College Democrats use state Rep. to kick off rebranding

Katy Kildee/Staff Photographer Grand Rapids junior Taylor Gehrcke, at left, Vestaburg sophomore Sam McNerney, center, and State Representative Phil Phelps raise their hands as Phelps speaks during a College Democrats at CMU meeting on Thursday in Bovee University Center. Gehrcke is president of the group, and McNerney serves as secretary.

Party politics and future employment were topics of concern at the College Democrats’ general meeting Thursday night as State Representative Phil Phelps joined the meeting.

Beginning at 7 p.m. in the Gold Room of the Bovee University Center, the meeting served as the organization’s official implementation of their new logo, social media strategy and future goals for campus involvement.

Phelps emphasized the Democratic focus on the 99th district, which includes Mount Pleasant. He said the district, represented by Republican Kevin Cotter, is now 49 percent democratic, which gives Democrats a good chance of winning back another seat.

“This is probably our No. 1 most targeted seat right now,” Phelps said. “This is a 49 percent Dem-base, and we can win this back.”

In addition to sharing his interest in the Mount Pleasant area, Phelps told the story of how he came to win his seat. Phelps, who began a path to becoming a biology teacher, used his interest in politics to climb the ranks and eventually won his seat in a special election to become the newest member of the state legislature.

Phelps said hands-on experience and proof of follow-through will take a student interested in politics farther than a degree in political science.

“Just a resumé that says you were a political science major or you studied constitutional law is not going to help you as much as showing you are committed and that you are responsible," Phelps said. "When you make good on the responsibility that you accepted, that starts to build you a reputation, and once you get a reputation, that's how people get hired into these offices or brought onto campaign staffs."

Phelps also touched on education policies before opening the floor up to questions from the attendees, which included both students and Mount Pleasant residents.

College Democrats President Taylor Gehrcke displayed nothing but excitement for both the presentation given by Phelps and the announcement of the organization's rebranding.

"We have completely switched our logo," Gehrcke said. "We have (also) been taking a new social media approach. Something that's really unique about CMU is that these RSOs provide retention for our university. We're trying just to rebrand ourselves in a way that (students) become more politically aware and more educated on the issues."

Gehrcke unveiled both the new approach to managing Facebook and other social media sites and the organization's newly-designed banner.

Student Government Association President Marie Reimers and opposing vice presidential candidate Mariah Urueta also took the time to speak on behalf of their platforms.

Grant sophomore Joe Frey has only been a member of the College Democrats for one year, but said he already knows his decision to join was a good one. Having grown up in a household in which aligning with a political party was more than encouraged, Frey finds the group of College Democrats to be the perfect network for supporting his values.

"A lot of what Democrats represent are a lot of the issues that I hold dear to my heart," Frey said. "The reason why I joined College Dems is because it's kind of a family group. Everyone knows everyone and it's an awesome atmosphere."

The College Democrats will host state Rep. Stacy Oaks at 3:15 p.m. on March 28 in the Charles V. Park Library.


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