Interview with President-Elect Holly Shields and VP-Elect Mikaela Portugal


Zachary Weaver
    News Editor

Holly Shields (P) and Mikaela Portugal (VP) won the Student Government Association presidential election on Friday, March 31, beating out opponents Colby Kirkman and Michaela Stovall with 52.4 percent of the vote.

A Kernersville native, Shields has been involved in SGA for most of her time at UNCG, and held the Chief of Staff office until her election. She also serves as a resident advisor for Jefferson Suites, and is involved with UNCG Athletics.

“Getting [two scholarships] made me realize that I needed to give back in the biggest way possible,” Shields said.

Portugal cited her multicultural back ground, drawn from her birthplace in the Philippines and residence in Germany and South Korea, as experience applicable to relating to the student body. Portugal was a Student Organization Senator until her vice presidential election, and has been involved with the Office of Sustainability on-campus.

One early goal is communication with new students, something Shields says she has already begun. They also expressed intentions to encourage inclusivity on-campus, noting a tendency for students to keep solely to their own circles.

“We’ve met 1,500-2,000 new students… We want to focus on inclusion,” Shields said. “UNCG is a very diverse campus, but we’re not a very inclusive community. We truly want to work on breaking down those barriers quickly.”

Shields and Portugal also wish to encourage collaboration between student communities, noting their respective isolation.

“We’re going to encourage collaboration between groups that you wouldn’t think would collaborate,” Shields said. “Make it a goal for each group to reach out to one, if not two, student groups that they have never reached out to before.”

“It starts with you to go out and speak to someone you’ve never talked to before,” Shields said. “It starts with you to be that person to initiate a conversation… to be sustainable… to be well.”

Shields also emphasized student wellness as a focus of her upcoming administration. She spoke on her plan to combat the “four year stigma,” the idea that a student must be in and out in a standard graduation cycle. Both emphasized a focus on promoting self-care.

“We are constantly putting our schoolwork first, and putting ourselves last,” Shields said. “We’re not caring about ourselves as much as we should.”

“You need to be doing well in order to provide for your community,” Portugal said.

Another focus of Shields and Portugal’s administration will be sustainability. Portugal has collaborated in the past with the Office of Sustainability, including the UNCGreen fund.

“This is your environment, this is where you’ll be for four or more years,” Portugal said.

Shields also stated her plan to bring disparate SGA senators together, to encourage a more unified approach in addressing student needs and supporting other SGA members. She hopes in part to accomplish this with a stronger senator orientation, improving SGA structure, and raising awareness of campus resources.

“I want [senators to be comfortable talking to me,” Portugal said. “In the first week I want to introduce what each committee does.”

“We also feel that there’s a lack of knowledge of what each committee does,” Shields said. “We’re going to revamp the orientation, and make sure the senators know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Shields and Portugal also stated their intention to work with Chancellor Gilliam to implement arts and wellness on-campus. They hope to maintain connections with UNCG’s upper echelons built by Pres. Joseph Graham and VP Sajin Chhabra.

Shields and Portugal also hope to foster more interconnectedness in the UNC system through the Association of Student Governments (ASG).

“I want to unite the entire UNC system,” Shields said. “I’ve got great ties with newly-elected student body presidents on multiple campuses, so I know ASG this year is going to be great… we have those ties that will allow us to unite as a system.”

Shields and Portugal also intend to continue Graham’s “Vision, Impact, Legacy” platform. They also wish to improve presidential relations with the senate, which they opined had become distant.

Shields and Portugal also stated intentions to actively solicit student input for campus activities and development. Shields said that she wished to be involved with the upcoming revamp of the library, and would bring student wants to the table. This included the idea of a nap room, floated to her by a student on-campus.

“We want to get out and talk to students,” Shields said, “to find out what they need and want implemented on-campus that will help them and future Spartans… We’re going to tell [administration] what students want.”

Shields and Portugal both expressed eagerness to take office and begin implementing plans. Both encourage students to come to them with ideas and concerns.

“UNCG has been so separated,” Portugal said, “but now we can begin to break down those walls.”

“We are so thankful that the students elected us to be in office,” Shields said. “We are really looking forward to serving the student body, and we want to make sure that people are comfortable speaking to us.”

Shields and Portugal will take office in late April, along with the rest of the new SGA.

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