The New Student Government Association President: Grace Newcombe
Political Science major Grace Newcombe was recently elected President of the Student
Government Association. From Huntsville, Alabama, Newcombe chose to attend USA because
of its campus-wide academic strengths. Since she was in middle school, Newcome has
been interested in politics. She says her father influenced her passion for elections
Newcombe has many favorite classes, including Dr. Mir Husain’s course on International Relations and his course on Comparative Politics. She particularly likes Husain’s lecture style. Newcombe also praises Dr. Scott Liebertz, her advisor in Political Science. She applauds Dr. Steven Trout, the Chairperson of the Department of English, for always taking the time to meet with her and other students to assist with papers and with ideas introduced in his English courses. According to Newcombe, Dr. Trout “goes in depth to explain and help struggling students.”
The SGA has been an important part of Newcombe’s collegiate life. At the beginning of her sophomore spring semester she was selected to fill a vacant Arts & Sciences Senate seat, and this experience led her to pursue more work in student government. Newcombe served on the Governmental Relations committee, which enabled her to “work closely with the Higher Education Partnership in Montgomery and the Office of Governmental Relations here at South.” According to Newcombe, Nick Lawkis and Happy Fulford helped her learn more about higher education and how important it is for students to be advocates for the University of South Alabama and other public colleges and universities in the state.
In summer 2017, Newcombe became the SGA Attorney General. In this role she says she served “as the liaison between USA, our Office of Governmental Relations, and the Higher Education Partnership.” She set up USA’s first on-campus higher education rally, which included, she says, “a panel of advocates for higher education” that “educated students about the statistics of obtaining a college degree.” Next, she organized a group of students to go to Montgomery to help lobby for increasing higher education funding in Alabama. This coming fiscal year, Newcombe says there will be a 3.5% increase in funding for each of Alabama’s public universities.
As SGA President, Newcombe will focus on the following initiatives: (1) raising student awareness of the help available from USA’s Counseling and Testing Services; (2) helping to train students about ways to deal with mental health issues; (3) creating a more effective JagTran tracker to provide riders with accurate estimates of time of arrival to each stop; (4) making sure that the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer position is filled as soon as possible; (5) working with the Empowering Change campaign in Mobile to bring South students together; (6), partnering with area employers and organizations to increase visibility of jobs and internship opportunities for USA students; and (7), increasing SGA transparency by livestreaming SGA meetings, updating students when the SGA passes legislation, and creating a Master Plan for SGA executive officers that identifies why they ran for SGA office, what their SGA plans are, and when they will complete their respective SGA goals.
In addition to her work in the SGA, Newcombe is also involved in other campus organizations, including Phi Mu Fraternity, the College Republicans, the Political Science Club, Phi Eta Sigma, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She was recently inducted into USA’s chapter of Mortar Board, a prestigious national Honor Society for college seniors.
Newcombe was asked to offer advice to USA first and second year students, and she said: “The best advice I can give to lowerclassmen and incoming freshmen would be to get as involved as possible. The transition from high school to college is a difficult time that can be made much easier with the help of friends and fellow classmates. Moving six hours away from home to a completely foreign city where I knew only a handful of people was a very tough and trying period of my life. My getting involved with organizations relevant to my major made studying for classes and applying for jobs or internships much more enjoyable…..” Through campus involvement, she adds, “I have created relationships with faculty members [who] have helped me with recommendation letters and guided me through difficult situations.”
When she is not in class or studying or working on SGA-related issues, Newcombe likes to read and to go for a run. She enjoys the seafood of Mobile and spending time with Bo, her golden retriever. After graduation in May 2019, Newcombe hopes to move to Washington, D.C. for work (she has previously interned there for former Alabama Senator Luther Strange). In the meantime, she is looking forward to her role as SGA President.