The Student Body President and Vice President, seniors Emmanuel Terrel and Anna Craig, are seeking to influence the culture of Taylor University’s campus with love that knows no bounds.
After Terrel and Craig were elected in April of this year, they knew that their year of service would be like none before them. However, they have optimistic attitudes as they navigate this new role in these unprecedented times.
“We’re gonna take it as it comes,” Terrel said.
Terrel and Craig have had to release many expectations for this school year, but they see many new and unique opportunities for growth and community on which they intend to capitalize.
Neither one of them came into Taylor with a burning passion to one day be student body president or vice president. However, after being involved in Taylor Student Organizations (TSO) throughout their first three years, the door was opened to them, and they walked through it together.
Craig has a heart for listening and serving, and during her junior year she began thinking to herself that she might like to run for a student body-wide leadership position. Having never done anything in the realm of student council on this scale, she was unsure whether she should pursue this prodding of the heart. That is until Steve Austin, Head of TSO, approached her about running.
Terrel’s story is similar, and he recalls how, before he was even a student at Taylor, a mentor from his home in Chicago prophetically told Terrel that he would be student body president one day. So when a near stranger approached him about running with her, any previous hesitancy evaporated.
“When Anna reached out to me, I felt like it was kind of God pushing me into that,” Terrel said.
Thus was the beginning of this dynamic duo.
Heading into their campaign, Terrel and Craig wanted a slogan that they were passionate about as people, whether or not they were elected. Born out of both their hearts to truly serve and listen to the student body, they landed on “One Another,” inspired by Philippians 4:2 and the Taylor Towel.
“It just made sense,” Terrel said. “We wanted to reenforce the mission that Taylor already had.”
This slogan has been a solid grounding to always come back to, as stepping into these leadership roles after an abrupt end to the previous school year and a summer that ran rampant with division and uncertainty has been nothing short of a challenge.
“I just want to listen really well,” Craig said. “because I don’t have all the answers, and we don’t have all the answers.”
As a leadership team, they want to challenge the Taylor student body to ask themselves what it looks like to love one another in the midst of a pandemic, a divisive political season and racial tension. Terrel and Craig are both people of color, and they deeply value the ability to have tough conversations surrounding race.
Reflecting on her first year at Taylor, Craig spoke of what she called her “crisis of belonging.” She was often the only Chinese person on her wing or in her classes, and while that was hard at times, she eventually came to realize that it was okay to feel different. Craig didn’t always feel like she belonged, so she wants other Taylor students who may be feeling the same way she did to know that they do belong and are welcome here.
The Taylor buzzword of “intentional community” is a significant part of Terrel and Craig’s vision for the student body.
“Fostering that doesn’t feel like our job. In some sense it almost feels like reminding people of the job that’s theirs,” said Craig. “Even if you’re not in a leadership position you’re capable of fostering intentional community.”
Both Terrel and Craig model this call well in their own lives and in their relationship with each other. Terrel commented that their friendship and coworkership are not separate, and the duo is constantly supporting and encouraging one another.
“It’s just so fluid,” Terrel said. “What we engage with and how we engage with it is so much a part of just who we are.”
That spirit of teamwork and comradery will continue to carry Terrel and Craig through this challenging year. They are hoping to organize another TU Gather event, carrying it on after last year’s student body president Sonderquist and vice president Valentine founded it. TU Gatherbrings students together to promote healthy discussion regarding sensitive issues, and Terrel and Craig believe that the benefits of this event are needed now more than ever before.
They also aim to continue to foster a partner relationship with their sister office, the Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP.) Terrel and Craig’s desire is to prefer OIP and assist in their mission in every way they can.
Overall, their advice to the Taylor student body comes from Ross Gay’s “Book of Delights”. Gay writes about the concept of “loitering” as the nonconsumptive taking up of space.
“What does it look like to be a nonproductive delight?” Terrel said. “To just sit and not worry about the next class, not worry about homework. What does it look like to loiter a little bit longer?”
With the unassuredness of the rest of this school year, Terrel and Craig beckon the student body to press into the present because any moment could be the last moment.
They treasure the Taylor community and want to continue to foster understanding, unity and love for One Another.
“You don’t love your community because it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful because you love it,” Terrel said.