After being canceled Feb. 21 due to heavy snow, the student body presidential and vice presidential debate was held Thursday night in the K-State Student Union Courtyard.
The debate, hosted by Strengths Advocates, was loosely based on real U.S. presidential and vice presidential debates, but the student candidates were encouraged to discuss their strengths and how they use these to their advantage in leadership roles.
According to Kristen Burton, junior in family studies, K-State has recently paired with Gallup to give all incoming freshmen codes for StrengthsQuest, an online personality survey that provides users with a report listing their top five talent themes and, based on these, suggestions for personal, academic and career improvement. Burton said this was done to encourage “retention, engagement and well-being.”
“It was just a chance to give people an opportunity to look at the candidates through their strengths and help the candidates see their own strengths,” Burton said of the debate.
Questions were posed to each candidate by two announcers, Ben Hopper, program adviser to the Union, and Christina Hurtado, coordinator for student development in the Department of Housing and Dining. Each question focused on some aspect of the candidates’ strengths and how they will use that strength in their respective position, if elected.
“It was very interesting,” Hurtado said. “We had a lot of people, and I feel that the candidates spoke well and were good about sticking to their platforms.”
For presidential candidate Kyle Nuss, senior in architectural engineering, the strengths of achiever, competition, learner, focus and positivity were important.
“Achievers” are those who work hard to achieve a goal. “Competition” refers to the tendency of people to measure their progress against others’ and strive to be in first place. “Learners” are people who have a desire to learn and want to constantly improve. “Focus” refers to the ability to keep a goal on task and follow through. Finally, those with “Positivity” are all about being upbeat and positive.
Nuss’s vice presidential running mate Ariel Mendiola, junior in sociology, cites Nuss’s positivity strength as his most important.
“His positivity kept us going and would always keep us going,” Mendiola said. “He kept our eyes on the prize.”
Mendiola’s strengths included arranger, achiever, harmony, belief and developer.
“Arrangers” like to figure out how the puzzle fits and arrange for maximum productivity. “Harmony” refers to those who look for agreements and stay away from arguments. Those with the “belief” strength have a core purpose in life and certain unchanging core values. “Developers” want to bring out the best in people and help them work to the best of their ability.
“His drive to achieve our goals is most important,” Nuss said about Mendiola. “What you’re going to remember about the president and vice president is what they achieved.”
Opposing Nuss for presidency is Eli Schooley, senior in political science; his strengths include competition, achiever, discipline, focus and maximizer.
Those with “discipline” demonstrate structure and organization. “Maximizers” try to stimulate others’ strengths so those individuals can really excel.
“I think I am the best candidate because my strengths complement each other,” Schooley said. “’Discipline’ and ‘focus’ will keep the group on task, while ‘achiever’ and ‘competition’ will make sure we’re getting better as a whole.”
Running with Schooley for vice president is Jake Unruh, junior in finance, whose strengths include woo, achiever, arranger, positivity and developer. “Woo,” as a strength, describes those who like to meet new people and make connections.
“I want to expand an executive mentorship program from the business school,” Unruh said. “My ‘developer’ strength is to put people in that position so they can create connections.”
Although this type of debate was the first of its kind, student turnout was high. In front of the candidates, all seats were packed with several students standing in the back, listening to the debate.
“I think strengths are good indicators of people’s qualities, and students can see what they bring to the positions,” said Maureen Orth, senior in English literature. “I like having the debate focused on that.”
Besides listening to the debates, students could also text in support for either candidate during or after answering a question. The results were shown on a projector screen next to the candidates. For the most part, both parties seemed to be popular, tying on many questions or winning by a few votes.
“For president and vice president, you have to use ‘analyzer’ and ‘woo,’ so you can look at the whole situation and win the student body,” said Joe Oaks, freshman in political science. “I think Schooley and Unruh did that the best. They had better ‘woo’ and their decisions seemed very information based.”
However, some students found Nuss and Mendiola’s strengths more compelling.
“You have to be an achiever, be someone who gets stuff done, and have a positive attitude if it doesn’t go the way you like it,” said Kelby Burton, senior in architectural engineering. “I think Kyle and Ariel campaigned that the best. Kyle is always positive and passionate about K-State and how he wants to improve the university.”
Voting for president and vice president will begin March 5 and end March 6.