By Harper Spires – Contributing Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the next few weeks, The Blue Banner will be interviewing the members of UNC Asheville’s Student Government Association.
First up this week is Leigh Whittaker, the 2013-2014 President of SGA. Whittaker, originally from Raleigh, is a junior political science and environmental management and policy student.
What is your number one political issue? In my position as a student representative, advocating for students is my number one priority on a local, state, and federal level. This includes, but is not limited to, the cost of education, student safety, and protecting the right of students to vote.
Why are you interested in politics, and more specifically, SGA? SGA triggered my discovery of political science, and in turn, my passion for it. I always find it interesting how politics is intertwined in almost every subject I have studied at UNCA. As frustrating as it can seem at times, I love the challenge of attaining justice, whether it is sociological, economical or environmental. SGA and the Association of Student Government kick started my confidence in the power of a group of passionate individuals.
What is your favorite thing about UNCA? Some of my favorite places on campus are the student gardens, especially on the Rhodes property. One of my professors has said “Growing your own food is one of the best ways to stick it to the Man,” and I fully agree with that. I think that gardening is revolutionizing right in front of our eyes. There are so many initiatives teaching kids about food, whether it’s agriculture or how to use nutrition to combat terminal and chronic illnesses. I believe our student gardens are some of the most powerful symbols that our campus holds.
Where else are you involved on campus? I have held a student representative position on the Cultural Events committee, and have been involved with Active Students for a Healthy Environment since my freshman year. Since last semester, I have been getting more involved with Students for a Democratic Society. They are doing really great things with food justice in Asheville, specifically running a program called Food Not Bombs. I really admire their work with the local community and hope to get more involved this semester.
What is your ultimate career goal? I am not sure of my desired career quite yet, but right now I am most passionate about the role of environmental health in relation to public health. I was first inspired while researching the Environmental Justice Movement in my class, State of Black Asheville. My research specifically involved relating environmental data to minority health data. My main desire is to create environmental equality, thus hopefully improving equality among the public health sector on a global scale.
Finally, give us an interesting fact about yourself! I used to be really shy. I hated humans. I think people find that interesting because I talk everyone’s ear off now. But in reality, I’ve only been crazy extroverted for about six years. Being hella introverted was fun but I think I had too many thoughts in my head, and I just had to get them out. Now I can’t shut up.