Meet your new Student Government Board

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Meet your new Student Government Board

Max Kneis celebrates with his slate after being announced as Pitt's 2017-2018 SGB President. (Photo by Li Yi | Staff Photographer)

Max Kneis celebrates with his slate after being announced as Pitt's 2017-2018 SGB President. (Photo by Li Yi | Staff Photographer)

Max Kneis celebrates with his slate after being announced as Pitt's 2017-2018 SGB President. (Photo by Li Yi | Staff Photographer)

Max Kneis celebrates with his slate after being announced as Pitt's 2017-2018 SGB President. (Photo by Li Yi | Staff Photographer)

By Caroline Bourque and Janine Faust | Senior Staff Writers

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Made up of nine elected positions, 30 appointed positions and an array of committees, Student Government Board’s purpose is to advocate for the needs of the student population, according to their website. Additionally, SGB is responsible for allocating the $160 student activity fee paid by all full-time students.

The Pitt News talked with three newly elected members of the board — President Max Kneis, Vice President and Chief of Finance Maddie Guido and Executive Vice President Zuri Kent-Smith — to ask about their goals for the upcoming year.

(Photo Courtesy of Student Government Board)

Max Kneis is a Pitt senior majoring in business analytics, accounting, finance and economics who will serve as the president of the 2017-2018 Student Government Board.


The Pitt News: How are you feeling about your new position? What will you do in order to prepare for it?

Max Kneis: I’m very excited for the upcoming year and the opportunity to serve the student body. We have a great team of board members, committee chairs and committee members and I’m looking forward to seeing what all we can accomplish. Beginning in early March, I began the transition period and met with the outgoing president, Natalie Dall, repeatedly to transition different tasks and responsibilities of the presidency. Our board went on a retreat from April 30 to May 2 along with our advisor Steve Anderson where we went over their governing code, discussed our responsibilities for the year as well as our goals and plans for the upcoming year.


TPN: What do you hope to accomplish next year? What goals have you set for yourself?

Kneis: My biggest goal for next year is to improve the engagement and collaboration SGB has with the student body and student organizations. I’d like to see student organizations coming to us with ideas for how we can work together and making us aware of the advocacy issues they are working on. […] An additional goal I have is to solicit more student feedback and be more proactive with this. […] To do this, board members and I will attempt to hold more visible office hours, and do more proactive outreach to student groups to get feedback. […] Finally, one main goal is to improve SGB’s communications this year and I’m excited to see what our communications committee will be able to achieve in its first full year — we created it last November. I’d like us to share the things SGB is able to get done with the student body, as well as advertise events and solicit feedback.


TPN: Any special projects for next year? How will you see these plans through?

Kneis: Apart from supporting all the projects we have going on, I’m personally going to work to improve SGB’s role in serving as the representative of the undergraduate students to the University community. One way we do this is by having a student representative sit on each of the 11 Board of Trustee Committees. Currently there is no training for these students and they attend the three annual meetings of their respective committee with little preparation. In order to more effectively provide feedback and input, students need to understand how the Board is structured, who makes what decisions and what business will be in front of the committee. To do this we’re going to create an on boarding process for the student reps. in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary. I’ve met both with Dr. Humphrey, board secretary, and Cyndi Moore, deputy board secretary, about this and Cyndi and I will work together to create this program. We are also exploring the idea of having each student representative meet with the administrative liaison to the committee before the meeting.


TPN: How can new students get involved in SGB? Why is it important that they do?

Kneis: There’s lots of ways to get involved with SGB. Our conditional committees are open to any student to join. Each has several vice chair positions that will be filled by interested students this fall and they work on a variety of advocacy based issues that fall under them. First year students can apply for the first year council this coming fall. It’s a way for first year students to get acquainted with SGB and do work with different committees and board members. Additionally our communications committee will be filling positions like graphic designer, social media liaisons and press secretary in the fall. All the ways to get involved are described at … and students [who] want to stay connected to SGB can now sign up for text updates at

Zuri Kent-Smith, a rising junior, will serve as SGB’s Executive Vice President this year. (Photo Courtesy of Student Government Board)

Zuri Kent-Smith is an incoming junior economics major who will be serving as 2017-2018 Executive Vice President of SGB.


The Pitt News: How are you feeling about your new job?

Zuri Kent-Smith: I’m really excited to have an opportunity to affect change on campus. I’m enamored that the people voted for me, that they support me and my plans.

TPN: What are your duties as Executive VP?

