Meet the New Student Government Association President

Hilary Bentman, Assistant Director of Communications
Arianna McRae standing on campus

Arianna McRae ’21 is committed to ensuring every student on campus has a voice. It’s what drove her to run for president of Widener’s Student Government Association, a position she takes on this year under highly unusual and challenging circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly limited the number of students living and taking classes on campus, and the allied health major and her fellow SGA representatives will be focused on finding innovative ways to keep the community connected.

McRae, who is of West Indian heritage, is also making history as the first Black woman to serve as SGA president. Her tenure comes at a time when calls for action to address systemic racism, inequities, and injustice are front and center around the world. And closer to home, the Widener community is holding conversations and committing long term to enact positive change on campus and beyond.

McRae is a busy person. In addition to serving as SGA president, the aspiring physician assistant is a Pride Mentor, resident assistant, and Presidential Service Corps Bonner.

We recently caught up with McRae as she was preparing for the start of the academic year, to learn more about her Widener experience, her presidency, COVID-19, and her hopes for the year.

Why did you choose Widener? 
Widener was the only school I visited that made me feel like home, and I knew that if I came here, I would achieve more than just a degree. I would achieve lifelong friendships, connections, and leadership skills that I never would have dreamed of. 

Why did you run for SGA president? 
I wanted to be the voice of Widener’s student body. It is very important to me that all students' voices are heard, and new initiatives are sought. 

What is your platform/goal as SGA president? What is the most important issue you’re tackling?
My goal as SGA president is to ensure all students have a voice and have the best experience they can have here at Widener. The most important issue I am tackling as president is systemic racism. I want to try my best to educate those who are willing to learn about what minorities are dealing with daily, and create a plan on how to help stop the cycle.

What role is SGA playing in ongoing campus dialogue and efforts to address issues around systemic racism? What is planned for this year? 
SGA is committed to keeping the conversation going. We plan on holding town hall meetings with a diverse group of staff and faculty to help in the facilitating of effective and educational conversations. We want to be able to have the hard conversations.

You are the first Black woman to serve as SGA president. What does that distinction mean to you personally, and to the university, especially at this critical moment? 
Being the first West Indian Black woman to become SGA president means a lot to me. My hope is that I won’t be the only Black woman from here on out. This is a chance for the university and its students to change the status quo. As SGA president, I hope to bring awareness to what is happening around us in the most educational way possible.

This is going to be a highly unusual semester with so many students taking classes online and not living on campus. How does SGA and you, as its president, respond to that, and keep students engaged and connected to the community in this COVID world? 
As an organization, we plan on keeping students engaged by holding town hall meetings on what topics students want to hear. We also want to hear students’ frustrations. We don’t want our structure to be like how it was in years past. We’re going to make it more engaging than usual. We will also continually update our social media to have students more connected with us.

Sisters Arianna and Arielle McRae touch the noses of the Pride statues
Arianna McRae (right) is joined at Widener this year by her sister, Arielle (left), a member of Class of 2024. During Convocation, the sisters touch the noses of the Pride statues, per Widener tradition.

Are there any other plans that SGA is working on that you can tell us about? 
SGA is planning different discussion-based programs on various issues happening on and off campus, in the state, in this country, and the world. We plan on bringing awareness to a lot of current events. We also plan on listening to what the students have to say, and what they would like to change, and actually commit to it.

What advice do you have for Widener students, especially as they navigate this unusual semester? 
My advice to all Widener students is to make the best out of the situation and use your resources. Stay connected, join in virtual activities, and take care of yourself. Although this is not what you thought your college experience was going to be like, know that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

You are a PSC Bonner and committed to giving back to the community. Why is civic engagement so important to you? 
You cannot begin to help yourself without helping those around you. I always believe in stretching out your hand to help others. It’s the best way for you to give back. It also is an important skill I believe everyone should have. The more we help each other, the happier we will all be. 

What are some highlight experiences you’ve had at Widener related to your major?  
I have had many opportunities to shadow different medical personnel including a physician assistant. With this experience it helped me navigate and solidify what specialty and medical personnel I want to become.

Is there a particular professor or staff member who has influenced your time at Widener and your career path? 
I have had many professors and staff members that have aided in my successes here at Widener. I feel as though I cannot choose a specific professor and staff member, so I will list all those who have influenced my career path: Dr. Jawanza Bundy, Dr. Cathleen Evans, Professor Mary Marquis, Dean Gretchen Mielke, Kortne Smith, Justin Johnson, Dean Catherine Feminella, and Chief Diversity Officer Micki Davis. Every single name that was listed has pushed me to realize that I can do anything I put my mind to, and to think outside the box when it comes to my career choice.

Can you share with us your favorite Widener-related moment? 
My favorite Widener-related moment was freshman Convocation. I believe that day truly struck my excitement for my new chapter in life. To this day, I believe that was the day that I promised myself to go above and beyond, both with my education and leadership skills.

What do you do for fun?  
I love to paint and draw. I also love to plan events from head to toe. I also love to read a nice book when I’m able to.

Give us 3 fun facts about yourself. 
I ski, I have a pet fish, and I’m the oldest of three daughters.

What are your post-Widener plans? 
Grad school to be a physician assistant preferably working in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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