Student Senate elects Kelly Dowker as 2020-2021 president


Courtesy of GVSU Student Senate

Kellen Voss

Back when she joined the body Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate in 2018, social work major Kelly Dowker set a lofty goal for herself: she wanted to one day be elected president to lead her fellow senators.

That goal was attained on Thursday night, as on Sept. 24, Dowker was officially elected to represent GVSU’s student senate for the 2020-2021 school year.

“This has been a dream of mine – I knew that I loved this body the second that I was appointed my freshman year,” Dowker said. “I’d like to say I knew this day was coming, but I’ve always been a bit nervous.”

Former GVSU Student Senate President Rachel Jenkin knew this day was eventually coming too, as after working with Dowker during her presidency, she knew that Dowker would one day be captain the ship.

“Her tenure on Senate has allowed her to build strong relationships with the administration, but her courageous and ambitious personality will not stop her from challenging them when needed,” Jenkin said in a statement endorsing Dowker that was read in public comment. “She has seen Student Senate through several different climates and I trust she can whether whatever twists and turns this unique year will bring. All of you should not only vote for senator Dowker, but be excited for her leadership and dedication to the growth of this university, and more importantly, the growth of all of you.”

Last year was quite the year for the GVSU Student Senate, as they made headlines both locally and nationally after temporarily removing the Pledge of Allegiance from their agenda.

After making that decision and receiving a lot of criticism for it, much like a football coach leading a team through a losing streak, Dowker was one of the voices who helped weather the group through the media storm, while learning so much about leadership and her fellow senators in the process.

“We learned so much last year, and I learned when to delegate, when to ask for help and how to rely on those around me while they relied on me as well,” Dowker said. “I think we honestly all learned how to work better as a team. That’s something that this cabinet is going to need because we have so man varying opinions, but I’m really confident we can do it.”

Some of those varying opinions have already led to arguments and disagreements in student senate meetings, and as the year goes along, Dowker is hoping to improve communication within the body to better cultivate change around campus.

“Last year, there were some issues of transparency, so I want to make (improving) that a big goal this year: I want everyone to be in the loop and have the whole body be on the same page to be successful,” said Dowker.

Transparency was a large part of Dowker’s platform, and during her presidency, she hopes to hold the administration accountable in their decision-making and asks them to factor in student’s opinions, especially during a pandemic.

“I think that really depends on what the pulse surveys keep saying, and the majority of students still say they want to be in person or (have) a mix of online and in-person,” Dowker said when asked if she feels GVSU should go online. “Regardless of my personal views on it, I think we have to do what’s best for the student body… If cases spike and we start to see other universities shut down I think we really have to consider it then.”

When the presence of COVID-19 within the GVSU community eventually decreases and the university switches back to in-person classes, Dowker would like to see the university make strides within the Division of Inclusion and Equity in order to make students of all races and nationalities feel welcome at GVSU.

“This campus is overwhelmingly white and we need to educate our peers on these kinds of issues because we have to stand with our students of color, period,” said Dowker.

Grace McMahon, a Biomedical Sciences major, who was elected as Executive Vice President of Student Senate on Thursday, is confident in Dowker due to her experience.

“She always looking for opportunities to grow as an individual and become a better leader, and furthermore, her knowledge of the university and the way it functions makes her the perfect person to advocate for students through COVID-19,” McMahon said. “Senator Dowker has the skills and the passions to lead this senate, and she will be a phenomenal president.”

Once Dowker graduates from GVSU, she hopes to help people as a social worker, whether that be in fighting for new policy or fighting for struggling families. But until then, she plans to help lead this year’s group of senators, and she is eager to get started.

“I’m just super excited to accomplish everything this year and work with the cabinet,” Dowker said. “We have a fantastic cabinet, and I really can’t emphasize it enough: we’re going to have a great year.”