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Student Spotlight with Alexandra Helfgott

Posted by: wichmannkm | October 24, 2017 | No Comment |

Junior political science and Spanish double major Alexandra Helfgott is a member of the Honors College and was recently elected President of the Student Government Association (SGA). Our department had the fortunate opportunity to interview Alexandra about her college experiences.

What has your Involvement in student government been like?

I started in student government when I was a freshman. I served as Freshman Senator and then I had the privilege of serving as the Chief of Staff for President Michael Faikes last year. It was a formative experience being able to see behind the scenes of the SGA and to learn more about the executive branch. I had the opportunity to run for President this year, and I’m very appreciative and grateful to have won. To be able to empower and encourage other members of SGA to succeed and complete initiatives they are working on is probably the most meaningful aspect of the role. It has been such a gratifying experience and I’m so appreciative to give back to the College because I have gotten so much from this school. To be able to give back like others have done for me has been the most meaningful part of it.

What types of initiatives is SGA currently working on?

I’ve focused on a few key initiatives.  When I was a freshman, SGA President Zach Sturman started a policy having to do with grade redemption. The proposal was to allow students the option of redeeming a class if they earned a C- or below. Faikes worked on the issue during his term as President, and he passed the baton to me this year. We are thrilled that it just passed through the Faculty Senate and it is scheduled to be implemented in 2019, but this is contingent upon the Registrar’s Office and Information Technology designing the business process to implement the new policy. Second, the College’s Physical Plant just approved our pilot project to provide dispensers for free feminine hygiene products on campus. We are hoping to demonstrate that there is a demand for these products. Third, one of our directors is working on an initiative called “Ban the Bottle” which would ban the sale of single use plastic water bottles on campus. We are still researching this project and trying to gauge student support. Schools that have implemented this policy have received positive national recognition and if it is implemented at the College, we would be the first school in South Carolina to do so. This initiative goes nicely with the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for sustainability literacy and it’s something that is gaining a lot of traction.

How did you decide to major in political science?

I came in completely undecided and not knowing what I wanted to do. I went to the Majors Fair my freshman year and I met Dr. Knotts. It was that moment that I said I should probably consider political science which I had never imagined picking when I was in high school. The experiences that I have had in the Political Science and Spanish Departments, and the Honors College have been formative. It’s been a great opportunity to learn and grow. It’s okay to make mistakes because it is a learning environment. The support and mentorship I receive has been absolutely incredible. It’s been exciting to watch myself discover where my passions are within political science because I had no idea that this was something I was interested in until I came to college.

Every professor that I have had in the Political Science Department truly has been stellar. Everyone is willing to help and so passionate – Dr. Knotts, Dr. Creed, Dr. Wofford. I cannot say enough about this department.

Can you tell us more about your interest in becoming a lawyer?

This past March I went to a conference at Harvard University on public policy and leadership that really opened my eyes.   I am thinking about pursuing a joint master’s degree in public policy and juris doctorate with a focus on employee and labor rights. I am interested in helping undocumented immigrants who face discrimination and abuse by their employers as a result of their undocumented status. My interest in this actually goes back to Dr. Creed’s honors world politics class I took as a freshman. We read a book called The Devil’s Highway which was about Mexican immigrants crossing the border illegally and that really sparked my thinking about it. Everything that we learn in the classroom comes full circle.

What is your involvement in the Honors College?

I was a member of the inaugural Honors College Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community which was a really great experience. Though I’m not pursuing the field of entrepreneurship, I learned some great tactics like networking, being able to make an elevator pitch, and becoming a more well-rounded individual. I am a Swanson Scholar and William Aiken Fellow so I received additional mentoring and guidance through that program. I serve as an Honors Engaged Liaison for Trident Literacy Association and St. Matthews English as a Second Language which pairs CofC students in the Honors College with these organizations and they go and volunteer weekly. I currently serve as a Student Representative on the Honors Advisory Board.

What inspires you to be so active and engaged on campus?

I was involved in high school and I think it just trickled over to college.  I am so appreciative of everything that I have received from my professors at the College – all the guidance and wisdom, so if I can give back in any way that’s what drives me. There are opportunities to make tangible impacts. There are resources and networks available to college students and I think that’s so powerful and it drives me to make the student experience better. I want students to feel how I do about the College. I absolutely love it.

What advice do you have for current students?

I would say if an opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it. If you feel that you’re not qualified or maybe need more experience, just go ahead and apply. If you see someone and think “I should go introduce myself to them,” you should just go ahead and do it. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. It’s not going to be comfortable but at the end of the day you will be glad you did it. I don’t think anyone wants to have regrets about what could have been. Go see your professors, take that class that you are scared about because it’s only a couple of years. Before you know it, we will be out of here.

under: Faculty, Scholarships and Awards, Student

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