When Lily Colburn was in kindergarten, she did not want to be President of the United States.
That would’ve been too difficult and stressful, she said at the time. But just a few years later — fourth grade, to be exact — Colburn joined student council. Ever since then, Colburn has been involved in student governments, in one way or another.
As a freshman in political science, Colburn is an intern for Student Governing Association and serves as the chair of the Special Committee on Membership.
“I definitely enjoyed my time in student council and as student body president of Manhattan High School and so I was kind of looking for similar organizations to get involved in and I think SGA is the natural evolution of that,” she said.
Colburn, who is a phase-two intern, went through the first phase as a member of the first group to complete the new program. In this phase, interns get placed into committee rotations and get more hands-on experience with how SGA works.
“It’s kind of a jumping-off point to get further into SGA, but also just to learn about it and decide whether or not you want to get involved later,” Colburn said.
As an active member of SGA, she said she enjoys being a liaison between the students and the administration and thinks it’s important to understand both sides equally.
“I really like the behind-the-scenes look you get,” she said. “Getting to interact with administration and Dr. Bosco and President Myers — people that the normal student might not [get to interact with]. I think it really cool to see their perspective. Students can complain about administration and their policies, but when you have that background and that knowledge of why they’re doing it, it makes more sense.”
Ryan Kelly, speaker of the student senate and junior in communication studies, has worked with Colburn and said her drive helps her stand out. He appointed her to chair of the Special Committee because she is the “natural fit.” To his knowledge, she is the only intern to also be a committee chair.
Kelly said he went to a conference with Colburn earlier in the fall semester with a handful of other Kansas State SGA members and it was then that he really got to know how driven she is, despite how young she is.
“On our way back, we had a couple conversations about some issues that are ongoing in student government and different ways that we can work to make progress,” Kelly said. “I think a lot of the ideas that Lily has were similar to the vision of what I was thinking for the Special Committee on Membership.”
Colburn said she found her place in student government because of her passion for progress.
“I like to get things done and I like to make progress quickly,” Colburn said. “I’m not just sitting by and going to my committee rotations and doing the bare-minimum of an intern.”
She said she doesn’t want people to let her young age get in the way.
“I think sometimes we put off freshman as not having enough experience or not knowing enough, but that can be an asset— having fresh eyes to the university. Not only can I have that, but other people can too. I hope people can realize I am trying to break that stigma,” Colburn said.
Kelly said it’s important to have freshmen involved in SGA, and he said he feels lucky to work with many talented freshmen interns.
“When we have these freshman that say, ‘There’s a problem, I want to go tackle that,’ I’m going to do whatever it takes to make progress on this issue,’ that breeds a culture in student senate. Not only among freshman interns, but among us upperclassmen,” Kelly said. “It holds us accountable. We see them doing the work and wanting to do the work and we bring them in and we engage them, and we work with them.”
Corbin Sedlacek, junior in accounting and director of local relations, went to Manhattan High School as well and was the student body president two years prior to her. He said he is confident K-State will be in good hands when he leaves.
“I’ve been able to see her grow, it’s been really cool. I recommended her for the intern program and she applied,” Sedlacek said. “She is very active and passionate, very much a hands-on person. Seeing someone that young being that passionate, it’s been refreshing to see that.”
Kelly said he believes that Colburn will excel in whatever endeavor she takes on while at K-State and down the road.
“She can go toe-to-toe with a senior,” Kelly said. “Lily, respectfully, is not afraid to challenge someone she doesn’t agree with. I think that that mentality is something that is a little rare amongst students at K-State and amongst students in our student government as well.”