SGA President Josh Swope ’23 campaigns for ‘involvement, culture and fun’ on campus
First things first: The handshake was rehearsed.
At Fall Convocation in August, this year’s Student Government Association President Josh Swope ’23 took the podium to encourage his constituents to make the most of their university.
“There are so many opportunities to have, memories to be made, handshakes to be created,” he said.
To prove that last point, he asked Furman University President Elizabeth Davis to join him at center stage for an elaborate, multi-step handshake, ending in a hug.
“I had asked President Davis about doing a handshake beforehand, and she said, ‘Absolutely,’” Swope remembered. “So we practiced it a couple of times, and we got it down.”
They also brought the house down.
“That was one of the highlights of Furman for me,” said Swope. “Just hearing how the audience erupted and seeing how many smiles there were.”
For the students in the audience, the moment, full of enthusiasm and optimism, was a fitting introduction to their new president, who ran in Spring 2022 with the motto “Swope Gives Hope.” His campaign priorities: “Involvement, culture and fun,” he said.
“These are issues I see that need a little bit of love and attention, especially coming out of COVID,” he said. “Really maximizing everyone to say, ‘Hey, we can hang out again.’ Just reviving a campus culture and school pride, creating a sense of home on campus.”
Swope hopes to encourage his classmates to get involved with university organizations and activities. As a communication studies major, he also wants to keep the channels open for conversation – even if it means grabbing a broom to spruce up SGA headquarters in the Trone Student Center.
“This office had not been cleaned or reorganized since the day they built it,” laughed Swope. “The vibe was just off. So, as soon as we started this semester, I said, ‘We’re going to change that. We’re going to make this a room where people can come in and just hang out.’”
The SGA office has an open-door policy, and the president keeps his desk facing that door, welcoming anyone who enters.
“If you have any questions or just want to say hi or talk to us,” he said, “we are here for you.”
The office is almost a second home for Swope, who has served in SGA for his entire college career – as class president his first and second years and as class representative his junior year. Becoming SGA president “has been a dream since my first year,” Swope said.
This enthusiasm for campus politics from Day 1 might surprise those who knew him in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, he said.
“I was the kid in the corner on my computer playing games in high school,” he said. “If you were to show somebody from then where I’m at now, they would laugh.”
But during his first days in college, “I recognized that Furman was a whole bunch of new people and new opportunities,” he said. “I realized that I could shape myself into who I’ve always wanted to be.”
He also plunged into a formidable array of organizations and activities, including the Astronomy Club, the International Students Association, the American Sign Language Club, the Ultimate Frisbee team, the Improvable Cause improv troupe, Homecoming Court, the Parking and Traffic Committee and the National Eating Disorder Association.
“And I go swing dancing once in a while,” he said.
His plans after graduation are up in the air, he said, although he is sure of a few things.
“I just want to work with a team,” he said. “I want to get people excited about something. I want to motivate people. That’s always been where my heart lies and where my passion is.”