Most students at the College have spent the majority of their lives in New Jersey. They went to elementary school here, middle school here, high school here — and now they go to college here. Student Government President Tyler Liberty, on the other hand, had a childhood far different from any other College student.
Although born in New Jersey, he spent portions of his life in Hong Kong, Belgium, Holland, Georgia, California, Tokyo and Princeton, and now his family resides in Arizona.
“Growing up abroad is a very different experience than growing up in the United States,” the senior English and Chinese double major said. “Some advantages, some disadvantages to be sure, but in terms of how I view the world and how I view people and how I get along with people, I completely attribute that to my upbringing abroad.”
Although Liberty enjoyed his childhood abroad, he “wanted to stay in a bubble” during his college years. During his junior year of high school he attended the Urban Teacher Academy at the College and instantly fell in love with the energy he felt from the campus.
“And I think a small part of me really liked the fact that Princeton was 15 minutes down the road,” Liberty said. “It was the first time in my life that I’d be moving and I didn’t have to say goodbye to all my friends. Princeton High School is notorious for sending a lot of people to Princeton College, so I knew I’d know a lot of people there … For me, (attending the College) was a combination of a great school, a great feel and in a bubble.”
Now a senior at the College, Liberty is anything but an average student. As Student Government President, he represents the voice of the student body.
“The fact that I can look back at the end of the year and say, ‘I advocated for this, we helped change this, we helped represent students on this’ to me really is the essence of the job. This is a job for students and about students,” Liberty said.
But representing the entire student body certainly isn’t an easy job. An average Wednesday for Liberty, his busiest day, begins at 7:30 a.m., much early than the average student. By 7:45 he’s at the gym and he’s in class by 9. At noon he has a “break,” which he usually spends catching up on emails. From roughly 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Liberty spends his time attending SG-related meetings, which includes the general body meeting at 3 p.m. At 5:30 he has another class followed by more meetings, after which he finally has a chance to relax.
“I tend to think that I have really, really good time management skills,” Liberty said. “And I really do think that I and my fellow Student Government members do make a difference on this campus. I don’t think it’s a singular effort by myself. I think it is a thing that the general body does as well.”
Liberty also works closely with the Town Gown committee to brainstorm ways to create a great living arrangement between the College and Ewing residents. One program the committee is developing is the Neighbor to Neighbor program, in which students would be able to volunteer their time in order to assist Ewing residents with specific projects, such as yard work. Liberty believes this program will help improve the College’s image.
“99 percent of our students are great — they do great things,” he said. “It’s that 1 percent that sometimes can get a little bit rowdy and might make questionable decisions, and we want Ewing to remember us for the 99 percent compared to the 1 percent.”
Although SG has shaped his college career, he didn’t always envision himself holding a position. During his freshman year, his CA, future SG President Christina Kopka, encouraged Liberty and the rest of the freshman floor to get involved with SG.
“I didn’t do student council in high school and the only activities I did were frisbee, community service work and mock UN. But that was pretty much what I did. I had no experience in anything related to student government and it turned out that I came here and that’s how I got involved,” he said.
It’s certainly a time-consuming job, but to Liberty, it’s worth it. Even though it’s a whirlwind of meetings at times, he believes that the changes they’ve been discussing will really go a long way. He believes that students really have the potential to accomplish great things, and he’s very excited to represent students at the College.
“It’s okay to fail and fail again,” Liberty said, offering advice to current students. “But more so, just get involved. I think TCNJ fosters a community of people and individuals … who really allow you to explore any interest that you have. And at the end of the day, yeah you can look back on how stellar of an academic life TCNJ provides, but it really also is about what you were involved in and what you were able to participate in.”
Although he’s not sure what type of job he’d like to have immediately after graduation, he does know that in his years following college he’d like to hold a panda, go skydiving, get in a fight, and live a happy life.
“No matter where I work, I want to make an impact,” Liberty said. “I see myself in a place where I’m either being a change agent or facilitating change, and that’s really important to me.”