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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Senior takes charge as student senate president 

Julia Butler ’23, University Student Senate president. PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIA BUTLER ’23

One Monday evening in late November, Julia Butler ’23 entered the President’s Lounge in Campion Student Center with a full agenda for the 23rd University Student Senate (Student Senate). Renovations to O’Pake Recreation Center and strategic planning for the upcoming Christmas tree lighting were on the schedule, and Butler was prepared. 

The gavel was struck, and with that sound, members of the senate turned their heads to their president at the front of the room.

Butler always knew she wanted that senate gavel in her hand.

“Having the opportunity to represent people, and knowing I could be that strong voice for everyone, was ultimately my driving power behind wanting to run [for president],” Butler said. 

Butler, a marketing major from Connecticut, has been a member of the Student Senate since her first year at St. Joe’s, working in roles such as alumni chair during her first year and speaker the following two. After assuming the speaker role, her eyes were opened to the important role the senate plays on campus. 

“Our mission is to be the voice for students, and I felt that through my position [of speaker] for two years on the executive board, it gave me a glimpse into what that really means,” Butler said.

Butler was elected president for the 2022-23 academic year and has been working to seamlessly integrate the University City campus and its students into the Hawk Hill community. Despite the challenges of the merger, Butler said she has loved working with both campuses, and other senate members have taken notice.

Butler, Cheryl McConnell, Ph.D., interim president of St. Joe’s, and Gabriela Santos ’23, Student Senate vice president, outside of Barbelin Hall steps. PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’24/THE HAWK

“She’s been really great with trying to incorporate University City,” said Gabriela Santos ’23, Student Senate vice president. “Continuing that inclusion is super important to her and to the whole senate.” 

Santos has been a member of the senate with Butler for her entire St. Joe’s career, and said she has seen immense growth in Butler’s leadership.

“I think she grew a lot, being able to find her voice on the things that she’s passionate about,” Santos said. 

Butler recognizes that, inevitably, there are challenges among the Senate. As a leader, though, she said she has learned how to lift her peers up in a positive way. 

“What I told the Senate was ‘you’re going to have road bumps along the way, whether that is in school, whether that is in Senate, etc.,’” Butler said. “‘It’s important that we keep in mind that our North Star and our guiding force is we are here for the students, but you are a student first as well.’” 

Butler said she is especially proud of the SJU HOPE Initiative that started this year, particularly the efforts of Nick Farrell ’24, who led the initiative, as it has given an outlet to those struggling with mental health issues. HOPE hosts events and discussions centered around the student body’s mental health
and well-being. 

“That’s the point of Senate,” Butler said. “We want to create an environment where any student can come, and they can put their passions and things that they want to change on campus and bring them to life and help other people through doing it.”

Eshika Attri ’26, elected senator for the class of 2026, said the Student Senate is a great mix of being busy and having fun, and she credits that to Butler’s ability to read the room.

“She knows exactly when to be direct and when to also be a little bit informal … and how to use both those ways of leadership to best present information while still keeping the Senate engaged and still keeping them happy,” Attri said. 

Butler said she wants everyone to know that the Student Senate has one goal: to continuously improve campus and life for all students.

“We are doing the work to make this place as best as it can be,” Butler said. “There are 34 of us, and every week, we are talking on how we can make anything and everything better.”

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