What’s the story behind a guy who says the love of a big river, and of museums, brought him to Western Illinois University-Quad Cities — and what’s he planning to do to bring more students together on the Quad Cities campus?
Michael (“Mike) Cortez, a graduate student in Museum Studies at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, has been elected president of the WIU-QC Student Government Association (SGA). And he’s got big plans on where he wants to see SGA go.
- hometown: Des Moines, IA
- bachelor’s degree in history in May 2015, Grand View University
- first-year graduate student in Museum Studies program
Why Does He Want to Lead?
Cortez was elected by the student body in April, after a two-day process, he says, of meeting as many people as he could by “…shaking hands with people, introducing myself, just poking into classrooms or the library and I think I walked the campus six or seven times, if not more, over a two-day period.
“I try to get the message out to students that ‘this is your campus,’” he continued. “As soon as you walk through the doors, you take control of your journey, educationally and intellectually, so why not have a voice? Why not get involved?”
Cortez previously served SGA as a senator for GEMS, the Graduate Experience in Museum Studies student organization.
“Now that I’ve had a year to settle in, I’m really excited to take this next big step,” he said.
As an undergraduate student at Grand View, Cortez served as vice president of the history club and and the president of the LGBTQ student organization.
“I’ve always been actively involved,” he said. “I enjoy talking with people, giving speeches, going to meetings, being hands-on and being part of something bigger than myself.”
Growing Student Government on a Commuter Campus – More Events for All
“In the past, SGA wasn’t getting the student involvement that it should, with maybe one executive officer attending meetings. We have about 10 people who come to meetings now. It has grown quite a bit in the last three to four years, and we’re on much more solid footing now.
“My first priority is to make sure that every student voice is heard,” he continued. Second, I’d like to see increased involvement with activities on campus, and third, to strengthen the bond and relationship with the Macomb campus. We’ll continue having wonderful events such as Casino Night. I’d love to see us add a fall concert, art shows, and a Multicultural Night.
“WIU-QC really embraces non-traditional students who have families and who work, and we have a lot of veterans, but we also have traditional-aged college students. So one of my big priorities over the summer is to be thinking about, ‘How do we involve all types of students and not just one group?”
Why Western?: Tuition, location, and….the Mighty Mississip.’
“A big factor was in-state tuition, because in-state tuition announcement,” he said. “But another reason is I’m a huge water person — love large bodies of water. And the Mississippi River is a beautiful sight to see. Also, the Quad Cities is kind of a gateway to anywhere you need to go — Chicago, Des Moines, St. Louis. It’s kind of centralized to all these fantastic places.
“I also love the program, mostly because of Dr. Pamela J. White, the museum studies director. “She’s been a phenomenal advisor and mentor. I really think it’s because of her that the program is as big as it is.”
What’s After Western?
Cortez is pursuing the degree in museum studies with plans to work in visitor services.
“I’ve loved museums ever since I was a child,” he said. “In Des Moines, there was a state historical society museum downtown, and and I used to beg my mom to take me every week. I love history. I love reading history books, on many topics, including European history, U.S. history, even African history.”
- Caroline Sipiera of Galena, IL, senior communication major, as vice president
- Benjamin Brondos of Brookfield, IL, senior engineering major, as attorney general.
- (…and a special goodbye to graduating past-president Nicholas “Nico” Moreno
“I’d like to give a shout-out to Nico for running a tight ship, and I’m incredibly thankful for what he did for SGA,” Cortez said.
More information on the WIU-QC SGA