Second-year public health and political science student Courtney Tkacs wants to be a voice for student groups and bring a variety of perspectives to the position of vice president.
Tkacs is the vice president on presidential candidate Patton Byars' ticket. She is campaigning on three pillars — infrastructure, safety and student experience.
grew up in a military family, so she has lived in many different places. But she has lived in South Carolina since she was in high school, leading her to "call USC (her) home."
"I know both sides of being an out-of-state student and being an in-state student. I know what it's like being a transfer student. And I want to make sure that we are serving all students on campus," Tkacs said. "We're not just serving one demographic of students, but all demographics."
She joined freshman council, which is a part of the vice president's office, as well as the community outreach committee. Tkacs continued to get more involved in Student Government when she accepted a position as campaign manager for Cameron Eubanks, the speaker of the student senate, in January 2023. She is now his chief of staff.
"We did a lot of things (in the community outreach committee) with connecting with the greater Columbia community, which is something that I'm currently running on as well," Tkacs said.
One of Tkacs' goals is to better communicate with students the initiatives Student Government works on to improve their college experience.
Tkacs said she remembers going to a football game once, where she met a student who did not know there were chargers available at the stadium. The portable chargers were made available by Student Government in the fall.
"That exact same game, we were leaving, and a student was crying on the sidewalk and didn't know how they were going to get home," Tkacs said. "They had no idea that we had shuttle services that could take them to and from campus. And so I really wanted to increase the communication that we have with students. We have so many amazing initiatives that are put into place already."
Tkacs said she also wants to tackle issues students have with infrastructure, safety and Wi-Fi.
She wants to address many of these subjects by showing administration and stakeholders data to help convey the issues students are facing, she said.
With regard to housing, Tkacs said she wants to accumulate numbers for how many students apply for housing and find the ratio for how many are denied.
"Specifically with infrastructure, I am very, very passionate about being able to live on campus, and that kind of ties into student experience as well," Tkacs said.
In addition to being involved in Student Government, she also works in the Leadership and Service Center, where she specializes in off-campus housing. She has been receiving calls over the past few weeks from upset parents who are looking to find housing for their kids after being denied access to on-campus accommodation, she said.
"We constantly talk about our No. 1 first-year experience," Tkacs said. "And part of that is being able to live in the dorms and live on campus. You're able to access everything here on campus, very conveniently. And when you move off campus, you kind of are taken away from the student body a little bit. You lose that."
Another issue Tkacs wants to address is safety on campus. She said she speaks from experience as a woman on campus.
"I'm always peering over my shoulder to see who's coming," Tkacs said.
Tkacs said she wants to expand the blue light system to off-campus areas such as Maxcy Gregg Park and work with the greater City of Columbia to implement blue lights in other places surrounding campus.
In terms of Wi-Fi, Tkacs said she wants to disperse hotspots all around campus to help alleviate the unreliable connection students often face. She hopes to bring data showing students' struggles to administration to help convey the situation, she said.
"If we show professors the data or show administration the data that students are being kicked out of their exams, and they can't learn adequately, if they're being kicked out of their exams or kicked out of their classes," Tkacs said.
She said she also wants to work with administration to increase the activity fund to organizations "all year round." Her goal is to prevent Student Government from spending nearly all of its funds in the first semester like it has before, she said.
"We did just pass a piece of legislation that caps student organizations at $10,000 an organization," Tkacs said. "But we want to make sure that that money just doesn't run out first semester, that that moves past it. And one of those things, we've kind of gone through all the options that we can at this point, so upping the amount of money that we're able to allocate is most likely our next step."
Overall, Tkacs wants to make sure that all student groups feel like they are being represented
by their Student Government, she said.
"I will make sure that I'm fighting for every student here on campus," Tkacs said.
Voting for Student Government positions opens Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. and closes Feb. 21 at 5 p.m.