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Monday, February 06, 2023
Gavin Escott Margo Wyatt Liam McLean.jpg
Liam McLean (left) and Margo Wyatt (right)

‘Busting down the cardboard’: Next year’s senior class officers aim to drive engagement, foster new connections on campus

Margo Wyatt and Liam McLean were high school acquaintances, but it wasn’t until college that they connected and realized they would be a powerhouse duo “in terms of getting things done,” said McLean. 

Each described the other as ambitious and hard-working, with big ideas and plans to accomplish them; seeing these qualities reflected in one another inspired the two to form a ticket and run for senior class office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The McLean and Wyatt ticket commanded more than half of the vote, comfortably earning them the titles of senior class president and vice president, respectively, for the upcoming 2022 to 2023 academic year. Their platform prioritizes achieving a more unified, engaged campus, facilitating networking events for graduating seniors and improving the dialogue and culture on campus surrounding sexual assault and harrassment.

McLean is from Fox Point, Wisconsin, and studies political science with certificates in leadership and entrepreneurship. Wyatt is from Cedarburg, Wisconsin, and also studies political science; she is double-majoring in international relations with a certificate in French. 

Both are energetic leaders who are passionate about the university. Wyatt praised the campus’s vibrancy and sense of community, and McLean stated that when he looks back at his experience here, he has found the most gratification in making change and taking on leadership roles.

McLean previously served as Interfraternity Council (IFC) president, motivated by a desire to shift the culture from a “self-isolated community” to a “purpose-oriented platform.” He sought to drive engagement between Greek Life and the community as a whole, spearheading initiatives such as a partnership with Feed the Change, a non-profit that combats food insecurity. 

But perhaps most notable were McLean’s efforts to prevent sexual assault. Studies have indicated an alarmingly high rate of sexual violence within Greek Life, and McLean organized trainings and events to educate students and break the stigma felt by survivors.

McLean stated that his most gratifying experience as IFC president was working with PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) to host their first Denim Day. “To see that [over 1,000] people felt moved to stimulate a dialogue” around such a pervasive and serious issue was deeply impactful to McLean.

A 2020 study of 33 American universities, including UW-Madison, indicated that approximately one in four undergraduate women and one in 14 men experiences sexual violence during their time in college. Wyatt cited this statistic as a sobering indication of the urgency of these initiatives, and reminded students that it’s statistically likely that “most people on campus have close friends who are survivors.”

McLean and Wyatt also aim to improve networking on campus in order to help seniors secure jobs after graduation. UW-Madison boasts one of the nation’s largest and most active alumni networks, and Wyatt and McLean aim to capitalize on this and provide greater opportunities to students.

Wyatt is one of the founding members and former Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chair of Badger Tank, an entrepreneurship club that works with students to implement their business ideas into reality. Badger Tank connects students with resources and individuals that will help them advance their career goals, and Wyatt hopes to use these experiences to provide similar networking opportunities for students in all disciplines.

“Everyone is insecure about their future ... because humans have a natural inclination to be afraid of rejection,” said McLean. “The idea of these alumni networking events is [creating] a chance for people to confront rejection in a comfortable environment.”

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Voter turnout for senior class elections hovered at around 5%; Wyatt hopes to change this. She and McLean aim to make their office as accessible as possible and foster an open line of communication between class officers and students.

Wyatt added that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt throughout the whole of the senior class’ academic careers, and this has profoundly affected the social and professional lives of students. She and McLean aim to combat this by bringing the campus together and breaking down barriers that separate students from one another.

McLean stated that his experience in campus leadership has opened his eyes to the “structural divisions” that exist on campus, separating students on the basis of academic field, identity and more. He and Wyatt aim to create events and programs that “[bridge] these fractured parts of campus that may not otherwise engage with each other.”

“We’re in boxes in terms of what we’re studying and our identities. That’s what we know,” said McLean. “But that’s where I see the potential for community-building. We need to bust down the cardboard.”

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