History Major Succeeds Through Campus Service
You might think Justin Amann is looking to build a career in politics. After all, he is 20 years old and just entering his junior year this fall, yet the history major already has a stint as chair of the academic affairs committee of the Student Senate behind him, as well as seats on numerous other committees (academic affairs committee to the council of trustees, president’s steering committee, “ESU Reads” among others). This semester is also the beginning of his tenure as student senate president, with an executive board of ten reporting to him. In the hard-as-nails political world, you might consider all that to be a resume built for a future statesman. But you would be wrong.
“When I graduate, I hope to get a job teaching social studies to seventh to twelfth graders,” says Amann. “I have a passion for teaching and working with younger students. I would love to one day be principal of a school. And I would like to continue serving ESU in whatever capacity it needs. I love this University. And I value the experiences I continue to receive.”
Indeed, far from the sometimes forced behavior found in climbers of political ladders, Justin Amann finds his niche in giving back, especially to those people who have given much to him.
What Amann does he does simply because he cares. He cares about education. He obviously cares about ESU. And he cares, very much, about ESU’s students.
“My most important duty here,” says Amann, “is to be a servant to the students of ESU. And that duty means being an active participant in conversations that affect students. As their lead advocate I feel it is my responsibility to make sure the student voice is heard at every boardroom table.” No one can be everywhere at once, of course, and his ten executive board members help keep Amann up to speed by acting as surrogate student voices when he is elsewhere.
Amann does do his own share of connecting with students though. He enjoys speaking directly with them, whether by chance encounter or at university events, to hear their thoughts – about ESU and about the senate – especially on how to make them work better. He also attended several orientation sections this semester, particularly important for a newly minted president. “I set high expectations for the public relations committee of the student senate,” says Amann. “We need to reach out to students. We need to include specific target goals for voting results, and we must be transparent with the information we receive.”
Amann has also kept his employment as desk receptionist – one position in performing arts and one in a residence hall – simply because “they are phenomenal outlets” to hear students’ different perspectives. And if that were not enough, President Amann employs electronic means to connect with his constituency; that is, social media. “I have received many comments and/or concerns on my personal accounts,” he says, “as well as on our [student senate] official accounts.
Other than having a certain number of credits, the post of president has no real prerequisites; it, and the vice presidency, are positions elected by the students. Fortunately, Amann, with input from his vice president, Kwaku Adjei-Bohyen, has appointed a board who also care and who, at least as far as the bottom line goes, believe as he does. “We share the same philosophy,” says Amann, speaking of his fellow senators, “and that is that our job is to advocate in the best interests of the students. I think that is the real vision of the student senate.”
The senate is also a very diverse group. “We have Muslim, African American, Caucasian, males, females,” Amann says. “And it was not done purposely. It just worked out that way. They were simply the best leaders. They’re great advocates. I know we won’t always agree. But that’s good too. As long as they disagree with me because they feel their argument is in the best interests of the students, then I chose the right people.”
As senate president, Amann hopes to strengthen ESU’s student. He personally challenges himself to promote the rights and needs of students and believes that it is his responsibility to be vocal in those efforts. “I want strong communication among faculty, staff and administration,” Amann says. “It is so important to collaborate on all university concerns.”
When Amann talks about his hoped-for accomplishments, seeing that students receive an “innovative and engaging education, delivered effectively” is one of his more adamant driving points. Amann wants to be sure ESU is offering its students the most contemporary education possible. He defines “contemporary education” as a curriculum whose courses are valid now, in the time they’re being taught. “For example, PC’s and Its Uses is a general education course available,” he explains. “That course was probably one of the best 10-15 years ago. But does every student need to take it now? These are the conversations we need to have.”
In fairness, this talk about a given course’s relevancy is part of a larger concern about the amount of general education credits required. Amann would rather have students put more of those credits into courses related to their majors. It’s a concern that goes hand-in-hand with a hard look at curriculum. And though it might make for some tough meetings ahead, Amann believes they are necessary. What he doesn’t want to see is for the university to offer the same courses and/or the same Gen Ed credit requirement simply because it is what has always been done.
Whatever the outcome, if the answer is that molds must be broken, Amann feels they should break. “How it was done last year is not a defining question for me,” he says. “I challenge myself to ask tough questions, and I challenge the student senate and the college community, too.” In pushing for his views on credits and curriculum Amann isn’t looking to be a bad guy. He just wants what everyone wants: for ESU’s students to be properly served.