Melissa Dudra quickly throws her brown hair up into a careless ponytail as she rushes to get organized. She is sitting in her cramped little office and after finally having some time between answering phones, scheduling meetings, and shuffling through papers, she sits back, and explains what she brings to the Quinnipiac campus.
After winning over half of the student body’s votes in the 2003-2004 Student Government Association (SGA) election, Dudra is beginning her second consecutive year as SGA president, and it will be another year filled with restless responsibilities.
These obligations consist of running weekly SGA meetings, sitting on the Board of Trustees, making sure that there are students representing each school event, and spending time motivating SGA members to focus their leadership roles toward working with the students and administration to make changes and improvements at Quinnipiac.
This past year, Dudra has formed the Ad-Hoc Committee to propose possible Student Center renovations to the administration. After years of complaints about the center’s lack of space, Dudra has finally gotten both student representatives and the student body inspired to begin work for the necessary changes.
“Melissa is good at keeping both the SGA and individual students well-informed as she tactfully presses the institution to make changes,” said Kerstin Soderlund, Dudra’s advisor, as well as the director of the Carl Hansen Student Center and student leadership development. “Though a leader who recognizes that she is still developing, Melissa is also clearly a student and sees herself as a member of the student body – not just as the president of the student body.”
Dudra demonstrated this idea when she went door-to-door to campaign before the SGA elections. Each night, Dudra visited a different dorm building and talked to students from each room-introducing herself, and chatting about everyday student life.
“Campaigning, for me, was about creating the connection between myself and the students by letting them know that I was just like them,” said Dudra. “Later on, when those same students can feel comfortable coming back and talking to me, then I know that I’m doing what I need to be doing.”
If Dudra was looking to stay occupied, then she certainly got what she bargained for. Unlike many young adults, whose free time consists of watching TV, hanging out with friends, and living the college life, whatever spare time Dudra has is spent organizing events and schedules, making lists of things to do, traveling from meeting to meeting and doing her schoolwork.
“I know if I have free time, it’s not really true,” said Dudra. “It only means I forgot to do something or I didn’t spend enough time on something else. My ‘free’ time is spent napping and if I’m lucky I get to eat.”
Although she has very little spare time, Dudra is encouraged and motivated because of the peers and staff that she is able to work with on a day-to-day basis.
“I have an opportunity to work with a lot of great people on this campus. With them I can share my experiences and from them receive the energy, to keep going,” she said. “It’s like a give-and-take relationship. I love these people. Once I came to orientation and I saw what they and the SGA were all about, I couldn’t have been more happy.”
Dudra is just as devoted to her academics as she is to her SGA friends. After graduation, with a degree in marketing, she hopes to become part of an advertising agency, where she can brainstorm with different groups to create effective ads and product slogans. To reach this point, Dudra plunges herself into her class projects.
“She goes above and beyond on every class assignment she’s had. Each time she works on an assignment, she always shows it to me, with each major accomplishment she’s made, as well as, the final product,” said Alissa Dandrilli of her roommate. “And I must say, that after all of her projects that I’ve seen, and been impressed by, she continues to impress me with her extensive creativity and dedication.”
Although Dudra seems to have a handle on her professional future, her life is packed with future goals to reach for SGA and the campus.
She has many plans for the upcoming school year such as establishing more of a connection between the students and the administration, as well as, organizing some minor changes within the student organizations.
“We are aiming to make little changes that will make a big deal, said Dudra. “For instance, we are going to look at rebudgeting the SGA’s money.
“We are also trying to create summer conferences between the organizations that will provide students with networking opportunities, and a chance to establish relationships with one another that could facilitate the accomplishment of different organizational goals,” she continued.
While striving to achieve these goals, Dudra remembers that although she is filling a leadership position, she is primarily a student who shares the same concerns as her peers.
“I’m not into politics. I’m a really normal student who fights for changes because I was asked to,” said Dudra.
“I just want to keep the positive energy flowing and hopefully I’ll still be the same smiling mess that people adore.”