Nathan Bothwell: From high school debate to speaker of the student senate

Nathan Bothwell, junior in political science and communication studies, is the new speaker of student senate. (Photo Courtesy of Nathan Bothwell)

Nathan Bothwell, junior in political science and communication studies, was elected speaker of student senate on April 16.

Bothwell got involved in Student Governing Association his freshman year at Kansas State, moving from the intern program, to student senator and intern coordinator his sophomore year and speaker pro tempore his junior year. Now, as he heads into his senior year at Kansas State, he’s got the top seat in SGA’s legislative branch.

However, being elected over Zoom was a different experience for Bothwell.

“One of my favorite pictures from last year is the picture of me getting sworn in as speaker pro tempore in Wildcat Chamber,” Bothwell said. “Now, I have a picture – a screenshot – of me over Zoom getting sworn in.”

There are other things he’s lost, he said, because he was sworn in virtually.

“It’s not exactly the same,” Bothwell said. “The five minutes before a meeting or after a meeting when everyone is just chatting and walking around — I think that is the piece I miss the most, that casual interaction.”

Now with the university’s transition online, Hannah Heatherman, previous speaker of student senate, intern coordinator and senior in finance and organizational management, said there will be some challenges ahead for not only Bothwell, but for everyone involved in SGA.

“I think a challenge for anybody in SGA leadership during this time is how do we continue to make this really fulfilling, fun work for the people who are involved in it when you’re not getting that aspect of hearing someone’s ideas before you’re formulating your vote,” Heatherman said.

Now with his new role as speaker, Bothwell will have more responsibilities to face.

“One of the most time-consuming parts is making our agenda,” Bothwell said. “It seems like one of those things that wouldn’t take very long, but that’s a couple hours of my Monday and Wednesday nights now that I have to do each week.

“It is definitely a step-up in expected weekly responsibilities,” he said. “There has been a lot involved so far the past few weeks, but it’s been really fun and good times so far.”

Heatherman said the role of speaker is very procedural and “turns the wheel” for SGA. When she was speaker, she shared the legislative leadership office with him.

“Nathan provides a lot of really important qualities and strengths to the role of speaker,” Heatherman said. “The biggest thing I’ve known Nathan to be great at as a leader is his consistency. Nate is also highly organized and will be good about having high presence in all of the committees.”

Bothwell said he can trace these skills – including leadership and communication – back to high school when he was active in theater, debate and forensics at Tonganoxie High School.

“I was really fortunate to have such a great [debate] coach,” he said. “He was very ‘hands-off’ and let us teach ourselves a lot of things.”

During his senior year, Bothwell’s debate team made it to the regional tournament, but not before his debate coach’s mother passed away.

“Not only that, [the tournament] had actually been snowed out, so it had been pushed back a week which pushed it into winter break,” Bothwell said. “Which meant two of the people on the four-speaker debate team were going to be gone for vacation.”

With two new last-minute teammate additions and no coach, Bothwell took on the leadership role for the regional tournament.

“I was the only person who had any experience in the room who had done it before,” Bothwell said. “But we ended up getting first at regionals. If I had a moment, or story, looking back to high school, that was the time – by circumstance – I was forced to step up.”

When it came to college, Bothwell was not set on K-State right away. With interests in Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago as well, Bothwell finally decided on K-State when he took the campus tour.

“I don’t even know who it was – which I feel really bad about – but I’d just gotten out of that [political science] advisor meeting, and my parents went to the restroom,” Bothwell said. “And I’m just standing in Calvin Hall all alone with a purple folder and some faculty member just comes up to me and asks me if I’m OK.

“That just really stands out to me,” he said. “Someone just felt the need to ask – that wasn’t an experience I was getting anywhere else.”

Dawson Wagner, junior in journalism and mass communications, roomed with Bothwell in Marlatt Hall their freshman year at K-State.

“Nathan and I go way back to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership camp where we met in the same leadership group,” Wagner said. “Which is what started our friendship. Through keeping in touch from that and then learning that we were both going to K-State, is when he reached out to me about rooming and I was thrilled.”

From playing Zelda on Bothwell’s Nintendo Switch to eating pizza from Pizza Shuttle, the two still had a routine of keeping each other accountable on schoolwork.

“He can work, work and then work some more without ever showing signs of breaking down or giving up,” Wagner said.

Wagner said he remembers one day when Bothwell had a stressful day filled with a test he had to pass and a New Student Services tour of campus.

“He wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to do both, but by 3 p.m., I was walking back from my classes and saw him bright-eyed with a smile and all the while walking backwards in front of a group of 13 plus people,” Wagner said. “That’s the kind of things that I was always so impressed that he could pull off.”