Sitting across from Luke Jansen’s new desk is a chair with messages from previous student body presidents — and space for him.
Jansen, 21, is the new student body president at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and one of the few who isn’t yet a senior. Involved in student government and other campus organizations since his first day at SIUE, he has put his studies in marketing and public relations to work helping his school community.
“I’ve always had a really big passion for helping organizations to grow,” Jansen said.
Originally he had his heart set on marketing, but as he progressed in his studies, he decided to add a minor in public relations.
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Now he plans to seek his master’s degree in higher education administration. “I love college so much, I never want to leave,” he said.
Jansen was involved in student government finances for his first two years, rising to finance director last year. As student body president, he wants to focus on diversity and inclusion, the state budget stalemate, and mental health for college students.
Jansen said diversity needs to be part of the conversation at SIUE, with 14,000 students from many different backgrounds.
“I come from a place where everyone looked like me, talked like me, dressed like me,” Jansen said. “When I came to SIUE, I was exposed to what diversity really is.”
He said he wants to encourage positive conversations to help students learn from each other as well as from their professors, to show why differences can bring them together, not tear them apart.
I come from a place where everyone looked like me, talked like me, dressed like me. When I came to SIUE, I was exposed to what diversity really is.
Luke Jansen, SIUE student body president
“It’s a year of crucial conversations,” he said, and none more so than the future of higher education money in state government.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know that a lot of students are aware there is a budget crisis,” he said.
So educating the students about the issues and risks is part of the job, Jansen said, as well as encouraging them to speak out and get involved.
“We need to make them aware that they can affect it,” he said. “It’s a powerful sight when thousands of students are walking down the street (in Springfield).”
As far as mental health goes, college can be a stressful time, Jansen said. Students are living on their own without parents and guardians, with bills and financial responsibilities often for the first time in their lives. Some students may have three or four jobs as well as attending school full-time — and there’s a stigma attached to asking for help.
“A lot of people think, ‘If I go to counseling services, there’s something wrong with me. It will look bad,’” Jansen said. “I applaud and commend someone willing to do that. They see that something isn’t going right, and they’re taking steps to fix that.”
Jansen said he wants to increase awareness of mental health for college students and encourage them to use the on-campus counseling services. “It could save your life,” he said.
Jansen is a junior at SIUE, originally from Effingham, Ill., attending SIUE on the Cougar Pride Scholarship as well as other scholarships.
Aside from student government, he is involved in social fraternities and charity fundraisers — including Dance Marathon, an annual fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network. A year of fundraising ends with volunteers dancing for 12 hours — 12 hours on their feet for those who can’t be on their feet, Jansen said.
“It’s an amazing event,” he said. But does he have a dance specialty? “Oh no,” he said. “In my spare time they call me ‘Dancin’ Jansen,’ but I am not a good dancer.”
And what about the future? Despite being one of the few presidents elected in his junior year, Jansen is going to see how this year goes before he thinks about whether to run for another term. In the meantime, the chair sits across from his new desk, covered in the signatures and quotes from previous student body presidents. Each time a president leaves office, he or she leaves a quote for the next one, he said.
“I love working with and advocating for students, I love being a student, and have a passion for being a student,” he said. “Let me get my feet wet in this position, and then we’ll talk about the future.”
Meet Luke Jansen
- Age: 21
- School: Junior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
- Hometown: Effingham, Ill.
- Parents: Vic and Nancy Jansen
- Sibling: Paul Jansen, SIUE Class of 2012
- Major: Marketing and entrepreneurship
- Minor: Public relations
- Clubs and activities: Student government (current student body president), Sigma Phi Epsilon, Interfraternity Council, SIUE Marketing Association, Phi Eta Sigma (past president), Dance Marathon
- Employment: Edwardsville YMCA
- Awards and scholarships: Cougar Pride Scholarship, Sigma Phi Epsilon Brotherhood Scholarship, outstanding student leader for fraternity life and the campus as a whole
- Favorite class: “Public speaking, my freshman year. It’s one of those general education classes, but it really pushed me outside my comfort zone… It was a lot of fun. We were supposed to do an after-dinner speech, so I told them a funny story about how clumsy 6-year-old me ran into a mailbox.”
- Favorite pasttime: “Hanging out with my friends and my girlfriend… I love to travel.”
- Future plans: Graduate school for higher education administration
- Advice for other students: “Go to class. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way my freshman year.” Seek the resources available to you for support, and develop connections with fellow students and professors; they may help you in your career after college. “Don’t take those chances and opportunities for granted.”