Luke Rafferty | Asst. Photo EditorNews
Miss SA: Student Association president Allie Curtis works to build connections among SU communities
Allie Curtis is a self-described contradiction who, in high school, was a lacrosse-playing cheerleader that both acted and competed in speech and debate.
She added to the contradiction last Monday, when she was confirmed president of the Syracuse University Student Association’s 57th Session. In the December election, Curtis tallied more than 1,200 votes in a heated four-candidate contest, besting her closest competitor by 284 votes.
Friends and colleagues agree Curtis’ razor-sharp quickness and infectious energy will bring a personality and openness absent from previous administrations. Her time as vice president of the 56th Session was marked by transforming the position from a “surface level” and closed-off role to one that opens the pipeline of communication to all SU students,said PJ Alampi, who came in second to Curtis in the race for president.
“When it comes down to it, every vice president from now on will definitely look to mold their position after her,” said Alampi, who served as the 56th Session’s Board of Elections and Membership chairman and was selected as the 57th Session’s Chief of Staff. “I don’t see them looking further back.”
Alampi said Curtis emphasized methods to connect and cater to students’ needs during her time as vice president, citing her work to better publicize The New York Times campus readership program. Academic passes, which allow students to gain free access to the newspaper’s online content with a university email address, have been distributed in classrooms and lecture halls.
Within SA, Curtis led a mentor program that paired longer-serving representatives with newly elected representatives based on their interests.
This session, Curtis instituted a new seating policy at general assembly meetings that groups representatives by college instead of open seating, which allows members to splinter into smaller cliques. The ability to unify separate groups is one of Curtis’ strengths, said Lynde Folsom, chairperson of the Judicial Review Board and a close friend.
“She can cross those boundaries, break down those walls and unite people. And that’s what I think she can do for the assembly,” Folsom said.
Student-involved service projects are some of Curtis’ focuses as she begins her time as president. Curtis would also like to help expand Impact Week, an effort to bridge the divide between SU and the city through weeklong community service events. During the first Impact Week, Curtis registered students to vote and contacted nonprofit organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Rescue Mission and the Ronald McDonald House to coordinate volunteering options.
Janine Savage, current chairwoman of the Student Engagement Committee and primary organizer for last year’s Impact Week, said Curtis lent a helping hand “whenever I needed support.” Savage added that Curtis’ ability to promote service activities through social media was crucial.
Leading up to this year’s Impact Week, which will likely be slated for November, the SA cabinet and representatives will begin posting and tweeting about “small impacts,” Curtis said.
Curtis also aims to deliver on her campaign platform of “active advocacy,” which encourages general assembly representatives to better serve as a liaison to students in their respective home colleges.
“I want every student in their home college to see their assembly representatives and say ‘Hey, that’s somebody I can reach out to. That’s going to be someone who is going to be an advocate and a friend for me on campus. And that’s someone I can go to when I have issues or ideas because I know they’re an agent of change on campus,’” she said.
Curtis’ colleagues applaud her ability to relate to a number of students on campus, but her climb to SA president wasn’t seamless.
Duane Ford, SA vice president and Curtis’ campaign manager, said she showed resolve in the face of a strenuous and, at times, emotionally taxing campaign that included mudslinging and personal attacks through social media directed at multiple candidates, including Curtis. At one point, Curtis said she was referred to as the “one-percent candidate,” implying Curtis’ campaign spending far exceeded the other three candidates.
Despite the lows of campaign season, Curtis weathered the negativity and showcased toughness, Ford said.
“That only made her work harder. She was very, very resilient during that time,” Ford said.
Dylan Lustig, president of SA’s 56th Session, said he is confident in Curtis’ ability to defy further obstacles and head the student governing body of SU and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
“Allie has always been an upbeat, positive member of every team we have been on together. As president and VP, Allie always had my back, but never hesitated to let her own voice and opinions be heard,” Lustig said in an email. “In any work Allie does, if she has a goal, she will reach that goal. She will persevere to make sure that whatever she wants badly enough is fulfilled.
Beyond the confines of SA, Curtis is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, is the Class of 2014’s Student Council co-President, belongs to the Renee Crown Honors Program and works as a residence hall front desk attendant. She has also participated in more than a dozen pageants.
Curtis said she has been approached about the stereotypes associated with the glitz of pageantry, but said competing in pageants has helped hone her public speaking skills and given her access to a broad network of like-minded women. Being crowned National American Miss Rhode Island 2012 and National All-American Miss Teen 2010-2011 — her two national titles in 16 pageants — helped develop her persistence.
“It’s a broad cycle of giving,” Curtis said.
Curtis’ ability to function — and excel — on multiple cylinders can come across as intimidating, said Maggie Quigley, a junior magazine journalism major who developed a tight friendship with Curtis through greek life.
“I saw this pageant queen and I went, ‘Well, I will never be able to have a conversation with her,’ and that’s so close-minded of me. It really is,” Quigley said, recalling the first time she encountered Curtis in person. “Yes, she does the pageant circuit and she’s very good at it, but there’s a lot more to her as a person.”
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