The Daily Gamecock

New student body treasurer brings dedicated, analytical mind to Student Government finances

Student body Treasurer Jacob Vaught has always stayed busy.

He stepped down from his executive positions in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Pi Tau Sigma honor society and the Society of Automotive Engineers to adjust to his larger role as treasurer in Student Government, where he strategizes how to best use the student activity fund.

But Vaught, who is a third-year mechanical engineering student, didn't always have a mind for politics.

His father worked as an engineer and steered him in a similar direction when he went to Midlands Technical College at 15 years old. 

Before going to Midlands Tech, Vaught was homeschooled. It still took time for him to break out of his shell when he made it to USC. 

“I'd never gotten involved, didn't say anything. I was just in classes. I didn't do anything,” Vaught said. “I was very shy.”

It wasn’t until Vaught joined the American Society of Mechanical Engineers during his freshman year that he shed his timidness after helping build the model tiger for the annual Tiger Burn.

University President Michael Amiridis, a fellow engineer, and Chief of Staff for Student Affairs Anna Edwards then inspired Vaught to get involved in university governance. Vaught said he wanted to learn about issues other students were having with the university, and the Imagine Carolina series opened him to doing so.

But it wasn't always easy to get involved for Vaught, who was rejected the first two times he applied as a senator for being flippant to Student Government.

Eventually, he "barely" won a vacant seat in the student senate, and has since invoked a more data-driven approach to Student Government finances. 

His first project was restructuring an engineering course he had taken before he heard about student organizations not getting enough resources.

"I said that Student Government didn't do anything because I didn't understand what Student Government did at the time," Vaught said. "I think a lot of students have the same opinion. It's something that we need to work on, but it's a difficult problem."

Vaught worked as chair of the 115th student senate ad hoc finance committee where he and about a dozen other senators balanced the Student Government’s future student activity budget. He also provided statistical analyses of the way Student Government was allocating funds and came up with solutions for how to prevent it from running out of money in the future. 

The committee then decided the university needed to raise the student activity fee, increasing the activity budget to $365,000 a year starting next fiscal year. It became a joke that the ad hoc committee was pursuing “Jacob’s number.

It was also in that committee, Vaught worked closely with senator and third-year political science and history student Camden Kaye.

Kaye said the ad hoc committee’s legislation was crafted over many sleepless nights and about 300 hours of work, of which Vaught contributed about half. 

“I tried to keep up with him.” Kaye said. “That's really where he and I got close, and I still consider him a great friend. He was incredible to work with.”

Mechanical engineering students aren’t common in Student Government, Kaye said, but they provide a unique asset to the way Student Government runs. 

“I think (it's) not necessarily that they're not interested in serving, but they don't generally have the time to do so,” Kaye said. “They have a head for computational methodology, and so ... I can go, ‘I know this thing needs to change because I've seen how it works.’" 

Vaught also helped supply tools and models for the 2022 and 2023 Tiger Burn. He took charge of designing the model tiger for the best event possible. It’s one of his favorite memories at USC, Vaught said. 

“Like every other person in engineering I thought (Vaught was) weird at first,” said Trotter Roberts, a third-year mechanical engineering student and President of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “But, I couldn't get rid of (Vaught), so I've grown to love him and he's probably my best friend.”


His friends, such as former American Society of Mechanical Engineers President and fourth-year mechanical engineering student Jackson Goldsmith, said Vaught still aids his engineering peers, even though he operates in a different space.

“He was really helpful in advising us on how to get Student Government funding and making sure that we understood the process and helping us work through everything in a timely manner,” Goldsmith said. “So we could utilize everything at our disposal.”

Vaught doesn’t have much free time on his plate. He and his friends will tell you he doesn’t sleep enough. He has sent emails to other senators at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.. They have confidence in his future tenure as a treasurer who won't make empty promises.

“He's not saying, 'I'm gonna provide bread and circuses for everybody,'” Kaye said. “What he's doing is what we needed. He's going to do the job better than anybody else can.”