For the 2019-’20 academic year, Allegheny Student Government added the director of community relations position to its cabinet. Since then, the post has changed hands.
At the beginning of the fall 2019 semester, the position was held by Gabby Miller, ’20. Since then, Miller resigned from the position, which has now been filled by Owen Jacobsen, ’23.
President of ASG Jason Ferrante, ’20, and Vice President Elyse Cinquino, ’20, said the position was first thought of at the end of the last academic year, and a similar position existed years ago.
“At the end of last year we were doing basically a bunch of revisions to our constitution,” Ferrante said. “We actually had a similar position many, many years ago. It used to be super focused on service, … so at the end of last year we tried to say, ‘Hey, this is a need that we’re seeing.’”
The old position included many of Jacobsen’s current responsibilities, according to Ferrante. Additionally, Ferrante said the position was made to have a person who could specifically handle off-campus problems, compared to the Co-Directors of Student Affairs, who handle on-campus problems in a similar vein.
Cinquino said having both positions together on cabinet decreased the workload for one another.
“The workload of the Student Affairs Committee and both of the positions is a lot,” Cinquino said. “So being able to focus it on something that’s really important is nice.”
The director of community relations position serves to bring a larger community focus to ASG and encourages students to engage more with the Meadville community. ASG also wanted the position to bridge the gap that exists between Meadville residents and the students at Allegheny.
“We talk a lot about bridging that gap, and as overused as that phrase is, we kind of want to work towards actual solutions, and work within the existing systems to try and fix the divide between Allegheny and Meadville,” Ferrante said. “That’s also a part of it, the fact that Allegheny is in Meadville — we are a part of it, not really something that is set away from it.”
Ferrante added that the director of the position has creative freedom ,and that the position is very flexible, saying, “you never know how it’s going to shake out and how the community will respond.”
Miller said she originally took up the position at the beginning of the academic year because of her pre-existing connection with the Meadville community as a resident prior to enrolling at Allegheny.
“I’m connected to the Allegheny and Meadville communities in a variety of different ways, and this position seemed like a good way to utilize those connections in a way that helped highlight different resources and organizations in Meadville that are available to Allegheny students,” Miller said. “(The position also addresses) different ways that, together, both communities can foster a sense of community for both sides of the community, and I felt that I had a really good perspective on both (sides).”
Additionally, Miller said her decision to resign at the beginning of this semester was due mainly to her numerous obligations and the subsequent pressure she felt from her workload.
“I needed to take some space, because I have, like, 10,000 obligations, both in the Allegheny and Meadville (communities) combined,” Miller said. “It was a lot of pressure from everything I was involved in, so I realized I needed to consolidate, so I’m putting my efforts now towards things like establishing a youth advisory council in Meadville.”
Miller is still involved with the director of community relations position — in the Feb. 4 general assembly meeting, she was sworn in as an ex-officio on the Community Relations Committee. As an ex-officio, Miller is able to work with others as part of the committee and has more flexibility and time to focus on other commitments.
As he has now assumed the position, Jacobsen described his reason for being interested in the position as being similar to Miller’s.
“I’m someone who’s from Meadville, (but) not as long as (Miller), as I’ve only lived in Meadville for (six) years,” Jacobsen said. “I saw a general sentiment in Meadville that Allegheny is seperate from Meadville, as in it was just that place up on the hill. I think there is a gap that needs to be bridged, as we’ve said, and I thought a good way for me to do that would be to take up this position.”
Jacobsen said that he was most excited to be able to collaborate with community members and to be able to create a dialogue between Allegheny students and Meadville community members wherever possible.
“(Miller’s) initiation of the youth advisory committee is one of those great ways to start that dialogue,” Jacobsen said. “We’ve also explored the idea of having a town hall, like (the one that) has been held before, so we feel like something like that happening would be a great platform for interaction between the Allegheny and Meadville communities.”
ASG picked Jacobsen for the position since, according to Ferrante, Jacobsen is a first-year and has lived in Meadville for a shorter time, which allows him to lend a new perspective to the position. Since being sworn into the position, Jacobsen has focused on diversity in his committee to bring a multicultural perspective into the community relationship process, Jacobsen said.
“And I think that is fundamentally what (the position) is all about,” Jacobsen said.
Cinquino expressed that as a first-year, Jacobsen also has more time at Allegheny to learn and grow into his position.
“Because this position is a newer one and we haven’t had it for a while, it’s kind of nice that we have someone who can go into the position and maybe have it next year so that there is room to get the different kinks and stuff out,” Cinquino said.
As Jacobsen settles into the role, Miller said she looks forward to being able to work with Jacobsen and keep the director of community relations position sustainable for years to come.
Jacobsen added that there are a significant number of resources in Meadville that students might not be aware of.
“I feel like if we familiarize students with the Meadville community, that’s a great first step in terms of integrating Allegheny to Meadville,” Jacobsen said.