Leaders in the Making: IE SGA Presidents

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Graduates of ISyE are known for making an extraordinary mark in the world as leaders in the field. However, many students in ISyE begin making an impact as leaders long before graduation, serving in various roles across campus.  Dan Blitch, IE 1953, Carey Brown, IE 1969, Tiffany Massey, IE 2003, and Eran Mordel, IE 2013, all served as president of the Student Government Association (SGA) during their time at Georgia Tech.  They recently took a moment to reminisce about their individual experiences in this role and how it shaped their futures.

Dan Blitch, IE 1953

I served four years on the SGA and in 1953 I was elected president by the SGA officers. Back then, the environment at Georgia Tech was a lot different than it is today.  ROTC was very active on campus, with many cadets leaving after graduation to serve their country. In the fall of 1953, Georgia Tech welcomed its first female students, after a close Student Council vote the previous year.

As president, one of my responsibilities was leading the student government in tasks such as distributing student fees across campus, most of which went to football and sports. I was responsible for setting up committees who worked to improve relations among Georgia Tech students and students at other universities, including Auburn and the University of Georgia.  While serving as president, I also helped collect money for the original Alexander Memorial Coliseum (now the Hank McCamish Pavilion).  I remember going from classroom to classroom speaking to students about the coliseum and taking up spare change they contributed to the project.

The interaction with other students, particularly those on student council, was a wonderful experience that helped me develop my leadership skills.  One of the greatest benefits of serving as SGA president was having the opportunity to get to know outstanding men, such as Bobby Dodd and Dean George C. Griffin, dean of students from 1946 until his retirement in 1964. I also felt that my involvement in student government was a key factor in having the opportunity to go to Harvard Business School after graduating.

-Dan Blitch, IE 1953


Carey Hall Brown, IE 1969

I was elected student body president in the fall of 1967.  Dean Jim Dull worked closely with me and the Student Government. He was very much a hands-pn dean of students as well as a supportive, wonderful, caring man. The SGA controlled all the student activity fees: Athletic Seating, Student Parking, Concerts, Freshman Camp at Rock Eagle (with the YMCA), Honor Board, and Ramblin’ Reck Club. Anything that had to do with student life and affairs was controlled and run by the SGA committees with direction from the Dean of Students office.

Once elected, I immediately engaged Dean Dull and stated I wanted to make a difference while in office. He handed me several copies of his recent annual reports to the president.  The theme he repeated every year was there were ashamedly few facilities for students to exercise and participate in intermural sports athletics. What followed were plans for the SAC ’70 (Student Athletic Complex), which was born believing we could convince Governor Lester Maddox’s office to authorize the funds for building such a facility on campus by 1970.  We had previously gained authorization from the School of Architecture to assign 5th year student Bo Powell to create a design for SAC.  Bo and I traveled to several schools at our own expense to view other student athletic facilities. Bo had created such a wonderful design and a presentation that when we visited with Maddox, he immediately stated he would ask Georgia Tech President Edwin Harrison to place the capital request for the building at the top of his list.  In the years that followed, successive student leadership, which included John Hayes, Chris Bagby, Bruce Milligan, and others kept the dream alive. SAC ’70 finally became a reality. For me, getting the Student Athletic Complex project off the ground was definitely a highlight during my time as SGA President.

-Carey Hall Brown, IE 1969

Eran Mordel, IE 2013

My tenure as student body president was the busiest, sometimes most frustrating, and most rewarding time during my years at Georgia Tech. Seeing the results of our efforts unfold over the year, working with students from every background imaginable, traveling, and many other opportunities were incredibly rewarding. Beyond the time and crisis management, and people skills that I learned, the biggest takeaway was appreciating being a student at Georgia Tech. Even the simplest thing – a football game -- has endless politics, balance sheets, and countless miscellaneous responsibilities behind scenes that make the experience a reality. This behind the scenes action sealed my appreciation for Georgia Tech and made me proud to be a Yellow Jacket.

During my time as president, I worked to revamp commencement policy with the President’s Office to increase ticketing; released Course Critique 2.0 under a more stable platform with many added features, which has seen over 153,000 page views from over 5,900 visitors in one month; hosted the inaugural

“Friday Buzz” stress-relief pep rally event with over 500 attendees; implemented the inaugural “Buzzinga” competition, encouraging team-styled campus improvement competition with $10,000 of funding/support for implementation; hosted the first-ever “GT Wreck the Vote” campaign with 300+ first-time registrants and 700+ attendees over a few events; secured approximately $500,000 in additional Student Activity Fee funds through the Budget Office; and advocated and lobbied against Sequestration (fiscal cliff), for the Higher Education Opportunities Act, Student Center expansion and renovation, and more.

While my classes have prepared me to do my future job, it’s the students here that have taught me how to make a difference in the world. The true value of college isn’t only the traditional learning, but also the process of maturing and growing as a person. Becoming involved outside the classroom and taking advantage of every opportunity is the most beneficial experience for any career. There are two qualities in IEs that coincide with leadership. First, the fast-paced, difficult curriculum pushes IEs to critically think, work hard, and be resourceful. Second, the program at Georgia Tech emphasizes working with others while being individually productive. Approaching the professor during office hours, forming study groups, Senior Design, are all experiences that teach us to work well with others. Still, we must be valuable members of the team. The IE program fosters a challenging curriculum and a collaborative environment that lends itself to the qualities of leaders.

One story really captures my approach to the role and the type of people and environment we had at Georgia Tech. Two weeks after being sworn in, Dr. Paul Kohn, the vice provost for enrollment services, invited Amit, the vice president of SGA, and me for lunch. Towards the end of the hour, I gracefully managed to launch ketchup all over Dr. Kohn’s shirt and tie. To make things better, Dr. Kohn was on his way to Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson’s office with other Georgia Tech executive leadership. Needless to say, Amit’s and my time in office started off on an interesting foot! Amid the humor, I took away a few lessons from the experience: not to take ourselves too seriously, the students, administrators, and faculty are all a pleasure to work with, and remember to focus on what is important.


Tiffany Massey, IE 2003

“During my time as student body president, Georgia Tech was in the midst of the transformation. It was a great time to be engaged with the continual improvement mindset we ISyEs share. I remember meetings with institute leadership examining existing processes — whether it was the stinger schedule or process class registration. We would collaboratively explore ways to improve the experience for all Georgia Tech students. This was spot on in my ISyE wheelhouse and it definitely felt very rewarding to be a part of creating a better Georgia Tech for students to come.”


Past IE SGA Presidents

Dan Blitch, IE 1953

Patrick Edward Bolger, IE 1957

Hazard Earl Reeves, IE 1958

William J. Vanlandingham, IE 1959

Oscar Newton Persons, IE 1960

Ronald D. Stallings, IE 1965

Carey Hall Brown, IE 1969

Greg Williams, IE 1974

Ross Mason, IE 1992

Susan Sutherland Pina, IE 1993

Jim Mason, IE 1997

Chris Kavanaugh, IE 2002

Tiffany Massey, IE 2003

Nick Wellkamp, IE 2009

Alina Staskevicius, IE 2010

Eran Mordel, IE 2013


This article first appeared in the Fall 2013 ISyE Alumni Magazine.


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