Past MSA presidents still active in the community

Working with others to achieve goals is a common theme for past MSA presidents.

by Rebecca Bentz

Post-graduation adjustment can be tough for many students, but those who rely on their art for income often face a dangerous and sometimes deadly situation: lack of health care.

One University alumna and past Minnesota Student Association president hopes to change that through a voucher program that helps Twin Cities’ artists with health care costs.

Working with others to achieve goals has been a common theme for past MSA presidents.

Emily Serafy Cox, who works at the Neighborhood Involvement Program Community Clinic, partnered with Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, and Linda Pippin, NIP resource development and community relations director, to create the voucher program.

“There is a high percentage of artists without health care,” Cox said. “And when you’re a dancer, your health is critical to your art.”

Cox, a dancer herself, said seeing her friends struggling to afford basic medical care made the effort a personal mission.

Springboard for the Arts began distributing the program vouchers in the fall. The vouchers are worth $40 of health care at the NIP Community Clinic.

“At the clinic, $40 is a significant portion of the bill; the vouchers help bring what would be a very scary number for a lot of people down to a manageable one,” Cox said. “We’ve had people tell us, ‘I wouldn’t have come in with this ankle injury, with this cough, if not for this program.’ “

The program is in its pilot stage, Zabel said.

Currently, artists can apply for one voucher per year, but Zabel and Cox hope artists will be able to receive health care on a regular, voucher-paid basis.

“Emily has been a huge help,” Zabel said. “She’s a great link for the program with her connection to NIP and the fact that she’s an individual artist herself.”

In her time as MSA president, Cox organized the Greater U Community Rental Housing Summit, released a renter’s guide, got students involved in the Strategic Positioning process and helped with voter registration campaigns.

It’s the work she did as an MSA president that she misses the most.

“It was a really valuable learning experience,” she said. “You discover how bringing people together can solve problems.”

Bringing people together is what helped make her rental housing summit idea a success, Cox said. In getting landlords, neighbors, students and the University together to talk about rental housing problems, they were able to think of solutions, she said.

Tom Zearley

Tom Zearley, MSA president from 2004 to 2005, considers his proudest moment the day a memorial he sponsored was commemorated. The Van Cleve Park memorial plaque and University-donated birch tree are dedicated to three University students who died in a 2003 Como neighborhood house fire.

“It was very rewarding, bringing these three convergent parts together,” Zearley said of the students’ parents. “There had been so much fighting and blaming, just for them to have a minute of remembrance in common was amazing.”

Zearley said he is currently doing construction work until he attends graduate school next year.

Matt Clark

Some past presidents, like Matt Clark, enjoy remaining involved with the University and community-based projects. Clark, MSA president from 2000 to 2001, is president of the University’s Band Alumni Society, chairman of the board at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center and a Transit for Livable Communities board member.

In addition, Clark works as a commercial lender with Lehman Brothers, a small business finance company.

“I don’t know that I would have learned to be as involved in the community had I not been involved in MSA,” Clark said.

Clark, whose administration implemented the U-Pass and Washington Avenue Bridge Circulator, is currently working with Transit for Livable Communities to organize a light rail route on University Avenue.

At Phyllis Wheatley, the oldest African-American agency in the Twin Cities, he organized anger management classes, domestic abuse and early childhood programs.

“You have to treat everybody with the same amount of respect,” Clark said about working with others. “Whether it’s a forum member you don’t like or it’s the president of the University with a cigar in his mouth, everybody’s the same. And MSA does a good job of pointing that out.”