By Cole Garner
Editor in Chief
Garrett Van Smith did not go to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor planning to be student-body president. To him, being a student is the most important part of his time at UMHB. After searching all over Texas and visiting over half a dozen universities, he found it easy to decide on UMHB, even as a Belton native.
Student Body President Smith could not be more proud of being a student of UMHB. The Christian experience, the small class sizes, and the scholarships offered made it an easy decision to attend the university.
Smith comes from a single-parent household. Without UMHB offering scholarships, it probably would nof have been a viable option for him.
“I chose UMHB because they made it affordable to me,” Smith said. “I had to do the work to get those scholarships. I had to do the leadership things that presented the opportunities. If they hadn’t [made it affordable], I wouldn’t be here.”
As an RA for Lord Hall, he gets to know a lot of different people. These freshmen inspired Smith to run for student body president. He recalls one instance in particular.
“I was a sophomore when I ran [for student body president], but I had a really powerful moment with a nursing student in my sophomore year as an RA,” Smith said. “She came into the lobby, and I was in there helping residents. I don’t know what transpired that day in early September, but she really opened up to me.
“We started talking about her dreams and how she had been coming from out of state. She got emotional talking about UMHB and what it meant to her and her family,” Smith said. “It took me back, emotionally. You usually get that from alumni, but to hear it from a freshman who had been here for three or four weeks. I said to myself, ‘if a freshman could feel that positively about UMHB and have so much passion, I ought to give it a try one of these days to run for student-body president.’”
During the interview, Smith was happy to have a “field trip” and walk around campus as we talked. The Walton Chapel bell rang out the UMHB Alma Mater, and people would call out at us while we walked around the campus. On one particular instance, a driver rolled down his window to call out to Smith.
“Wassup, baby!” The driver called out. Smith yelled a greeting to him and chuckled as the driver moved on.
“It’s all the time,” Smith said with a smile.
Student relations has been a key point of Smith’s administration. He started a new SGA monthly event called Coffee and Crusaders. It happens on the fourth Tuesday every month from four to five o’clock. Students come and give feedback on what they are enjoying and disliking about university life, while they also give suggestions to the SGA about what they can do better.
Smith spoke passionately about this event.
“I have tried very hard to implement monthly coffee and crusader events to talk about family, faith, future plans so that students don’t see us behind a board room,” Smith said. “I am very, very proud of Coffee and Crusaders. We are being transparent and we are putting out to the world what we have been doing.”
The SGA has implemented new strategies for social media, while also working to make the student government association more accessible for UMHB students.
“Our social media has been completely transformed,” Smith said. “The SGA is transparent, we give meeting recaps after each meeting, we have senator spotlights to introduce our senators that come from a diverse range of places in the State of Texas and even the world. We have 45% diversity in SGA, we have added a diversity representative with our updated constitution, which was voted unanimously to approve, and we made our constitution cleaner and easier to read.”
The transition into a new administration has begun. Smith and the student-body president-elect, sophomore Emma Wayt, have been working together to make the change as smooth as possible.
“[The next administration] has to follow their agenda and their calendar,” Smith said. “The calendar is their best friend… [Wayt] should start working over the summer with the SGA sponsor Dr. Skaggs… 95% of anything you do is accomplished by having a plan. The other 5% is executing the plan,” he advised.
Smith has similar advice for freshmen.
“The responsibility it takes to have the schedule, syllabus and financial implications are big deals,” Smith said. “As we move past COVID-19, they need to attend class in person. [Freshman] need to be involved in one or two things. Use that first semester to be a student.”
Many freshmen want to be leaders in the future. Smith says that this is extremely valuable in freshmen, but first, they must be students.
“You can’t be a leader if you haven’t walked the campus life,” Smith said. “In an interview, people will ask what you are involved in. If you are overly involved, then it will be wondered if [the position] is the best thing for you.”
Smith stopped the campus walk to look down King’s Street.
“My grandfather put his arm around me in 2016 right in front of Bawcom Student Union and told me ‘If I could go to any University, I would want to go to UMHB.’ That was a powerful moment for me,” Smith aid.
“In the weeks of this incredible chapter of my life, I am emotional in a positive way about how proud I am of this school.”