There have been only three female Student Association (SA) presidents in school history. The first was Susan Brady in 1977; the second was Susan Vaughn-Hassmann in 1990, and now, 18 years later, senior Hallie Hite joins the list of leading ladies.
Serving beside Hite will be SA vice president Nora Johnson. Together the duo is the first ever female president and vice president pair. Johnson said the two were unsure how the student body would feel about having female leaders after such a long stretch of males.
“I know it was scary for us to think about running because we weren’t sure where Harding’s mentality was at, and we weren’t sure if Harding was ready for a change quite so drastic,” Johnson said. “But it’s cool to see that Harding is. I hope that people see that it can be done and that you don’t have to be a man to be in leadership. You just have to be qualified and passionate about it.”
Hite said she went into the campaign with the mentality that if she did a good job she had just as good of a chance as anyone else. She said she believes the SA presidential position has been dominated by males due to their better exposure to the student body.
“I think that generally speaking, males are more involved with leadership positions on campus, which speaks to our greater administration that is mostly male dominated,” Hite said. “In chapel we see a lot of males, and generally those are the people who are more exposed to the student body. They’re the people who get more involved and tend to want the leadership roles. … I’m hoping that being a female SA president will encourage more females to run and try for more leadership positions in general and to show that it can be done.”
The leading ladies before Hite, Brady (1977) and Vaughn-Hassmann (1990), each paved the way for women in office in their own right. As the first female SA president, Brady appointed four other women to head committees, as well as restructured the committee selection process to include an application and regularly scheduled progress reports.
According to an article by Randy Kemp in the 1977 Bison newspaper, Brady had a “dynamic personality” and was “always teeming with practical and action-provoking ideas.” He also said she was effective in her communication with the student body as well as the administration, and spent time acquainting herself with the rules, procedures and people of the Harding community.
According to Johnson, Hite also shares in many of these characteristics.
“I think it’s pretty easy to tell when you first meet her that Hallie is driven and, when she sets her mind to something, she will do everything that she can to get it done,” Johnson said. “I think that it’s also really important that Hallie is personable, and she just has a lot of really good relationships with a lot of people. I think it’s important that you have someone that’s driven in office, but I think it’s also important that you have someone that’s approachable.”
According to SA sponsor and assistant professor of mathematics Jill Davis, Hite also shared many personality traits with Vaughn-Hassmann.
“They both (are) a name that everyone knows,” Davis said. “Both (are) well-liked by everybody (and have) pleasing personalities. And both were ready to roll up their sleeves and jump in. … They had confidence that they could be a leader.”
Both Vaughn-Hassmann and Hite focused on creating deeper and more transparent communication between the student body and the administration. Vaughn-Hassmann, who ran for SA president unopposed in 1990, focused her campaign on creating ways for students to interact with the administration, using the slogan “Elect the student body for SA president.” Vaughn-Hassmann also encouraged female leadership in her administration. When she ran for sophomore class president, her entire executive committee consisted of women.
Hite said she hopes to encourage relationships between students through creating greater common space and increasing the number of town hall meetings. Hite, Johnson and the other members of the newly-elected SA ran under the campaign slogan “Keep Moving Forward.” Johnson said they chose the slogan because they wanted to convey an appreciation for what the SA accomplished this year, as well as a drive for future improvements at Harding.
Before the election, both Johnson and Hite had experience serving on the SA. Hite is currently a member of both the SA technology and White County relations committees, and Johnson is the sitting Jr. Female Representative. Hite was one of the 2017 Impact co-directors, through which she was able to build relationships with the student body and administration.
“I just got a better grasp of what Harding was about and (what) went on behind the scenes,” Hite said. “After that I kind of realized that being SA president was something I could do.”
Davis said the administration always strives to be transparent and believes Hite’s new initiatives will help the flow of information between all parts of the Harding community.
“The SA serves as a bridge between the student body and the administration,” Davis said. “But it’s a bridge that goes both ways. We are there to share the concerns of the student body with the administration, but one thing that they find out very quickly is that they get to peek inside the administration and then represent them to the student body.”
This opportunity is one Hite said she is excited for.
“I think it’s important for the student body to not view the administration as this angry cloud looking down upon them,” Hite said. “I think a lot of people see it as an entity and not the really great people that make up the administration. The more you have communication generally speaking, the more you have understanding.”