Making a President, Part Two

As we saw with Oklahoma’s J.D. Baker in Making a President, Part One, a Student Government Association (SGA) President’s role is much more than a resume builder.  Baker demonstrated that bridging the gap between student groups has the power to make students feel valued within their university.  From Oklahoma, we now travel to the Sunshine State and Rollins College where senior Matt Cassidy is working to help his campus embrace diversity.

Instilling Change

 As a kindergartner tasked with creating a T-shirt proclaiming his life goal, Matt Cassidy was determined from the start: he would one day become the President of the United States.

Flash forward about 15 years and not much has changed for the ambitious political science major.

Cassidy’s vision as president includes creating more diversity among students on campus.

“I want to instill change, so when I came to Rollins, we had just named our interim president and were about to choose our next president and I was very involved with the selection process,” said Cassidy.  “After I saw the inside look at being able to create change, I decided I wanted to continue that.”

Hailing from a small farming town of just 524 people in New Jersey, Cassidy’s life before Rollins consisted of working in his family’s vineyard and dreaming of his master plans to one day change the country for the better.

When Cassidy chose to come to Rollins College, he then  entered into a new world, one in which Lambda Chi Alpha played a large role in his goals of leadership.

“It began actually when I stepped onto campus,” said Cassidy. “I didn’t know anybody when I got to Rollins, but one of the first people I met was the High Iota of Lambda Chi.  From the time of orientation, I had probably met close to 10 brothers, including my future big brother, and that’s when I realized that these guys were gentlemen, scholarly and they knew how to have fun.”

Greek life at Rollins  accounts for about 43% of students and according to Cassidy, his brothers in Lambda Chi were a large factor in his decision to run for the role of SGA president.

“Leadership is really the key word when I think about the connections I have gained from Lambda Chi,” said Cassidy.  “My fraternity allowed me the chance to mature and develop.”

With his commanding yet inviting personality, Cassidy gathered the support of not only his fraternity brothers, but the rest of the university to win his chance to represent the student body.

Though at the start of his term Cassidy and his team focused on issues such as fitness center renovations and more student parking, he soon realized that his position could be used for so much more.

An active member, Cassidy (second row, 4th from the left) stressed that his involvement with Lambda Chi Alpha has helped shape him as a leader.

“At first, I thought what could possibly be bigger than adding more parking,” said Cassidy, laughing.  “You learn that there are bigger things, such as trying to increase our school’s diversity.”

And so Cassidy’s idea of instilling change shifted to an idea that Rollins could become a campus of diverse, unique individuals.  Cassidy and his team then began efforts to increase job opportunities for international students, encourage more male students to attend the liberal arts college, and increase overall graduation rates.

“We want to make sure that we have plenty of students, faculty, and staff who look like students who come into Rollins, because when you have people who look like you, you feel more welcome,” said Cassidy.  “And that’s the environment we want to create, a welcoming one.”

Now with some experience under his belt, Cassidy is looking forward to continuing learning leadership through Lambda Chi and making sure all students are represented on campus. Because for Cassidy, his legacy will come in the form of students feeling at home when they set foot on campus.

“We want to foster diversity in thought and culture as well,” said Cassidy.  “So we want to make sure we bring in people from all walks of life into our campus.”