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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Know the SBP candidates

Venny VenkatrajWith his personal background and time in the Corps of Cadets, student body president candidate Karthik “Venny” Venkatraj places emphasis on servant leadership.
“To me, there’s no higher value of character than servant leadership,” Venkatraj said. “We’re so unique [at Texas A&M] in that we have a purpose here, which is to develop leaders.”
Venkatraj is a junior international studies major and member of Company A-1. During his freshman year in the Corps, Venkatraj received his nickname “Venny,” which he will run under this spring for student body president.
“[Corps cadets] thought it would be clever since I’m from Brooklyn and New York City, and they’ve seen ‘My Cousin Vinny,'” Venkatraj said.
Venkatraj grew up in Brooklyn before moving to College Station in 1998. His parents were originally from a large city in India, but moved to the U.S. with a dream for greater opportunities and freedom. They passed their love for this country on to their children.
“They really had this dream to come to this country because of the opportunities they saw here and the level of freedom you have and the choices and the job opportunities,” Venkatraj said.
“They just always taught us to love this country and what it stands for and what it means because they saw what it did for them.”
After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Venkatraj felt the call from his country and enlisted in the Army National Guard as soon as he was able. When searching for colleges, he based his decision on the best army schools in the nation. Texas A&M entered his list because he was interested in the Corps; however, he soon developed a far deeper passion for the University.
“My first Silver Taps changed my entire perception of A&M,” said Venkatraj. “If you look at the values of A&M, they aren’t just A&M values; they are American values, too. That’s what makes me love this school so much. It’s almost as if I serve A&M, I serve this country, too.”
The values Venkatraj treasures are evident in his life to those around him.
“Venny is truly a remarkable friend and leader,” said senior interdisciplinary studies major Candace Campanelli, speaking team coordinator in the Venkatraj campaign. “He lives his life by our six core Aggie values and welcomes everyone into his life and heart. Venny is a perfect representation of the inclusion our student body is yearning for.”
While at A&M, Venkatraj has been involved in the Memorial Student Center Complex with Human Resources and the Student Conference on National Affairs. This year, he has served as the Student Government Association Campus Liaison and the Public Relations Liaison for the Corps of Cadets.
Venkatraj was a member of the Student Services Fee Advisory Board last year. He was chosen by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to sit on the Financial Aid Advisory Committee. Venkatraj hopes this position will increase the voice of A&M on the state level.
In all of his diverse experiences on and off campus, Venkatraj highlights his desire to unify the campus. This theme will be evident in his student body president campaign.
“When you run for this position, you need to bring the University together. And you can’t do that during your administration; you need to do that during your campaign,” said Venkatraj. “If you can do that, that’s a signature of how much your campaign is an indication of the atmosphere and what this University stands for.”
Venkatraj said he hopes his campaign will act to unite the campus and student body by bringing together a diverse range of students.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Venkatraj said. “We’re building the Aggie family.”
Eric BeckhamStudent body president candidate Eric Beckham feels that his role as an engineering student allows him to maintain focus on the “student” aspect of student leader.
“You’re still a college student; you’re one of peers, you’re not someone who’s privileged or better than someone else,” Beckham said.
The junior petroleum engineering major has served as vice president this past year under Student Body President Mark Gold.
“I think that working with student government for three years, especially this year as vice president, I’ve seen what it takes to be successful,” Beckham said. “I think that personally I’ve got the right kind of blend of professionalism, with still being a student.”
Beckham was born and raised in Houston, Texas. After graduation, he aims to stay in Texas and find a job working with an oil company.
Beckham is unsure where his life will lead him after a few years on the job. He is considering returning to school for a Master’s of Business Administration or running for a local public office, such as mayor.
Beckham knows his experience as student body president would prepare him for wherever he goes after college.
“The kind of skills and the kind of leadership that you are going to get from that kind of position are going to be skills that are applicable no matter what you do, whether it’s in your career, family, friendships,” Beckham said.
