Increasing Pirate Pride | Eastern North Carolina Now | Bonnett, Yates are excited to be the voice of ECU students

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Hannah Eccleston.

Emily Yates, left, and Ryan Bonnett represent ECUís student body as vice president and president, respectively, of the Student Government Association. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

    Ryan Bonnett and Emily Yates, Student Government Association president and vice president, are working hard to make sure East Carolina University students' voices are heard.

    The pair, who have known each other since kindergarten, are excited to serve ECU's student body. As representatives of the students, Bonnett and Yates have an open-door policy and want to make themselves accessible to students.

    "Transparency, honesty and active listening are important to me," Bonnett said. "Students should feel confident that when they come to me, I am really listening to what they have to say."

    "Since we have known each other so long, we work well together," Yates said. "It can be scary talking to a stranger, but we want to be as approachable as possible."

    Bonnett and Yates ran for office on four major platform points: increasing student engagement and Pirate pride, sexual assault prevention and survivor support, student food insecurity, and accessible mental health services.

    "We have been working with campus organizations like Find Your Voice and the Purple Pantry to see what we can do to help support them and broadcast their message," Bonnett said.

    "Sometimes new initiatives can take a while to get started," Yates said. "I think seeing things past the conversation point and having them continue after our term is a good way to gauge our term's success."

    With a major goal being to increase student engagement on campus, Bonnett and Yates are getting creative. "It is still in the early stages, but I want to increase opportunities for non-traditional students and adult learners," Yates said. "It can be hard for students who may be online learners or those who feel disconnected by taking a non-traditional route. I want those students to feel just as valued and connected to campus."

    "Encouraging all different types of student organizations to participate in campus events is extremely important," Bonnett said. "For example, an idea I have is to have a 5k through campus and the Greenville community. We want to uplift that sense of Pirate pride within our community."

    As the fall semester approaches, students are excited about the return to a normal campus. While the previous SGA officers had to navigate a partially virtual year, Bonnett and Yates are tasked with bringing students into a normal year.

    "This year's seniors are really the students who had a full semester of normalcy, before everything changed," Yates said. "Revamping campus events and marketing them to students who don't have those experiences is a good way to increase participation."

    "We really want to restore campus events to their pre-pandemic capacity," Bonnett said. "The previous SGA officers did a great job starting that with events such as the tailgate lots before football games, so that is something we want to continue."

    With all they have to balance, Bonnett and Yates are also focused on their academics as they take on their senior years. Both are biology majors, Bonnett with a minor in Hispanic studies and Yates with minors in chemistry and business administration.

    Both Bonnett and Yates are from Mount Pleasant. "Being from a small town, I love the close-knit campus feel ECU has," Bonnett said.

    "The opportunities offered through the Honors College and the pride and sense of community drew me to ECU," Yates said.

    Bonnett and Yates also participate in other campus organizations. Yates is a member of the Honors College, Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and Alpha Epsilon Delta honors society. She has served as member relations and panhellenic delegate for ZTA. Bonnett is a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, where he served as social chair and secretary and served on the Interfraternity Council as vice president of community service.

    "I am in the Brody Ambassador program where I have a mentor, Ben Wise. He has helped me through so much of my undergraduate career," Yates said.

    Connections are important, especially with a large student body. "We want to be personable, and our participation through other organizations helps us do that," Bonnett said.

    Along with leading SGA and taking classes, Bonnett was sworn in as an ex officio member of the ECU Board of Trustees at the July 14 meeting. As a member of the Board of Trustees, Bonnett will represent ECU and advocate for the student body.
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