Kent-Smith: I take over the duties of the president if he’s unable to come to a meeting. I’m also the speaker of the Assembly. The Assembly is a branch of SGB which consists of leaders from many of the large organizations on campus. During open forums they give input on current SGB projects, advocate for changes they’d like to see at Pitt and collaborate on projects while I moderate. I also attend University Senate meetings, which is this council of influential administrators on campus who consider and discuss education policies and other matters. In addition to that, I do normal board member stuff like working on my own initiatives.

TPN: What are your initiatives?

Kent-Smith: I definitely plan on finding ways to address the needs of students with disabilities on campus, which I talked about a lot during my campaign. I’ve spoken with a lot of disability students about their concerns and heard their ideas for making the campus more accessible for them. What I want to do is create a more direct pipeline between them and University administration. I’d also like to create a media hub for students of color, so that they can create content specific to them on campus. Other plans of mine include seeing what SGB can do with the Office of Governmental and Community Relations to help them with the community engagement centers they’ve got in the works, and creating a career aptitude test for students so that they can better figure out what they want to do after college.

TPN: Why are these initiatives important to you?

Kent-Smith: I’m all about giving voices to those who aren’t being heard. […] During my campaign, one student reached out to me about a problem she was having in her classes. She’s in a wheelchair, and her notes are always messy because she has to write them in her lap since there are no desks she can use. People like her deserve to have attention given to their problems, and I want to find ways to make sure they have a good experience here at Pitt. Finding ways for students to engage more with their community and feel more confident about their futures are also ways I think they can better enjoy their time in college.

TPN: How can new students get involved in SGB?

Kent-Smith: Well, during SGB’s first meeting we’ll be having a public session where students can bring their concerns and ideas and the like to us, and we’ll listen. Everyone on the Board is extremely open to engaging more with Pitt students. I mean, our peers are the reason we got elected. We owe it to them to continue open communication. They’re free to email us too. And we’re all willing to take on anybody who wants to help out with the committees and the initiatives we’re working on.

Maddie Guido, a rising junior, will serve as Vice President and Chief of Finance on SGB this year. (Photo Courtesy of Student Government Board)

Maddie Guido is an incoming senior studying finance and accounting who will be serving as the 2017-2018 Vice President and Chief of Finance.


The Pitt News: How are you feeling about your new position? What will you do in order to prepare for it?

Maddie Guido: It’s pretty nerve-wracking. I know that there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the position, but I did make sure last year that I attended all the public meetings I had to for my job, and I was really in close contact with the Board members, and I think that I’ve picked up enough to hopefully begin confidently. […] Another thing I want to do is keep talking to students. I know that, obviously, coming from a background of SGB, I’m not going to have the same critiques of the University, the same ideas moving forward, so I think the best thing we can do is keep an ear out for people outside of SGB.

TPN: What exactly does your job entail?

Guido: As a board member, on the day-to-day end, we hold office hours, that’s mostly just to work on your initiatives. The initiatives are ideas that we’ve come up with or we’ve developed with different students or student organizations. […] We update people, we hear feedback. That’s one of the different things for this year, having town hall meetings at least once a month so that we can hear from different students. […] If there’s something that they want advocated for, it’s kind of our job to step in and be an ally, be an advocate to help them see that change or at least give answers for their questions.

TPN: What do you hope to accomplish as VP?

Guido: I personally worked with Student Health a good amount last year, and I definitely want to keep an open conversation with them. […] My other big initiative is obviously Allocations. Every year people have complaints, […] and having had that experience I know what’s feasible and what isn’t. I think that one of the bigger things we can do is fix the little things — you know, putting some of the forms online that people have to fill out or putting little videos online so that people can actually see how to do things — things that put ourselves in the shoes of people who have to apply for allocations.

TPN: How can new students get involved in SGB? Why is it important that they do?

Guido: For freshmen particularly, I’m always team Allocations. There are always two spots open for freshmen for Allocations in the fall. There’s also always a First-Year Council, that’s a committee with SGB just made up of freshmen, and a lot of what they do is get to see all the different initiatives that the Board members are doing, maybe help and intern those. They also get to go shadow and become parts of the different committees that they’d like to be a part of. You can also join any of the committees that aren’t standing committees, like Academic Affairs, Community and Governmental Relations and Wellness. It’s really good to be a part of them, or even just to go to public meetings. They’re Tuesdays 8:45 at Nordy’s Place. I think people should get involved because you don’t realize how much of an impact you can have in student government until you start to look and see what they’re doing.

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