Beckham got involved in student government as a freshman in the Freshman Leadership Organization Fish Aides. He has also been involved with programming and policy in student government as well as in the Memorial Student Center. He is also active in Aggie Men’s Club.
Although he didn’t enter Student Government Association with this ultimate goal in mind, his year as vice president influenced Beckham to run for student body president.
“Being able to see firsthand the impact the student body president has, that’s when I realized that this was something I needed to do,” said Beckham. “I feel student body president is the position where I can give the most back to Texas A&M.”
Because the upcoming year as president will likely include issues such as shared governance, Student Bonfire decision, higher education in Austin and student fees, Beckham believes his previous executive council experience will aid him in his term.
“More so than ever, I feel we need somebody in office with experience being able to make the right, tough calls – not just the right calls, but the right, tough calls,” Beckham said.
Recent events have caused students to question the Texas A&M administration and student leaders; however, Beckham will work to reinstate student faith in A&M leadership.
“Students need to understand and really realize that the whole purpose of student government is to serve students,” said Beckham. “And if they can’t trust their student leaders, then we’re wasting their time. That’s not anything revolutionary or new, but that’s the focus.”
Building a trust in the student leaders will begin with a trust in Beckham, whom supporters say will live up to student body expectations.
“[Eric] is running to give back to a University that has provided so much for him and to empower a student body that dedicates themselves to serving the greater good,” said Campaign Manager Brady Black, junior agricultural economics major. “He is honest. He is passionate. He is committed. And as student body president, he will be bold in his efforts to continuously cultivate the Aggie Spirit.”
As Beckham looks ahead to his campaign and a year as an executive student leader, he stresses that the students he serves will be his focus the entire time.
“If elected, I can promise to serve the student body every single day with honesty and integrity, with a dedication to Texas A&M, and with a commitment to deepening every Aggie student’s experience,” Beckham said.
Logan NicholsHis involvement at Texas A&M has taught Logan Nichols to serve his fellow students, a theme he will take with him in his campaign for student body president.
“As student body president, you’re elected to serve the students; you’re not elected to serve yourself,” said Nichols. “You’re not elected to talk about what you think; you’re elected to talk about what the students feel.”
Nichols, from Troup, Texas, got involved on the A&M campus through Memorial Student Center Complex Aggie Leaders of Tomorrow. He has been a member of the Pre-Law Society, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council and Fish Camp.
This year, he is serving as Student Services Chairman in Student Senate and Campus Relations Sub-Chairman for Traditions Council. Nichols considers his experiences in Traditions Council as some of the most rewarding of his time in Aggieland.
“I’ve had the experience of standing with the families at Sul Ross and being there when the shots are fired,” said Nichols. “It’s an experience that has humbled me beyond belief. There are literally no words to convey it.”
The zeal he has shown for the University is one of the qualities that his supporters admire about Nichols.
“Logan is very passionate about Aggieland and its students,” said Lauren Bergin, junior agricultural communications and journalism major and public relations manager for the Nichols campaign. “He realizes the need for progress while maintaining the sense of tradition.”
With his wide range of campus involvement, Nichols feels he can easily take over the heavy responsibility of serving as leader of a campus of more than 48,000 students.
“If I’m elected, it’s not going to be a transition period; it’s going to be getting right to work because I’d had these experiences in the past,” Nichols said. “If we have a problem on campus, I know who to go to. I can immediately start working on the issues and immediately start finding solutions.”
As student body president, Nichols hopes to increase communication between the students and the administration. His ideas for improvement include open forums with A&M departments and a weekly time for students to have the opportunity to sit down with the student body president and Texas A&M President Elsa Murano.
“I think it’s incredibly vital that as we continue towards the goals of Vision 2020 that we don’t just look at the academics side or the administrative side of the massive plan for the University, but we continue to have a student body president that advocates for the students and makes sure the students have a voice,” Nichols said.
“We need to have somebody who’s going to stand up and say, ‘Students are here, and we want a voice at the table.'”
