Posted:December 21, 2018
When Student Senate President Zach Christensen talks about his leadership goals, he recalls the previous administration’s successful revival of the Idaho Nachos. The dish, consisting mainly of potatoes and cheese, was a lunch staple at Century College.
When it was taken off the menu, many students were upset. Student Senate, in response, worked to bring the popular appetizer back.
“It may not seem like much,” said Christensen, “but a lot of people really liked them.”
Christensen brings this up to exemplify the senate’s fundamental duty to be an advocate for students. But Christensen aspires to have an influence beyond the cafeteria. He wants to expand the role the senate plays in student life. This starts with talking to people on campus, understanding the issues that are important to them, and doing what they can to help.
“The senate’s job is to make sure everyone is heard,” said Christensen. “We’re the voice of the student body.”
From Hardship to Leadership
Christensen is currently taking general education courses, hoping to eventually earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering. As a good student who is active in extracurricular activities, it appears he is bound for success. But the future did not always look so bright.
When Christensen was in high school, his mom lost her job, and soon after, his family lost their home. For some time, he was homeless, moving around between shelters and churches.
The experience, rather than holding him back, inspired him to give back.
A big part of Christensen’s agenda as President is to help ensure safety and security for students. To accomplish this, Christensen hopes to work with the Century College Foundation to create new scholarships, and wants to help students attain essential resources and housing. He is also working to help establish Open Educational Resources, a program designed to provide students with free or discounted learning resources – namely, books.
These are ambitious goals for the Student Senate, but they are goals Christensen believes are worth reaching for.
“The senate has done some great things in the past,” said Christensen. “I want to make sure we start doing a lot more.”
A Fateful Meeting
While Christensen’s rise to President of the Student Senate was hard-earned, he did benefit from a little luck.
Christensen was very active in high school – he played three sports, was involved with the Boy Scouts, and was a year-round student. But when he arrived at Century College, he began to focus solely on work and school. It wasn’t long before he got bored.
“It was just ‘work, school, work, school,’” said Christensen. “I didn’t mind the cycle, but I wanted more.”
Christensen found his opportunity for more when he met Ruth Mejia during his first semester, who was then President of the Student Senate. Through her encouragement, he decided to join.
A week before the elections for the executive board, he came to a meeting with the required signatures to run for President. With no one else running, he was the de facto winner; but to make sure he had what it took to fulfill the role, Christensen was named Vice President, with no President being selected.
The next year, with three months of experience under his belt, Christensen ran for President again. This time, there was no trial period. Christensen became President of the Student Senate for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Taking the Initiative
The position essentially fell in Christensen’s lap. But he’s not taking it for granted. Christensen, who didn’t know Century College had a Student Senate when he first arrived, is attempting to create more events to raise awareness of the senate and extend its impact.
Though his focus has been on making students’ voices heard, he’s rallying members of the Student Senate to make their voices heard too.
“I want them to think of ideas of what they want to do and what they think we could better,” said Christensen. “I don’t want to be the one that has the say in everything. I want us to think together and work collaboratively. No voice is higher than the others. This is the senate – we all have the same voice.”
With a larger executive board and new senators, Christensen knows the Student Senate has the potential to make a profound difference this year and next year, as he plans to remain at Century College through 2020. During this time, it’s safe to assume he’ll remain a staunch advocate for students – whether he’s fighting for cafeteria entrees or affordable academic resources.
“I want to leave Century College better than the way I found it, and naturally, I want people who come here to leave better at the same time,” said Christensen.