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Monday, June 18, 2018

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Caldwell aims to provide advocacy for a ‘working man’s college’


SGA presidential candidate, Christopher Caldwell | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

The first time Christopher Caldwell visited Houston was for his New Student Orientation at UH. Caldwell, a Dallas native, said he chose UH for its political science department, despite his parents insisting he attend elsewhere.

After a year and a half at the University, and numerous organization and committee positions, the political science and sociology senior is running for president of the Student Government Association with the Impact Party.

“Student advocacy is not about what title you have, and policy is not about what position you hold,” Caldwell said. “Little change can affect large amounts of people, and my goal is to — whether it be one person or 1,000 people — to make sure I touch someone’s life.”

The Impact Party is running on a platform composed of what Caldwell calls “three pillars,” each encompassing numerous smaller goals. Caldwell said members of his party, if elected, will focus on improving the student experience, fostering academic success and encouraging community advancement.

Caldwell graduated high school with an associate’s degree and arrived to UH in Fall 2016 as a junior by credit hours. As a senior, he spent the better half of Fall 2017 looking into graduate programs, and even taking the LSAT, but he ultimately decided he isn’t ready to leave the University.

“I’ve been involved thoroughly on campus, but I haven’t done enough. I haven’t influenced every student in the way that I really could,” Caldwell said. “As I sat and thought about it, SGA was truly the avenue where I could advocate for students in the way that I do now, on a larger scale.”

Regardless of the outcome of the election, Caldwell said he’ll spend the next year obtaining an additional degree in sociology and he hopes to remain involved in student leadership for the remainder of his time at UH.

While he said all of his positions on campus have taught him about the potential for a single student to impact the rest of the University, being chair of the Food Service Advisory Committee has given him the greatest ability to advocate for students.

This year was the first time all residential students were allowed to remain on campus during winter break. Caldwell said the increase in students on campus during the University closure meant a difficult decision for FSAC and UH — whether the dining halls should also remain operational.

“At the end of the day, if you’re going to offer something to students, you need to offer it to them full-fledged,” Caldwell said. “You can’t allow someone to stay on campus and not give them something to eat.”

As FSAC chair, Caldwell said he called four meetings in December to discuss the issue, as compared to the committee’s usual monthly meeting. Students having to supply their own food throughout the break, after already having paid for a meal plan, wasn’t going to be feasible for all, he said.

“We are a working man’s college. There are some students who, like myself, can go here simply because of financial aid,” he said. “I think the University has a responsibility to make sure all 44,000 people are fed, they have a place to sleep at night.”

Even if his bid for president isn’t successful, Caldwell said he will continue to advocate for students on policy boards and committees throughout the University. In addition to FSAC, he currently serves on the Student Centers Policy Board, the Student Housing and Residential Life Advisory Committee and the Activities Funding Board, and holds two on-campus jobs including brand ambassador for Chartwells.

Caldwell said his involvement throughout campus helped him pin down feasible goals for his party, and paying his own way through college helps him better understand what it’s like to be a student at UH.

“Nothing is ever the greatest it can be,” Caldwell said.

[email protected]

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