After serving as the only two-term student body president in more than 20 years, Anthony Rivas is moving on, leaving behind a legacy filled with accomplishments, personal growth, criticisms and car-keyings.
Rivas, the amiable former Army soldier, graduates this May and hopes to either pursue a job in federal law enforcement or attend law school. His time as president has been interesting, for himself and others.
“I feel real positive about both terms; I think I’ve done my best to do the job,” Rivas said. “I’ve done my best to represent the feelings of the students around the university, around town and around the state.”
While Rivas is confident in himself, he’s aware that not everyone may be thrilled with all of his decisions.
“I’d hope to think that most would say that I’ve done a good job, but you can’t please all the people all the time – especially when it’s something as controversial as students and money,” he said. “We’ve done the most to make sure the state does more of the paying for education, instead of the students doing it out of their own pockets.”
“I’ve received criticisms the whole time,” he said, noting that his opinions in student government meetings have stirred things up with some senators. “I’ve definitely had a lot of disagreements on a lot of different issues.”
“Whenever you have a position such as president, there’s always some give and take with the students,” said Diane Kozak, Student Leadership Coordinator. “Think about our own president and how many people are not supporters of George Bush in general.”
Students may not always agree with the way Rivas leads, Kozak said, but hopefully they recognize that much of what he does helps add to the senate’s success. Different points of view, different dynamics and different personalities, she said, keep things within the student government from being boring.
Rivas does see some room for improvement within student government and the senate, which he has worked with and sometimes against, during his terms.
“If I could give one piece of advice to the senate and John (Roberson), it’s to decrease the size of the senate and provide some sort of competition,” Rivas said, adding that tuition waivers may make student government more enticing and get more students involved.
Not shying away from voicing his opinions has drawn Rivas some attention, perhaps even some physically manifested criticisms – his car has been keyed on three different occasions.
“That probably cost me over a thousand dollars in student loan money,” he said with a laugh. “Some of them were pretty brutal.”
Rivas, who finds some criticisms founded, also owned up to some errors in judgment.
“I’ve definitely made some human resource related errors. Sometimes you make a lot of decisions on wishful thinking and the product is not where it is, so in that way I think I’ve made some mistakes,” he said.
Rivas and the student government drew some unwanted attention in January 2006 when vice president Justice Brooks resigned amid charges of assault and criminal mischief. Since then things seem to be going smoothly, and Rivas said the transition went well.
“When Justice stepped down, it would have had an impact if I didn’t have my vice president from last year. She just picked up like there was never a break. I was lucky enough to have Kortney Hintsala. It was immediate; she took over and started running the show.”
Over the years, whether working to expand the student discount program, which now offers students with a school ID discounts at specific stores around Anchorage, or dealing with the administration, Rivas is grateful for the position and the opportunities it provided.
“I think I’ve grown more from student government than anything else I’ve done.”
Kozak has witnessed personal growth in Rivas during his time in office, things he may not have noticed himself, she said.
“I think that his ability to think about the impact he has on others has definitely developed and increased over the past couple years,” she said.
Kozak, who works closely with student government and was a neighbor of Rivas before his involvement with student government, said that Rivas seems to have left his mark.
Rivas has worked with students to establish the idea that nothing is impossible, Kozak said.
During her four years in the position, Kozak has seen three student body presidents, but comparing them, she said, is inaccurate.
“Each president has accomplished things in their own right that are unique to their term,” she said. “I guess what would be different is the legacy that they leave behind.”
Rivas, Kozak believes, has established a legacy for students to push boundaries and not just sit back and accept things without question.
As Rivas finishes his term, president-elect John Roberson is preparing to take over. They have been in student government together since May 2005. Roberson said that Rivas has been very accessible during his terms but may now be lacking the time to complete some of his campaign goals, such as doubling the student discount program.
“That hasn’t materialized as of yet,” Roberson said. “I think it’s a project which takes a lot of time and commitment, which at this point he lacks the time to complete.”
Overall, Roberson seemed satisfied with Rivas’ presidency, but he noted that changes within student government have made it difficult for leadership.
Looking ahead, Roberson plans to improve the advising situation for students, improve online information on classes and professors, and make sure that student fees are handled properly.
“I believe the role of any government is to enable those who it’s serving to do better – to pave the road for them to do better for themselves,” Roberson said.
“I think he’s going to do a great job as president,” Rivas said. “Me and him do have different perspectives – he’s more conservative, I’m more liberal, but that really has nothing to do with student government. We have one thing in mind and one thing only, and that’s to improve higher education for students.”