After Former Student Government Association President Shaun Theriot-Smith put an end to his three years of service with SGA and handed off the reigns to his successor, he is looking back on this bittersweet time in his life.
He started his SGA career as a Cullen College of Engineering senator in 2014, and served as Speaker of the Senate the following year, ending as President for the 2015-16 year.
Theriot-Smith said that while he will miss being tapped into a community he is passionate about, he is also excited to be able to redirect some of his time to his family and personal aspirations.
As a husband and father, Theriot-Smith said much of his ability to act as a leader over the past year has been through the support of his wife.
“I owe so much of my ability to take care of my professional and academic life to the immense amount of work my spouse, Paige, contributes to our partnership,” Theriot-Smith said.
Theriot-Smith also received support from friends and other board-members.
“Most student body presidents juggle the duties of the office with their coursework, but never has one also dealt with being a new father — much less the father of twins,” Shaun’s Chief of Staff, Adrian Castillo said. “I’m sure he didn’t get much sleep, but that speaks to his dedication to the student body and the University as a whole.”
Although Theriot-Smith will graduate with his B. S. in civil & environmental engineering in the fall, he felt SGA allowed him to continue a professional narrative of public service which will help him in his career path.
“My experience underpins a natural interest within my professional decisions to create enduring positive change with my career,” Theriot-Smith said.
Theriot-Smith said the most difficult task his administration was increasing the relevancy of student government in a way that made sense to students.
“No lie, I know nothing about the Student Government,” biochemistry senior Matthew Cook said. “Everything I learn comes from either The Cougar or the emails the school sends out.”
Despite this difficulty, Theriot-Smith said that some of the biggest projects his administration accomplished was furthering conversations on topics such as sexual assault and mental health.
“Representing a 42,000-strong diverse student body is a daunting task and requires a great deal of creativity and effort to connect with students who otherwise do not interact with student government,” Theriot-Smith said
Another item on Theriot-Smith’s agenda was a decrease in student fees. In this year’s Student Fees Advisory Committee, Theriot-Smith asked for a decrease in funding to ease student’s financial burdens.
“SGA at its core is an advocacy organization, not so much a school spirit machine or a device for leaders to get access to the cool stuff. We got rid of things like that to refocus on what SGA truly should be working on,” Theriot-Smith said in a previous interview with The Daily Cougar.
The SGA facilitated many student experiences such as the Presidential Debate and the Peach Bowl.
The SGA worked with Development and Athletics to raise money for student trips to the Peach Bowl and interviewed hundreds of volunteer applicants for the GOP debate in a matter of a few days. A little-known fact is that Theriot-Smith opted to give his ticket to the GOP Debate back into the pool so that an additional student would be able to go.
“That speaks volumes about his character,” Castillo said. “He did not take the job for its perks; he did it to be an advocate for the students.”
SGA also promoted better quality of services provided by dining and parking and other important auxiliary services.
“Parking on campus seems to have improved from previous years,” petroleum engineering senior Matt McGlothlin said. “In fact, I’m usually able to find a spot without too much trouble no matter what part of campus I’m on.”
Theriot-Smith said that all of SGA’s accomplishments are owned and motivated by the student body.
Theriot-Smith said he and president-elect Shane Smith share a lot of values.
One thing Theriot-Smith can say to Smith, and any SGA member, is to remember that they are here simply as advocates of over 42,000 students at the University of Houston and all of their efforts should be invested to the students’ best interests.
“I am confident that Shane already holds student-first values in all his work on campus,” Theriot-Smith said.
Smith took office as president April 1.
Theriot-Smith plans to continue his professional narrative of service and dedicate himself to cultivating positive enduring change for local and global neighborhoods.
“Part of my passion and original intent of pursuing civil engineering was to leverage my experience to the greater good of under privilege communities at home and abroad,” Theriot-Smith said. “I will still absolutely be a fervent supporter of academics and student success at the University of Houston.”