This year’s Unified Student Government Association (USGA) Vice President Thomas Serena, 21, plans on utilizing his position by assisting President Pedro Guerrero, 21, in carrying out proposals while also continuing to promote health and wellness on campus.
In line with with Guerrero’s focus on human rights, Serena, a senior neuroscience major, said he is most looking forward to USGA’s efforts to improve resources for undocumented students, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students and working on a proposal to end smoking on campus.
According to the Loyola website, the goal of USGA is to “voice the concerns of the student body, to act as an instrument for cooperation and to provide open forum for students, faculty and administration.”
“Being one of the leading Jesuit schools in the country, I think it’s our duty to speak up for people who don’t have a voice. That really goes along for the LGBTQ community and undocumented students,” Serena said. “There are so many people in the world that are suffering whether it’s from not being able to speak, not having access to human rights, or not being afforded an education; it’s our duty to make sure that they not only have a voice but that their voice is heard.”
After traveling to Ghana in August, Serena used lessons he’s learned from Loyola to serve the small village of Enkumfi Techiman through a student-led medical Global Brigade, an organization that partners with communities around the world to improve their quality of life, according to globalbrigades.org.
“It was surreal going there and being able to bring something to the people that we take for granted every day like medicine, water, public health — things that they don’t know about, things they never had,” Serena said.
Serena gained experience with health initiatives at Loyola when he worked with the Wellness Center on the Wellness Center Quality Control Board for alcohol initiatives and sexual assault awareness.
“I think they are the greatest administrators,” Serena said of those working at the Wellness Center. “I really got to see how a hospital and a wellness center works. That’s one of my initiatives that I’m very passionate about.”
Serena has also been a member of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon; the Jesuit Honors Society, Alpha Sigma Nu; the greek honors society, Order of Omega; the national honors society, Phi Beta Kappa; and the American Medical Student Association.
Serena’s involvement in USGA began when he became a senator in the organization his freshman year. He has also worked on the “Safety and Wellness” board and has been the chief of student organizations.
“Being premed, it was nice to be working with the health and safety aspect of Loyola,” Serena said.
Assisting other students in finding their niche at Loyola is another initiative that Serena plans to focus on on.
“After being the chair of safety and wellness for USGA, I was the chief of student organizations for a year, which means that I was helping all of the organizations on campus to ensure that they were functioning at their full capacity and even then you could see that there were a lot of problems at Loyola in terms of students’ abilities to express themselves, function, work together, have events and come get that college life and achieve their college dreams,” Serena said.
With a larger first year class of 500 more students, there are more opportunities for USGA to offer students the kind of college experience that they are looking for, Serena said.
“It’s really awesome because the new freshman group are amazing kids and I haven’t seen school spirit like this in a long time, so we’re really excited and we want to keep that up.”
To keep up the school spirit that the new freshman class has brought, USGA has proposed to create tailgate events where students can gather over food and games before the basketball games to help bring the Loyola community together.
“We want to make sure that USGA is very connected with the students and involved and able to assist them,” Serena said.
With a leadership retreat coming up in the next few weeks, USGA will be going over goals and a strategic plan that will create a much clearer image for what is to come in the next year, Serena said.
“As for specifics right now we’re still trying to work some of those kinks out,” he added.
After all of the experiences that Loyola has offered to Serena, he feels that what has driven him to take the position of vice president is the desire to give back to the school and its community.
“I feel that I owe the world to Loyola. I can’t imagine where I would be in my life right now if I hadn’t come here … They really make it a family for you and they make everything work. I want to give back to them.”