Holly Gaskill | News Co-Editor
As the elected student body president (SBP) and vice president (SBVP) respectively for 2019-2020, juniors Anders Soderquist and Tali Valentine hope to listen to and voice the needs of Taylor University.
Before running together, the two did not know each other well. However, as Soderquist sought a SBVP candidate, Valentine was continually recommended by mentors. Meanwhile, Valentine desired to run but was praying to see if God would present the opportunity in her life.
When they came together, Soderquist and Valentine found they had similar convictions, as well as strengths and weaknesses that balanced well with each other.
Soderquist, a psychology major, often hones in on listening, while Valentine, a creative writing major, is able to give people a voice through her communication skills. Additionally, their different involvements across campus and abroad have prepared them for leadership.
"I know Anders a little bit from him being proactive and engaged with a variety of campus issues," Director of Student Programs Steve Austin said. "He strikes me as having strong convictions and a caring spirit. While I have seen Tali work on InterClass Council (ICC) . . . I know her even more from the Jumping Bean where she exudes a kind and incredibly thoughtful disposition. If she is like that making lattes during the pre-chapel rush under pressure, then I'm sure she'll do well. I look forward to seeing both of them grow as learners and leaders who love Christ and others."
With their campaign slogan inspired by Micah 6:8, "Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly," Soderquist and Valentine ran with hopes of balancing what the position allows and what they desire to accomplish.
Valentine said the hardest part of campaigning was the vulnerability that came with putting both her image and her opinions out on campus for criticism.
"It was a very refining experience," Valentine said.
Soderquist and Valentine marked help from senior Haley Heath, sophomore Mariana Freire Pratas Palma and junior Aaron Brown, who helped with various advertisements. Unique to Soderquist and Valentine's campaign, Brown wrote a promotional rap called "DO JUSTICE. LOVE MERCY. WALK HUMBLY."
Additionally, candidates connected to students through Q&A sessions and panels. Valentine said these times were impactful because they allowed her to hear the needs of individual students.
Specifically, Soderquist said there was a student who went to every pair asking the same question and comparing answers. He said the student was a great example of an active participant on campus.
"I think both of us have heard from students who don't feel informed about the things that are happening, about decisions that are being made . . . there is a responsibility of students to be informed, to pick up The Echo (and) to follow Taylor on social media," Soderquist said. "(In) the different ways of being informed there are, students need to be proactive in engaging with those. And what we want to really nail down is: are there better or more ways to give students information? And then also, how can we improve the current ways?"
Soderquist and Valentine were the winning candidates with 463 votes when polls closed on April 4.
While they found out during that evening, they had to keep who they told on a need-to-know basis until the next day. According to Soderquist and Valentine, their only small celebration in the moments afterward was in the Taylor Student Organizations office.
"When we found out, Felicia (Case) and Debbi (Cheruiyot Bii came) up and hugged us violently, which was
probably the best part of the entire campaign process," Soderquist said.
In second place were juniors Kylie Gerber and Thaddeus VanOverberghe, who received 236 votes. In third place were sophomores Luke Rovenstine and Lily Walter, who received 114 votes.
According to the current SBP and senior Joshua Clement, roughly 200 more people voted in elections this year than last year. Clement credited this to the strong campaigns led by each ticket.
"The tickets this year represented a large portion of the student body," Walter said. "(All of the candidates) also did their best to publicize the election well, regardless of which ticket was promoted. We all agreed that it was most important that students were educated on the election itself so that they would not only vote but vote with an understanding."
This sentiment was also echoed by Soderquist and Valentine.
All runners-up congratulated Soderquist and Valentine and affirmed the pair would work diligently for the student body.
"We want to thank everyone who respected us and our heart for this campus," VanOverberghe said. "We also want to encourage everyone to utilize the office of SBP/VP to empower their voice, as we are confident our friends Anders and Tali are going to do a phenomenal job next year."
Ultimately, Soderquist and Valentine said they're excited and honored to serve next year as SBP and SBVP.
As a team, Soderquist and Valentine said they aim to create an atmosphere of transparent communication in 2019-2020. They said especially in the time following Excalibur, Starbucks petitions and divisive opinions, they want to help open up dialogue at Taylor for healing and reconciliation.
Soderquist and Valentine also encourage students to share their thoughts, ideas and questions in-person or over email.