When Bryce Atchison and Ellie Toothaker met in a leadership studies class this past year, they had no idea their classroom dynamic would develop into a political partnership. Now, they are up against two other duos for student body president and vice president in next week’s elections.
Atchison, junior in agricultural economics and global food systems leadership, has been involved in student government since arriving at Kansas State. He said that this involvement empowered him to run for president.
“I’ve been in student government since my freshman year,” Atchison said. “I started as an intern, and then I was a College of Agriculture senator for two years. I was caucus leader for the College of Agriculture, and I’m currently serving as the academic affairs director on the executive branch.”
Ellie Toothaker, senior in honors animal science and global food systems leadership, hails from Fayetteville, Arkansas. She said that being an out-of-state student gives her a unique perspective from which to lead the student body.
“Being from out of state, I can add a more diverse view of our student body,” Toothaker said. “I feel like [Atchison] and I represent it well because he is from Kansas and I’m not.”
Toothaker has not been involved in student government, but she said that this has given her a different perspective to bring to the table.
“I haven’t been a member of the student government, but I’ve been able to see how it works from the outside,” Toothaker said. [Atchison] is able to see everything from a very bureaucratic stance, and I’m able to communicate what students want and what we’re experiencing firsthand.”
For the Atchison-Toothaker ticket, the importance of food security on campus takes priority. Atchison said this is a matter that hits home.
“Forty-four point three percent of our student body goes without a meal every day. For a long time, I was part of that percentage,” Atchison said. “Food security doesn’t just impact your hunger. It impacts your mental health, your physical health, the way you socialize and your grades. Every single aspect of your daily life is affected by food insecurity, and we are one of the highest food insecure campuses in the nation.”
Even before their candidacy, Atchison and Toothaker made strides toward their goal of a food secure campus.
“[Toothaker] and I are both global food systems majors, and one day in class we came up with this idea of a free and reduced lunch system on campus,” Atchison said. “Nobody really backed me up on this idea except for Ellie.”
While Atchison had been workshopping this idea for over a year, Toothaker’s partnership took it to the next level.
“I thought the idea was genius,” Toothaker said. “We would love to move forward with it, and if we have the positions of student body president and vice president, we can do so much. We don’t want it to be just 500 students a semester who get food — we want to make it something where for fifty years, there are a thousand students who get three meals a week.”
Along with their emphasis on providing food security for students, Atchison and Toothaker want to improve the infrastructure for the agricultural economics program at K-State. Atchison said this is a vital and often neglected component of the university.
“K-State, at its foundation, is a land grant university. We have valued agriculture for as long as our institution has been around, empowering the one industry that ensures we have a future,” Atchison said. “Our agricultural economics department produces some of the best students who go on to work in the top agricultural institutes in the nation, but we don’t have the infrastructure to properly support them.”
Atchison said that he and Toothaker are well suited for the challenge of leadership.
“We need someone who is dedicated and someone who is knowledgeable in both leadership and the everyday happenings on campus, and I think Ellie and I embody that,” Atchison said. “When we have an idea or a responsibility, we’re going to make sure it gets done.”
More information about the Atchison-Toothaker ticket is available on their website, www.atchisontoothaker.com.