Zearley, Pierce run on past experience

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of features on all Minnesota Student Association presidential candidates.

Patricia Drey

When undergraduate student body presidential candidate Tom Zearley signed up to head the Minnesota Student Association’s facilities and housing committee, he said he had no idea how important his position would become.

Housing issues leaped to the top of many students’ priority lists after a Dinkytown house fire killed three University students in September, making Zearley’s committee busier.

“At times, it was very stressful and I had a lot going on, but I really enjoyed what I did,” Zearley said. “For some reason, I don’t know why, I just want to make this place better for students.”

This year in MSA, Zearley said, he worked with University Student Legal Service to create a renter survey and to promote renter-education forums.

MSA received 1,200 responses to its e-mail renter survey – which allowed students to rate their landlords – and is planning to publish the results, Zearley said.

“We’re trying to educate students so they know what they’re getting themselves into,” he said.

University Student Legal Service Director Mark Karon, who worked with Zearley on these projects, called Zearley energetic, focused and caring.

“I think that he’s highly motivated,” Karon said. “He has the students’ concerns in mind.”

Karon said he has not worked with any of the other MSA presidential candidates.

Zearley said that, sometimes when there is too much partisanship in MSA, people tend to forget they should be voting in the students’ best interests.

He also said he has no future political aspirations. He hopes to win the MSA presidency this year, get as much done as possible and then get out of the way, he said.

The biosystems and agricultural engineering sophomore said he would like to spend his senior year focusing on research in his field. Zearley, who hopes to become an engineer, said his passion for helping students does not really coincide with his passion for engineering.

If elected, Zearley said, he wants to see a permanent late-night bus that will go to the St. Paul campus. He also said he wants MSA to continue pressuring city councils to make ordinances that protect renters.

Zearley coordinated the late-night bus pilot program, which was one of the biggest MSA accomplishments of the year, said Amanda Hutchings, MSA’s legislative affairs committee chairwoman.

“He has the effectiveness of combining good leadership with the ability to get others going,” Hutchings said. “He’s very good at encouraging and motivating people.”

Both Zearley and his running mate, Amy Jo Pierce, said their MSA experience prepares them for the association’s top spots.

Pierce has been in MSA for two years and is currently its campus relations committee’s vice chairwoman.

Pierce is working on a campus newsletter that will have a calendar of events with student groups’ activities.

Increased student participation in MSA has encouraged her, Pierce said, and she hopes more students become familiar with the association and get involved.

“A lot of college students don’t really care,” Pierce said. “I would like to see the Forum grow.”