The Daily Gamecock

Speaker of the student senate Maura Hamilton uses passion for governance, nursing to give back to community

After graduating from an all-girls high school in a class of just 42 students, Speaker of the student senate Maura Hamilton knew USC would become her new home.

Hamilton, a second-year nursing student, grew up in a small town in New Jersey called Chatham Township, where she became acquainted with local politics from her dad serving on the town council. 

"(My dad) taught me what it is to give back to those that you really care about," Hamilton said. "I witnessed firsthand that there were some times where it's not fun being the one in power, and you are going to face some difficulties, but that it all ends up being worth it in the end."

After meeting many new people during admitted students day, Hamilton said she became certain that USC was the right choice for her despite it being over 700 miles away from home.

Hamilton initially applied to USC as a political science major, but she decided that nursing was the best career path for her during the summer before her freshman year. She said she is drawn to the hands-on experience and the prospect of interacting with people daily.

But above all, she said she values the opportunity to give back to others and views nursing as a suitable avenue for her to make an impact on individuals.

Hamilton said she has always been passionate about governance and intrigued by its inner workings and the logistics behind it. She received an email on election day during her freshman year seeking a senator for the College of Nursing. Hamilton was not heavily involved on campus at the time, but she decided to step up and take on the role, she said.

"I texted my friends and I told them to vote for me, and I won. And I'm so thankful that I did it. I can't even imagine how different my life would be right now if I hadn't done it," Hamilton said. "I'd definitely be getting a little bit more sleep, but I wouldn't change it for the world."

In her inauguration speech, Hamilton said she ran for Student Government four times in high school and lost each time, so her journey serves as a testament that reaching one's goal isn't always a linear path. 

Hamilton said she saw Student Government as a vital platform used for addressing campus issues and amplifying student voices. With her experiences as an on-campus student employee, a member of Greek life and a student in the Honors College, she believed she could effectively advocate for a wide range of student concerns rather than focusing on one specific group. 

Student Body Vice President Courtney Tkacs is Hamilton's current roommate. They were assigned randomly to one another during their freshman year, and they have been together since.

Historically, the vice president's office and speaker's office haven't collaborated much, with more interaction occurring between the speakers' and presidents' branches, Tkacs said. But she and Hamilton intend to bridge this gap and ensure streamlined programming and communication across all branches, she said.

"(Hamilton) is very determined," Tkacs said. "Anything and everything she sets her mind to, she's going to get done." 

Tkacs said one of Hamilton's main goals for her new role is to bring CarolinaLIFE participation into student senate.

CarolinaLIFE is a personalized program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities that provides them with support in a variety of areas, such as academics, career training, independent living and personal development.

Hamilton said she questioned her ability at first to campaign for the position of speaker of the student senate. The idea of marketing her campaign to the student body was particularly daunting for her, she said. But as her campaign progressed, she began to feel more at ease.

"Through the campaigning and filing process, it made me realize that it's not a bad thing to be confident in who you are and your abilities," Hamilton said. "I really am very proud of all the work that I've put in, and I've spent so much time looking at the codes and looking at legislation and organizing things and working with the other execs."

First-year religion and economics student Abby Suber serves as Hamilton's press secretary, but before this, she worked on promoting Hamilton's campaign on social media. Suber said her experience with managing other Instagram accounts on campus inspired Hamilton to reach out to her. Following Hamilton's election, Suber agreed to join her team as a faculty member.

Suber said she was uncertain about what to expect, having never been involved in Student Government before. But she credited Hamilton as a strong source of encouragement and support.

"Just because I'm so new to the process, I was a little bit nervous, but (Hamilton) really reassured me that everything was going to be okay and that I was going to do a great job, which is what I was looking for in a leader," Suber said.

Suber said even though Hamilton holds a position of power, she doesn't think of herself as superior to anyone, but as an equal who is dedicated to ensuring that student senate runs smoothly and efficiently. 

"All of the senate sessions are really, really nice. I mean, they're all very well organized, very well run. At the end of every session, (Hamilton) makes sure to tell people, 'Stay if you have any questions, or if something is bothering you, please come and talk to me about it,'" Suber said. "I really couldn't imagine working for anybody else, and she does a really great job."

Hamilton makes a conscious effort to get to know everyone she works with, Suber said, and this commitment is made evident by the way people interact with her.

"When I'm sitting in her office, at least five people will come in and say, 'Hi.' And even if they're not necessarily doing so to work, they're doing so because she's just a great person to talk to," Suber said. "Everyone knows in that office you have a friend."

Hamilton said she is involved in Student Government for the same reason she is involved in nursing — she wants to give back to the community, which has given her something to be thankful for.

"I just love it here, genuinely I do," Hamilton said. "I wake up every day, and I'm so grateful that I get to go to such an amazing school and be surrounded by such amazing people."


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