancellor and the vice chancellors. It’s improved 10 fold easily.”
Many great changes should happen next semester, Bjarnson said, “However I cannot talk about much of it. A lot of it is still on the drawing board, but there is a dramatic change I have in mind.
“I’ve been working with Greg Dart, as well as the chancellor, and we’ve opened it up to more discussion in the following weeks so we will see how far my ideas go. I’m not going to share what that idea is yet in order to kind of bait the hook.
“Another project that I have been working on is called operation family room. The area across from The Golden Grille is set to be redone. We want to put a couple couches and a coffee table, maybe start a little book exchange thing. That is being put in motion in the next week so we will start ordering the furniture and everything for it.
“Hopefully after Thanksgiving Break, we will have some stuff to start putting in there and we can start redoing that area. My hope it that students will start utilizing the spaces that we have and they like all the new hang out spots.” Bjarnson stated.
The long term goals Bjarnson has in mind for USU Eastern is to help students here now, and those to come see how much of an impact this school can have.
“I’ve had a lot of experience with USU Eastern, probably more than the average student should have, and this school has so much more potential than we give it credit for. I’ve found reasons to stay here and want other students to recognize and understand those same reasons, because it could benefit them. Staying here is an option and it’s an affordable option. I also want to make this school inviting for new students. I want them to feel like it’s an extension of home, not an extension of high school,” Bjarnson said.
Another hope for next semester for Bjarnson is less drama. “There has been a lot of controversy and drama taking place this semester. I would really love to see next semester have less drama and more work get done.
“As far as what we have been able to accomplish with the events, the dances and the interaction with our students, it’s been great. We’ve been listening to everything that’s been said. There was a complaint about the high school kids being at our dances, so I took that complaint to the people that invite high school kids, as well as to the advisors and that has been fixed. There will be no more high school kids at our dances. So at least we’ve got one problem solved.”
On a personal level, Bjarnson says, “I plan on being fatter after Thanksgiving, Christmas and being with family. I plan on putting on a couple pounds. I’m also considering growing out my beard.
“As far as the school goes I think we are on a good track right now, and we just have to follow through. That’s the most important thing. Even though it will be the second semester it’s not a slump, it’s not a time to just wing everything, it’s the beginning of a new semester, it’s not the second semester.” Bjarnson stated.
One of the things Bjarnson loves about being student body president is the people he gets to meet. He said, “One of the perks of being the president is I get to meet many people. I get to rub shoulders with people all across the state of Utah, and also people that are here visiting our campus, that’s probably the greatest perk. The network of people I’ve been able to build.”
Bjarnson dislikes being treated like a child. “That happens often when I work with people who are significantly older than me. I feel like there is a sense of superiority, and the view that I’m too young and inexperienced to have a voice.
“Many times when I’m in meetings with faculty, staff and administration that are older than me I feel like my ideas are not always heard, and the student’s ideas are not always heard. I’ve been trying to build my relationship with faculty, staff and administration to the point where hopefully the next person that comes into this position will be able to do so without having to fight these same battles. They won’t have to start from the ground up but be able to start where I left off.” Bjarnson said.