The junior agricultural economics major is unsure where his degree will lead him in careers. However, his position as student body president would contribute to his ultimate dream of working for students in a full-time career.
“There are a lot of doors open right now, and I haven’t chosen the one that I want to go through,” Nichols said. “I would love to continue to work with and for students in a more professional manner. I could see myself graduating from here and maybe going into Student Affairs at Texas A&M.”
As he looks forward to next year and reflects on his previous service, Nichols stresses that the institution of A&M has served as his inspiration.
“There are so many ways to get involved, and there are so many ways to give back,” said Nichols. “I don’t feel like [the students] are in school to see what they can get out of school; they’re here to see what they can do to give back.”
The pride he has developed in his school will be reflected in Nichols’s term as student body president.
“I love the camaraderie at this school. There is no other institution like A&M,” Nichols said. “I want to serve the student body; I want to represent the student body; I want to have that honor of representing what Texas A&M stands for.”
Ben DebayleSenior Yell Leader Ben Debayle believes his experiences as a member of the Corps of Cadets and as a yell leader have given him invaluable knowledge and understanding for his campaign for student body president.
“Because of those experiences, I’ve really gotten to know and experience the depth of A&M and its traditions and where it’s been,” the senior finance major said.
“I have a great understanding for what the Aggie Spirit is all about, which helps me serve in the role as student body president because part of that role is to be an example and to be the representative of the student body.”
Debayle, a Katy, Texas, native, joined the Corps of Cadets Company E-1 as a freshman. Outside of the Corps, he has been involved with the freshmen Bible study Upstream, Living Hope Baptist Church and the Abbott Family Leadership Conference. His involvement in the Corps has stemmed to include the Ross Volunteers and being elected as a senior Yell Leader last spring.
The idea of running for student body president did not occur to Debayle until someone suggested it to him last semester.
“The more I thought about it, the more passionate I became about it because I really do love serving students, and I love this campus and this school so much,” Debayle said. “I really see student body president as the best way I’ll be able to do that – the best way that hopefully I’ll be able to make an impact and a difference in student lives.”
Debayle does not have formal experience within Student Government Association; however, he is confident that this will not stop him from achieving his goals as student body president.
“I’ve already learned so much, and I’m going to continue to learn because this is something that is a never-ending process. You’re always having to continually learn,” said Debayle. “I’m going to be able to adjust very quickly and effectively use that to get things done.”
Even without previous time spent in student government, Debayle supporters emphasize that he has many qualities that will prepare him for office.
“Ben is a listener making him very approachable by anybody, and a warrior in that he fights for what he believes,” said senior accounting major and campaign finance manager Chase Gentry.
“He is childlike in that he’s relaxed and fun to be around, loyal in that he gives every ounce of energy to whatever he does, and honest in that when he says he will do something, he will.”
In office, Debayle wants to emphasize good communication with the student body and increase the student voice on campus. He was impressed by Texas A&M President Elsa Murano’s movement for a task force on shared governance.
“I think it proves that the faculty really does care about what the students say, and they’re actively taking strides to make sure that the student voice is heard,” Debayle said. “I’m completely for anything that is going to give students more say.”
Along with a to-do list of his own, Debayle aims to complete the initiations of those in office before and alongside him.
“One of the big things I’m going to focus on this year is being a finisher,” said Debayle. “There have been a lot of great things that have already been initiated or started, and I want to make sure that when I come in, I’m not completely revamping the system with my own policies.”
Debayle wants to see the campus become more unified in the coming months, as the student body and administration move toward the goals set in Vision 2020.
“I plan on challenging Aggies and seeing Aggies become better Aggies and see the campus become more unified,” Debayle said. “I’m giving them my Aggie word that I’m going to work my hardest every single day to serve them as best as I can.”
When it comes to completing tasks, Debayle can also draw on his yell leader experience.
“Thanks and gig ’em,” Debayle said. “That’s how I finish it out.”

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