“A passion for advocacy” inspires everything Ryan Wiggins does as Student Government Association (SGA) president at Eastern Kentucky University. “I have always wanted to make a difference for my constituents,” he said.
Wiggins has had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to do for a long time. After graduating from Scott County High School in 2015 and enrolling at EKU that fall, he declared a double major in political science and psychology. He cited a love of law and education as a defining factor in his choice of major. “I wanted to learn about politics so that I could maybe one day help shape policy that benefits Kentucky.”
That love of politics and desire to make a difference led Wiggins to run for SGA vice president alongside Laura (Jackson) Disney in 2017. He cited Disney as his inspiration to run for president the following year. “I saw all she was able to do in her role as president, and I wanted to continue the work she did.”
Part of that work is the Colonel Pride initiative. Started by Disney and Wiggins last year, Colonel Pride is an incentive program for students to attend on-campus events, such as performances at the Center for the Arts and athletic events. Wiggins has expanded the program from seven events last year to 15 this semester alone.
Though the office is demanding, people come first for Wiggins. “Campaigning gave me the opportunity to connect with people I had never met before, hear my constituents’ concerns, and form a plan to make EKU better for everyone on campus,” he said.
He acknowledged, however, that the journey to the presidency was not always easy. “It’s no secret that politics can be difficult,” he said. “I faced my share of adversity while trying to get elected, but it made me a stronger leader and helped me to keep my focus on the people I represent.”
In addition to serving as SGA president and student regent, Wiggins is president of Sigma Nu fraternity and captain of the mock trial team. When he met the then-captain of the mock trial team at his freshman orientation, his interest was piqued. After attending an information session during the first week of classes and tryouts that Friday, he became a team member, eventually working his way up to captain. His experiences, he said, have taught him about critical thinking, public speaking and leadership, as well as practical courtroom skills such as courtroom etiquette, rules of evidence and trial procedures.
Juggling those responsibilities is no easy task. Doing so has rendered Wiggins a master of time management. He schedules his days meticulously, planning out the time taken up by classes, studying, and his extracurriculars. “It’s hard to get anything done if you don’t plan ahead of time.”
During his time at EKU, Wiggins has learned invaluable lessons about leadership, which he said is “most effective when leading by example. Showing initiative, communicating with others and staying connected to the group you lead is key to being a successful leader.” He admitted, though, that he can’t do what he does alone: “A good leader needs a strong support system.”
Chief among that support system are EKU faculty who have mentored Wiggins. He named Dr. Lynnette Noblitt,chair of the Department of Government and mock trial coach; Dr. Thomas Parker, coordinator of the mock trial and pre-law programs; and Dr. Matthew Winslow, professor in the Department of Psychology, as his greatest influences and encouragers.
As Wiggins prepares to graduate in May, he can’t help but reflect fondly on his time at EKU.
“I have made incredible friends, I feel like I’ve prepared myself for law school, and I have become a better person,” he said. “The stress of school and my extracurriculars have made college difficult, but it’s also prepared me for what lies ahead after graduation.”
-- by Madison Harris, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management