By Tyler Leigh

Wow! I can’t believe that in a few short days, I will be in Sanford Stadium, cheering on the Bulldogs for my last season as a student. It seems like just yesterday that I was visiting campus for Orientation and setting foot in Candler Hall for the first time. When I look back at all the time I have spent in Athens and the things I have had the privilege of doing, one thing stands out above the rest: SPIA Student Union.

Three years ago, I was a young and impressionable sophomore attending a Coffee with Professors event. As I was sipping my coffee and chatting with Dr. Loch Johnson about SPIA, he mentioned that he thought SPIA was missing a sense of common identity. The Political Science students and the International Affairs students didn’t fraternize, and the faculty and staff had little contact with the students outside of academic matters. Dr. Johnson thought there was a place for a student organization to provide a SPIA identity and to connect these different groups to one another.

I took this idea to a few of my other SPIA friends, and we decided to do something about the problems mentioned by Dr. Johnson. We drafted a constitution for a new student organization, and we asked the brand new Dean Stefanie Lindquist if we could discuss it with her. After a whirlwind meeting of suggestions and big ideas, we left with a sense of purpose and excitement for our adventure! Over the next year we tweaked and perfected the organization until we had something that we thought could really address the lack of SPIA identity.

In the fall of 2014, the School of Public and International Affairs Student Union was set up and ready to start work! We worked hard to attract members throughout the year in the hopes that we would be able to start building a common SPIA identity. We held a Holiday Party where students, faculty, and staff from all the SPIA departments came together to decorate cookies, take some crazy holiday pictures, and compete in a Tacky Sweater Contest. Each month, a faculty member gave a lecture on their research or interests to a small group of students. Leaders from the different SPIA student organizations, like Model UN and Mock Trial, met throughout the year to discuss issues relating to the students and how each organization fits into SPIA as a whole.

With an amazing first year down, we are looking forward to an even more outstanding second year. We have a ton of events planned, including a presidential debate viewing party and a Family Feud game night between the three SPIA departments. Students, faculty and staff alike are all getting excited about what we are doing, and a SPIA identity is beginning to form. The support we have gotten from Dean Lindquist and the exceptional faculty from all the departments has been incredible. None of this would be possible without the support of so many generous donors who help to make SPIA great. The best memories of my college career will come from SPIA and SPIA Student Union, and I’m forever grateful to my fellow students, the faculty and staff, and the donors that made this possible.