When Annelise Catanzaro, Student Government Association (SGA) president, first started her new life at the College three years ago, things weren’t going exactly as planned.
After serving as class president during both her junior and senior years in high school, Catanzaro wanted to continue her involvement with student government at the college level. She ran for First Year Government president, but lost. Then she ran for freshman class president, and lost again.
Anyone else might have been too scared to put themselves on the line again, but not Catanzaro, who, for all intents and purposes, now rules the school.
“It was quite embarrassing, losing twice,” Catanzaro said. “But I guess I made up for it, so that’s what’s important.”
It’s difficult to find anyone at the College who doesn’t know Catanzaro. Most students at least know of her as SGA president, but others know her as a College Ambassador and a few even know her as their former Italian tutor. As hard as it may be to believe, Catanzaro said she’s actually cut back on her extracurricular activities a lot since high school.
During her years at Parsippany Hills, Catanzaro was on the softball team, cheerleading squad and in the jazz and concert bands, on top of her student council activities and volunteering with her church. Knowing that she couldn’t do everything again in College, Catanzaro decided to focus on student government.
“I had done it so much in high school that I really wanted to continue that part of my life,” Catanzaro said.
She joined SGA as an associate member and became senator of culture and society in the spring of her freshman year, but she wanted more. After two of her student mentors asked her to join their election ticket, Catanzaro was elected alternate student trustee. The position, which saw her move up to student trustee in her junior year, gave Catanzaro the opportunity to learn exactly how SGA runs and set her goals even higher.
“I had my eye set on it for a while,” Catanzaro said of becoming SGA president. “As a little freshman, I was like, ‘Ah, I’d like to be president one day.'”
Now that she’s started her term, Catanzaro wants to make the most of it. She’s ready to put the problems that SGA faced last year behind and create a better relationship with students.
“I think last year I got kind of upset,” Catanzaro said, explaining that she sometimes took attacks on SGA personally. “But as a communications major, I take this all into account and say the students got upset because they don’t know what’s going on. If they don’t know, of course they’re going to think we do nothing.”
That’s why one of Catanzaro’s main priorities as president of SGA is to overhaul the organization’s image. Members have been out talking to freshmen and representing at events, all to put a face on SGA.
In addition, Catanzaro also has focused on bettering communications within SGA.
“If we’re going to get stuff done, we’re going to have to work together,” she said. “I’m not asking to be best friends with everyone. This year I just feel really lucky to have an executive board and senate who are willing to discuss things respectfully, compromise and work to benefit students the best way we can.”
With SGA taking up so much of her time, this year Catanzaro knew that she had to give up some of the other activities she had been a part of during her time at the College.
“This year I purposely took it easy because I knew I had to adjust my schedule,” Catanzaro, who also has minors in Italian and women’s and gender studies, said.
As for what everyone around her thinks about her dedicated involvement to her activities, Catanzaro said her friends and family are all supportive and understand her “addiction to SGA.” That support system comes in handy when things get to be too much.
“Everyone gets overwhelmed,” Catanzaro said, admitting that all the pressure gets to her sometimes. “I think a good cry, dessert, and my friends are really good for that. I feel like you have to have times like that. It makes you stronger.”
Though she may not have much free time, Catanzaro knows exactly what she wants to do with it when she does. She loves cooking and reading and uses the weekends to visit her boyfriend at the University of Delaware or her friends at home.
Catanzaro’s downtime recently took another cut though, as she joined another club. Flow is the College’s new hip-hop dance team and Catanzaro is the first to admit that it will probably surprise students to learn that she’s in it.
“I think the fact that I’m in Flow is pretty uncharacteristic of me,” Catanzaro said. “That was me going out on a limb.”
But as much as she may divide her time among different activities, it’s clear that Catanzaro’s priority has always been SGA. When asked how she would like students at the College to remember her after she graduates, she’s quick to refer back to it.
“I guess it wouldn’t be really important to have them remember me as much as just the organization (SGA) itself,” Catanzaro said. “If they remember me as a good leader of an excellent organization, that would be good. But if they remember me as a really nice person, that’d be good too.”