The transition of Student Government Association leaders is an annual rite of spring on Longwood’s campus that ordinarily garners little attention or fanfare.
But when Brandon Bowen ’21 passed the gavel to Anne Patterson ’22 last month it marked a transition from one SGA president to the next during some of the most extraordinary circumstances in Longwood’s history.
Bowen, a communication studies major who has been involved in SGA all four years at Longwood, was elected president in April 2020. At that time, classes were being held remotely and whether or not classes could resume in the fall was still unknown. Students did return last August, and over the past year Bowen has guided the student body through the challenges of navigating a way to live and learn together with Covid-19 precautions in place.
Patterson, a political science major who first got involved in SGA this year as the Virginia21 representative, is taking the reins at another critical juncture. This coming fall she will oversee the welcoming of students back to campus. That process will have a more normal look and feel as new students are introduced—and for some returning students, re-introduced—to the beloved traditions that are the hallmark of a Longwood experience.
Vice President for Student Affairs Tim Pierson, who advises the SGA, said the organization and its leaders received high marks and compliments for the job they did all year long. Throughout the academic year the SGA continued to meet weekly via Zoom and more recently resumed meeting in person.
“I really credit our students in the effort to get through this year, and SGA was a big part of that,” Pierson said. “The focus for next year is recreating the Longwood experience for our first-year students, our second-year students and even our juniors.”
With the spring semester having just wrapped up and Commencement now in the rear view mirror, we sat down with the outgoing and incoming SGA presidents to talk about the successful academic year and the anticipation of returning to a more normal campus in the fall.
I’m so proud of the student body for pushing through and being able to stay here the whole time. It was definitely a difficult year, but we have accomplished a lot.Brandon Bowen ’21 Tweet This
As you look back at this academic year what has been the biggest success?
Patterson: One of the biggest successes I saw from students was being able to adapt to how classes were structured. People were really flexible and hard-working when it came to adapting to the hybrid model or fully virtual classes. All of the professors worked hard to make that happen. Another big accomplishment for the student body was that clubs and organizations continued to be active. Everyone adapted to Covid-19 precautions with Oktoberfest, Bandfest and Spring Weekend. Being able to make those all events happen and still keep students engaged was really awesome to see around campus.
Bowen: I’m so proud of the student body for pushing through and being able to stay here the whole time. It was definitely a difficult year, but we accomplished a lot. We tried so hard to maintain some feel of normalcy. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself. We were dealing not just with a pandemic but also civil unrest across the country and the presidential election. People were really passionate about things they believed in, and we saw citizen leadership shining through. We’re taught to stand up for what you believe in and speak out against things that you don’t. That’s part of being a civil servant.
Was there one particular moment when you realized we were going to make it through this year and we were going to be OK?
Bowen: A big sign of light was the announcement that faculty and staff were getting vaccinated here. To me that was the moment that there was all this promising light at the end of the tunnel. More recently, students were able to get the vaccine, and they have been getting it.
Patterson: Another big moment, especially for seniors, was the news that Commencement was going to be held in person. I think having that news made people really push through the rest of the semester.
What are three words that sum up this academic year?
Bowen: Perseverance, strength and family.
Patterson: Adaptive, community and growth
I think we’ll have higher participation in our big events, which is awesome. The G.A.M.E. is going to be a huge event that gets people back into the routine of things.Anne Patterson ’22, SGA president Tweet This
What are you looking forward to this fall and in the next academic year as things return to more normalcy around campus?
Patterson: I think there will be a transition period when we return and that re-establishing the sense of camaraderie that we have on campus will be so important. I can’t wait to see everyone back here and eating out on Stubbs Lawn or studying in Upchurch. Those small scenes go such a long way for our campus since we are such a small and interactive community.
We’re all so excited to return back to normal. I think we’ll have higher participation in our big events, which is awesome. The G.A.M.E. is going to be a huge event that gets people back into the routine of things. I definitely want to work with all sections of campus on making it really successful and bringing in as many people as possible for that event.
You mentioned The G.A.M.E. How important will Longwood’s traditions be in this upcoming year?
Patterson: One of the things I’m looking forward to when we come back is reinstalling all of Longwood’s traditions. The sophomore class hasn’t really been introduced to them yet. And obviously, it will be important for the freshman class to learn them as well. The upcoming senior class will be the only one that has experienced a full year of Longwood on campus. So I think it’s going to take a lot of drive from the seniors to re-establish those traditions that make Longwood so special. It will also be especially important to make sure the rising sophomores feel welcome when they return in the fall to our new normal version of Longwood. We will be reintroducing them to what Longwood is like beyond a computer screen and without so many limitations.
Bowen: I’ve been working with the incoming sophomore class president on ways to reinforce the importance of traditions. The SGA’s freshman class council this year did an Instagram series on all of the traditions of Longwood. I’m really excited for the underclassmen and the upcoming seniors to be able to experience Longwood in full swing and make those important connections on campus.
Experiencing Colors Wars and Oktoberfest and all of the things that we offer will really enrich the freshman experience, especially this coming year.Anne Patterson ’22, SGA president Tweet This
What is your favorite tradition, and what will you miss most about Longwood?
Bowen: I absolutely loved Color Wars on Iler Field my freshman year. I strapped a GoPro to my head, and I had a blast. The other thing that I love most about Longwood is the secret societies. They embody what Longwood is supposed to be and provide something that everyone can relate to. Who hasn’t gone looking to find a CHI dropping at 4:30 a.m.? I did, and I still came up dry.
The thing that I’m going to miss the most is the interaction with people here. In my personal experience, the people are what made Longwood Longwood and what made it feel like home. My peer mentor taught me that Longwood is what you make it, and you will find your people here. The people I found back then as a freshman are still my friends, and I know they will be my friends for the rest of my life.
What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?
Patterson: My freshman year, I was somewhat shy and I wasn’t involved in that much. This year was my first year on SGA. My advice is to take advantage of everything that Longwood offers and really seek out those opportunities to get involved, even if you are a little bit leery of them when you first get here. Experiencing Colors Wars and Oktoberfest and all of the things that we offer will really enrich the freshman experience, especially this coming year.
Bowen: Get out of your comfort zone. There are 150-plus organizations and clubs on this campus, and everyone has a home somewhere. Don’t be afraid to look for it.