For many students at CSU-Pueblo, the university’s financial difficulties in 2013 and resulting faculty and administrative changes may now seem like ancient history. But there were hard times, and we aren’t through it yet, though the light at the end of the tunnel is finally clearly visible.
At the frontlines of the battle for recovery was Sarah Zarr, now ending her tenure as CSU-Pueblo’s student body president in favor of graduating with her bachelor’s degree in mass communications.
Her campus political career began in the spring of 2014, when the memories of the school’s worst moments were fresh, where as a senator for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, she became part of making many unpopular but necessary decisions, such as increases on some student fees, and budget cuts to activities once funded by the university.
After the 2015 spring semester, the outgoing president, Timothy Zercher, asked her to run to replace him. The man who saw CSU-Pueblo through some of its hardest moments helped her create what she called “a legacy of confidence.”
Even so, Zarr wasn’t completely certain. “It was a lot of pressure. A lot of responsibility,” she recalled.
She’s grown since then, though. “I learned leadership isn’t always found in a single deed of greatness,” Zarr said. “Leadership is a combination of seemingly insignificant, everyday acts that are significant in the lives and development of the individuals around you.”
When it comes to her memorable accomplishments, her list included those little things she named: speaking at various events, finding funding to build a fire pit outside the residence halls and helping design the new expansion to the Occhiato University Center. There are “so many little things,” as she puts it, that she hopes will impact campus life and give students a sense of pride.
Zarr said graduating students could be more proud of their university, like graduates of other schools. “I want them to be proud. I want them to want to be part of the Pack!”
But she’ll also surprise you with where she finds that “Pack spirit.” Often non-traditional students – those with families or who returned for their education later in life – become the excuse for why CSU-Pueblo might not seem to have the same sort of excitement or motivation as other campuses.
But Zarr calls them a strength.
“Sometimes non-traditional students get more involved,” she said. “They realize more that it matters.”
It’s that “real world experience” that Zarr believes will make the university’s new experiential education initiative a success.
“It’s more about what you get involved with,” she said, adding that diversity is key and that is exactly what non-traditionals bring. She wants campus culture to be one of collaboration.
Zarr frowns, though, when asked about her legacy. She laments about never getting to see the things she started happen, but, overall, she’s satisfied.
“I don’t think I have any regrets,” she said, and even if she feels she might have missed some things, “what we did do outweighs that.”
The “legacy of confidence” Zarr ran under in 2015 has kept up even now.
“Consistency has been a big goal of mine.” She counts new by-laws of the ASG constitution among her greatest accomplishments, rules meant to protect the decisions of previous student governments even after the ranks have shifted with time.
From here, Zarr planning to obtain a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education. “I fell in love with college life,” she said.
Zarr remains proud of her heritage here, and ever hopeful as she walks away. She said that pulling CSU-Pueblo through its tough moments “has been very difficult for (the administration)” but that they are the right team for the job. She’s confident that the campus will grow, and that soon CSU-Pueblo will be greater than it ever has been. Many of her previous cabinet members, including ASG President Antonio Huerta, belong to the next generation of ASG members.
Those expectations work both ways, though, she said. She said it best in an email interview earlier this spring.
“Expect a gorgeous, engaging, and vibrant student center. Expect several new places to collaborate and hang out … more students living on campus … more amenities on campus, and more places to eat,” she wrote.
“I would like to say what I expect, too, though, in return from the students and community: be engaged, be involved, try new things, meet new people and build relationships, get outside your comfort zone, put into this university what you want out of it, be proud of CSU-Pueblo, go cheer as loud as you can at athletic events and get crazy with pack pride and spirit, change and provide ways for change if you want it to change, and most importantly be a part of the Pack and act like it!”
Correction: A previous version of this report said Timothy Zercher ran Zarr’s campaign. He encouraged Sarah Zarr to run, but he wasn’t her campaign manager. Also, Zarr said students could be more proud to graduate from their university, not that they’re not proud.