Serving Fellow Students

ASA leaders Paige Schwitters and Thomas Elness

The Augustana Student Association (ASA) is the University’s student government system, dedicated to ensuring that all students feel heard and have a positive experience on campus.

Meet ASA President Paige Schwitters and Vice President Thomas Elness.

Q. Tell us the basics: ages, hometowns, class years, majors, etc.
I’m 22 years old. I’m a senior from Clara City, Minnesota, majoring in communication studies and business administration with an emphasis in marketing.

Thomas: I’m a 21-year-old senior from Windom, Minnesota. My major is communication studies and business administration.

Q. Could you each describe your career goal/dream job?
To be honest, I cannot say there is one particular job that sticks out to me. I have a passion for people and communication and hope to make a difference wherever I go. Any job allowing me to use my skills and abilities while challenging me intellectually is extremely attractive.

Thomas: Augustana has given me a passion to improve the lives of people around me.  It’s impossible to know who my employer will be or the title I will have, but I know my best work is done when I am deeply invested in what I am doing. I have a passion for ending hunger, promoting education, and ensuring all people have a chance to thrive. South Dakota’s United States Senator George McGovern once said, “The longer the title, the less important the job.” I do not want to lean on my title, but rather the problems that I am working to solve.

Q. When did you become involved with student government at Augustana?
Prior to serving this past year, I had not been involved with our student government in a leadership position. When I realized that I could make tangible and meaningful differences in the lives of Augustana students, I jumped at the opportunity. I want all students to reflect on their time here and say, “Those were the best four years of my life.”

Thomas: Choosing to get involved with student government was a result of seeing the incredible things student leaders before me were able to do through ASA. After a brief conversation with Paige, we both knew we were ready to accept the challenge and work hard for Augustana students.

Q. What inspired you to become involved with student government at AU?
I was talking with Thomas in the Huddle and we realized that we could make positive changes on campus and better the student experience. Overall, it was a great opportunity to make a huge difference for all students, and I jumped at the opportunity.

Thomas: I bleed Augie blue and gold. I believe in this place, the people, and the community.  Augustana University has given me countless opportunities and I saw this role as a way of giving back to the place that has given me so much.

Q. How does ASA serve the student body?
ASA serves the student body in a variety of ways. First, we handle all aspects of the student experience on campus. We fund curricular activities, such as UBG and Viking Days, and we also fund student groups and support them in any way possible. Additionally we bring student concerns to the administration and serve as a student voice to current issues. Our primary responsibility is to ensure that all students feel heard and are having a positive experience at Augustana.

Q. Tell us about your ASA roles, respectively. What are your chief responsibilities?
My main responsibility is to ensure that ASA is addressing important issues on campus and then communicating these issues to both the Senate and the student body. At the beginning of the year, I am responsible for setting goals and objectives and approving our budget. I also manage our executive team and the committee chairs to explore other initiatives that ASA can be involved in. It is a lot of management, communication, and of course email!

Thomas: The Vice President of ASA presides over all official meetings of the Senate.  Additionally, the Vice President is responsible for developing and maintaining visible relationships with other Augustana University student organizations and, when appropriate, the student governments of other colleges and universities.

Q. What do you want to accomplish during your terms?
Thomas and I created eight goals for our campaign that ranged from more dining options to more lighting on campus to the exploration of a tobacco-free campus. My biggest goal for the term is to bridge the gap between students and our student government. Communication is vital to ASA in both informing students of current issues and also soliciting feedback. At the end of our term, I want every student to feel informed of what is happening on campus and encouraged to contribute to the conversation.

Thomas: We worked to develop SKOL, a student organization designed to build community, celebrate traditions, and further school spirit and pride. This student-led organization promotes active participation at University events, including, but not limited to, athletics and arts. The group is dedicated to bringing students together as a unified force to support peers and enrich the college experience for all Augustana students.

Q. Tell us about the experience/skills/knowledge you’ve earned through your time as ASA President & Vice President.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned has been about the importance of leadership. Being a respected leader is not just about the big decisions that are made, but also knowing that every single conversation and encounter matters. I’ve learned about responsibility and character in ways I never thought I would. Overall, ASA has taught me a lot about myself and challenged me to grow in both my professional and personal life.

Thomas: My time as ASA Vice President has taught me that respect is earned, not given. Minnesota United States Senator Paul Wellstone once said, “Successful organizing is based on the recognition that people get organized because they, too, have a vision.”  I have learned this is absolutely true.

Q. How do you think these experiences/skills will translate into your careers/professional lives?
I can say with 100 percent certainty that my time with ASA has given me first-hand experience that will allow me to be a better professional and citizen. I can take everything that I’ve learned and encountered in ASA and use these experiences throughout my life.

Thomas: No matter where I end up in a career, I know that my time with ASA leadership will be extraordinarily helpful.  I have learned the basics like time management, understanding of human resources, and use of resources. More importantly, I have learned how to work with a community of people to make progress.

Q. Most memorable experience as a member of ASA, and why?
The most memorable part of my experience on ASA is realizing how much I’ve learned. Having a leadership position on campus has allowed me to learn about management, professionalism, and respect. However, my favorite part has been learning more about Augustana and becoming fully immersed in the culture.

Thomas: I love seeing future leaders catch the bug and want to make a difference. Seeing someone latch onto a leadership opportunity is rewarding.