Zachary Mazag and Gabi Hitchcock are running for student body president and vice president for the 2020-2021 academic year. They are running against two other tickets: Baum-Beekman and Sampson-Graham.
Mazag is a junior from Morrisville, NC majoring in political science and minoring in international studies. He has been a member of Student Government Association (SGA) since his freshman year when he served as freshman at-large senator. Mazag is also a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and currently serves as the fraternity and sorority special interest senator. He has been involved with the Grange, an agricultural advocacy group, since his first year of high school. Mazag hopes to attend law school after graduating.
Hitchcock is a sophomore from Southport, NC pursuing degrees in political science and sociology. During her first year at UNC Charlotte, she served as freshman at-large senator and is currently a sophomore at-large senator and the chair of the internal affairs committee. She also chaired the constitutional review committee. Hitchcock is a student ambassador, a graduate of emerging leaders and a member of Alpha Chi Omega. She hopes to go to law school and pursue her interests in immigration and women’s reproductive health.
The following is a transcript of their interview with News Editor Megan Bird. Their answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Bird: Why do you want these positions and what makes you qualified for them?
Mazag: We've both been so involved with SGA for the past several years and it's something we're super passionate about. We love our fellow senators; it's just like one big happy family. We're all going for the same goal: to make sure that the students are having the best time and that their issues and concerns are being voiced.
Hitchcock: I think that the new chancellor coming in gives us a really good opportunity to give him some new ideas and some primary things to work on with the concerns of the student body.
Bird: Talk to me a little bit about your platform and your major issues.
Hitchcock: Our poster word is "dynamic" because it can be perceived so many ways and it's multifaceted. One of the first things that we wanted to work on, one of the big things that makes Charlotte Charlotte, is diversity. We want to continue embracing that and making sure that everyone feels accommodated and work with other schools like HBCUs to make sure that everyone feels included. The second part is raising Niner tradition. That's one of the goals that I personally am really passionate about. We also want to continue being really transparent with everybody. I know sometimes there's a lot of ambiguity surrounding students' tuition and where they think it’s going.
Mazag: One of the specific things that we'd like to tackle is student parking. We're going to do all that we can to continue to work towards that in order to make campus more accessible for commuters. We’ll meet with the director of Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) and make sure that those student concerns and voices are heard. Also things like class availability; we know that a lot of students don't know exactly what they want to do freshman year, so they might not figure out their plan until sophomore or junior year. Then they're rushing to get all of their classes done and many have issues with class availability and can’t get into the classes they need.
Bird: Can you talk a little bit more about how you would accommodate commuter students? What would that look like?
Mazag: Making sure that they feel at home and increasing their Niner pride. We want to keep on building with that. I would also have people in our executive cabinet from all walks of life to hear their different perspectives.
Hitchcock: It’s also important that we hear their concerns because likely they're not on campus when we're tabling or they're not involved with organizations. I think that also goes hand in hand with diversity because commuters are a big part of our culture.
Bird: If elected, what would you change during your first few months in your new positions?
Hitchcock: Again, one concern we hear over and over is parking and making it more affordable for students as well as expanding the options. I also think there are changes to be made to the dining halls, like ensuring that we have healthier, convenient options and making sure that dietary restrictions are satisfied. I am pescatarian and that's one problem I've had with dining.
Bird: You already touched on this a little bit, but how do you actually plan to engage the student body more?
Mazag: That goes along with our commuter initiative -- increasing pride and school spirit. We want to make sure that student organizations are excited to get out and table to recruit new members, and we want to spark interest in football games.
Hitchcock: One thing we look forward to is having our executive cabinet open to applications so we can encourage students with different affinities to apply. I recently sat down with the person in charge of sports clubs and we talked about getting them more involved with SGA. We want to make sure that we're really interacting with students and hearing concerns.
Bird: Why did you two choose to run together?
Mazag: We've known each other for several years now. We met through SGA and as we became more involved with it, we became better friends. Eventually we realized that we meshed really well; we had similar views towards campus and things that we wanted to do. We were talking one day and we were like, "What if we did this?" We know that we're both super involved and we know this is something that we both want to do. So it really came out of a friendship.
Bird: So when did you decide that you wanted to run?
Hitchcock: It was earlier this year. We used to just joke about it but then we realized how well we worked together.
Bird: On a more serious note, the current student body president has had to deal with a shooting at the beginning of his tenure and the coronavirus at the end. How do you plan to be leaders during times of crisis like these?
Mazag: Having a support system and knowing that I can rely on her and she can rely on me will help us to make sure that we're reaching out to the student body in the best way possible. Having an executive cabinet that we trust and that covers all people from all walks of life so that we're getting different ideas to make sure that everybody is included is also important. We've seen Chandler do an outstanding job this past year. It’s been really inspiring.
Hitchcock: It definitely starts with us having that transparency with the student body; making sure that we're a resource for them and that the administration is there for them, and it goes beyond just paying for school. We're here for their mental health because that always comes first. It's something that you have to be proactive about instead of reactive.
Bird: UNC Charlotte has 29,000 students but there are only two of you. How do you two plan to represent these many and varied perspectives?
Mazag: We're each involved in a lot of different organizations, so we have friends and peers from all over that represent all sorts of backgrounds. It’s important to hear their perspectives and make sure that we are proactive with our executive board so that everybody is accommodated.
Hitchcock: One of the things that we've been working on with our campaign is being very hands on. We've been reaching out to organizations, talking to students in person and not just over social media. At every organization that we've been to, we gave our personal numbers so we can let them know that we're open to all kinds of diversity -- that we encourage it and we embrace it.
Bird: Why should people vote for you and not your competitors?
Hitchcock: We work really well together, which sets us apart from other candidates. I think our school will be in good hands if we win or lose. However, I think voters will get a lot out of electing us because we're not only representing the Greek side, but also other organizations.
Mazag: All of us campaigning are friends. We have nothing negative to say about them.
Bird: On a more fun note, do you have a favorite thing about UNC Charlotte?
Hitchcock: My favorite tradition is the International Festival. I’ve gone both years I’ve been at Charlotte and it’s really cool to see the crowd stretching from the Student Activities Center (SAC) to the Star Quad. It really encapsulates the diversity and culture of UNC Charlotte. And all the amazing food. Oh my gosh. It's something I really look forward to every year. And my least favorite memory happened one of the my first weeks here. I was walking down the spiral stairs in Fretwell and I slipped and slid all the way down.
Mazag: My favorite spot on campus is Prospector. On a good, sunny day, you get out of class or leave the library from a study session, it's the middle of the day and you're walking up that alley towards Friday and you see so many different orgs out there tabling. It's really great to see so many different students covering so many different backgrounds and showing their Niner pride. The energy is so exciting there.
The March 23 debate has been cancelled. Elections will occur online March 24 and 25.