New Student Government Leaders Aim to Improve Organization

J.W. Van Der Schans

J.W. Van Der Schans

After serving in Student Government at The University of Texas at Dallas, two students from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences say they’ve figured out ways to help the campus organization run smoother.

Their ideas have paid off.

UT Dallas students have elected J.W. Van Der Schans, an international political economy senior, as their new Student Government president, and Alex Holcomb, an economics sophomore, as vice president.

Van Der Schans worked as secretary and treasurer, and Holcomb served on the legislative affairs committee when they realized Student Government could use some improved communication and accountability.

“I had been in Student Government so long that it showed me problems with the organization. Knowing I could fix them and that others would have my back, I decided to run,” Van Der Schans said.

The pair ran uncontested on the Comet Unity ticket with a platform that includes improving communication and accountability to get the job done.

Van Der Schans and Holcomb want to streamline communication so that the executive council can keep up with the status of committee projects and provide feedback quickly. For instance, they believe storing committee reports on Google Docs, rather than emailing them back and forth, would speed up the review process by giving everyone access to the same document at once.

Improving communication with the student body is another goal. For one thing, they would like more input from students about setting priorities for Student Government.

“Typically we’re elected, and then we do what we think needs to be done rather than be constituency-led. We want Student Government to be a representative body,” Van Der Schans said.

Making sure that elected student officials complete projects is a huge item on their to-do list.

Alex Holcomb

“We’re looking for self-motivated people,” Holcomb said, adding they hope to draw leaders from a variety of student organizations.

The two first met at a poker table while visiting a fraternity a few years ago. Their discussion soon turned to politics, and before long, they decided to put their interest in politics to work by serving with Student Government.

They make a good team, Van Der Schans said: He has a “big picture mentality,” while Holcomb possesses an analytical mindset that helps get things done.

Their high school experiences helped develop their leadership skills. Van der Schans participated in speech and debate at Centennial High School in Frisco, and still judges high school tournaments on weekends. Holcomb was student body president at Lake Dallas High School in Denton County.

Although each planned to attend a larger university like UT Austin, they have been pleasantly surprised by the opportunities they’ve found at UT Dallas.

“I got lucky. I definitely hit the lottery. I thought UT Dallas didn’t have a lot to offer. Boy, was I wrong. The value of a UT Dallas degree has grown exponentially,” said Van Der Schans, who also is a member of Pi Kappa Phi and the Interfraternity Council.

Holcomb first heard about UT Dallas from friends who worked with the University’s freshman orientation program.

“I fell in love with that program. I saw all the friends I could have, and all the resources the University has. It’s crazy,” said Holcomb, a member of Chi Phi who now works with the orientation program.

Van Der Schans, who is expected to graduate in December, is in a fast-track program to earn his master’s degree in public policy, so he will be able to serve the full year with Student Government. He would like to work with the State Department one day.

“I’m definitely not shying away from politics,” he said.

Holcomb hopes to earn his PhD in economics and land a spot at the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, and perhaps “hop over into politics.” He has already been a field representative for a Texas legislator in Irving, going door-to-door and organizing campaign events.

For now, their priority is to achieve their goals for the UT Dallas student body.

“We’re on the upswing in transforming as a school, and I want to be part of that,” Van Der Schans said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].