By: Nick Santangelo
For the first time in Temple University's 135-year history, Temple Student Government's (TSG) executive leadership team is entirely female! And as if that wasn't impressive enough, two of the three women elected to lead TSG in 2019-2020 are also College of Liberal Arts (CLA) students.
CLA's Francesca Capozzi was elected president and Kaya Jones vice president of external affairs. Rounding out the leadership team is Laryssa Banks, who was elected vice president of services. Capozzi is a junior and an English and political science major while Jones is a senior and a journalism and political science major.
Now a month into office, Capozzi and Jones say they always knew an all-female team could win a TSG campaign, but doing so was validating and empowering for women across campus.
"Typically, within society, women aren't always in that leadership role, but we defied the odds and showed that you can do it," says Capozzi. "A bunch of women can lead this campus. And anyone can lead this campus, but just knowing that we were able to put forth that vision—that no matter how you identify, you can be a leader—has been something that I've found to be very special in my own life."
For her part, Jones remembers feeling butterflies and jitters the first time the team talked about running. She remembers them because she still gets them now. But, Jones felt it was important to persist and show students what was possible.
"I was proud that we carried it through because there were times where, during debate prep, we were so nervous and just unsure of ourselves, but we just stuck it out and kept going," recalls Jones. "And I just think that shows a lot of courage, and shows other women that they could do it."
Capozzi, Jones and Banks' victory paved the way for other women to follow in their footsteps. The trio overcame what Jones calls some controversy and backlash over being an all-female ticket. Capozzi credits the entire campaign team (also entirely female) with helping them persevere and get elected. Jones agrees, crediting the team with preparing the leaders for debates and other campaign events.
Women aren't always in that leadership role, but we defied the odds and showed that you can do it
All that preparation was most welcome because both Capozzi and Jones were extremely busy while keeping up with spring classes and fitting in time for campaigning. Jones adds that the positive feedback they received helped them overcome any difficulties and pushback from students who didn't understand their vision. The team also repeatedly felt its spirits lifted when various young women would tell them how inspiring they were.
Now that, along with Laryssa Banks and the rest of their team, they're in office, the team has some big plans.
"Some feedback that we've gotten from students from previous years is they feel like student government is a faceless organization and doesn't really engage that much," says Jones. "So, something we're doing this year is being way more involved with other student organizations, doing more collaborations on events and just popping up at people's organizational meetings."
Capozzi adds that two of the biggest issues the team is taking up while in office are sexual assault and campus hunger.
"We just had a sexual assault prevention week, which is a huge topic," says the TSG president. "A huge issue not only on our campus but across the country on college campuses. It's shining a light on the preventative ways of sexual assault, and also supporting survivors in the correct ways. That's a big issue that we're addressing through our administration, as well as campus hunger awareness. We have a whole week dedicated to that as well because that's such a big issue not only on our campus but across the country."
Both Capozzi and Jones have big plans for themselves as well. Jones has already taken her LSAT and plans to attend law school and become a practicing attorney. She even muses about potentially running for judgeship one day. Capozzi is also making grad school plans. She'll be applying to CLA's 4+1 program and hopes to pursue a master's in public policy degree.
"I think being president helps prepare me for that," says Capozzi. "Just getting you in that mindset of how to talk to other people, how to go about dealing with different issues. And a big thing is just different ways to connect with the people surrounding you and how to better serve your community, something that's bigger than you."