January 25th marked the 100th anniversary of the first Student Government Association President. We reached out to Scott Whiteley Carter, Missouri State alumnus and former member of the Student Government Association, to share his experiences at Missouri State.
Tell us about yourself. I graduated from Missouri State in 1991 with a BS in Administrative Management. I was in the first class of the Honors College. On campus I was involved in Student Government Association (SGA), University Ambassadors, and the Student Alumni Association. I was also a SOAR leader for two summers and later worked in Tent Theatre.
Since 1998, I have worked for the City of Little Rock. I am currently Public Affairs and Creative Economy Advisor which combines my interests in governance and in the arts. I am still involved in Missouri State as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as a donor to various funds. I like to make it back to campus for sporting events or catch the Bears when they play in the Little Rock area.
How were you involved in the SGA when you were in campus? I was a Senator for three years and served as Senate Parliamentarian beginning my first semester of my freshman year. I also served as Election Commissioner one year and was the first person to hold the title of Chief of Staff of SGA. Then my senior year, I was Student Body Vice President. I also served on a variety of campus committees thanks to SGA. After graduating, I took some grad school classes, and chaired the Wyrick Student Project Fund Commission one year. In addition, my Senior Honors Project was a historical and organizational analysis of SGA.
What lessons did you learn from your time with the SGA? One of the things I learned was that I do not have a poker face. I betray my emotions in my face. So I had to work to keep things in check. But on a more serious note, I honed my listening and collaboration skills. I learned about compromise and making sure that the perfect did not stand in the way of the good. It broadened my experiences because I was interacting with a lot of people from all walks of campus life. I made some of my best friends from college due to SGA. Sometimes as I am at a Little Rock City Council meeting, something may be said or done which takes me back to my SGA days. I still seem to spend my Tuesday evenings in deliberative meetings.
The SGA is celebrating 100 years on the Missouri State campus. Why is this important for Missouri State to recognize? First, 100 years is a milestone. As a historian, I am always looking for milestones to mark. But more importantly, it is a testament to 100 years of students having a say in their campus. SGA is a formal channel for the voice of the students to be heard. In that century, just as campus life has changed, the manner in which SGA has carried out its functions has changed. Sometimes it has been more active than others. But it has always worked to collect student input and make sure the students had a say in their campus.
Share some of the stories you’ve heard about the SGA and it’s history. Gosh, so many things come to mind. I’d have loved to have witnessed the year that there were four Student Body Presidents. One graduated early, another did not return to campus, the third did not want the job. So the fourth, who was elected in January 1929 and was the first female Student Body President was selected.
Some things do not change – only the names of those involved are different. Parking is always an issue (and has been since there were not enough hitching posts on campus for horses). Every few years there seems to be controversies with campus elections–and this has been going on since the 1920s. Over the years, I’ve also talked to some other Student Body Presidents and Vice Presidents. It has been fun to swap stories about issues and items of import at the time they were in office.
I have been impressed how SGA has taken such a positive lead on so many social and justice issues over the past decade. When I was in SGA, we were not expected to do that, and no one even thought about it. In retrospect I think of lost opportunities we had.
What is your favorite tradition at Missouri State and why? There were not a whole lot of traditions at Missouri State when I was a student there. We were growing so fast that no one really had thought about how best to use or update traditions to unite the student body. It pleases me that the Alma Mater and Fight Songs are now taught and sung frequently. When I was a student, I knew the words—because I was a campus history geek. But the Alma Mater was almost never sung (most years only at graduation) and no one sang along to the Fight Song. That is a tradition that unites us across the decades. I will say an informal tradition that I see continue is the outstanding faculty who truly care about students. It thrills me to see students achieve so many great things in a variety of fields.