Teresa Knoedler an SA latecomer

by Brad Russo | 10/29/98 6:00am

Sitting in the recently opened Big Green Bean and talking with students seemed so natural for Teresa Knoedler '00 -- after all, social space and improvements to the Collis Center are so dear to her new committee and the Student Assembly, of which she is now an integral player.

Last spring, Assembly President Josh Green '00 announced he would break with established Assembly tradition and create an open nomination process for the student life committee chair, one of the most prominent posts on the Assembly.

Students could nominate themselves or others for the job, and Green interviewed 30 students. In the end, Knoedler, with her background of campus activism and little prior Assembly experience, was selected.

"When I first came here I was on the blitz list for everything," Knoedler said. "I didn't get blitzes from friends ... I just got blitzes from organizations."

Knoedler became involved in numerous campus groups focusing on social issues such as homophobia as well as the ski team and the Chamber Singers.

A lot changed for Knoedler this summer when she attended a 2000 Class Council meeting. Despite having never attended any meeting before, she ran for secretary.

Though that effort was unsuccessful, she attracted the attention of Green who asked her to attend the Summer Assembly meetings.

While participation in student government was new to Knoedler at Dartmouth, she did have previous experience from the student council in her high school.

"It was one of those examples of me trying to identify with the things missing in my life," she said. "I missed trying to shape my environment."

During the summer, she worked as vice-chair of the student life committee where she helped complete the Assembly's report on College fines and helped organize two forums in the group's Conversations series, on race relations and sexual assault.

Knoedler said she enjoyed her participation throughout the summer, and at the term's completion was once again urged by Green to increase her involvement in Assembly activities by applying to be student life chair.

"My experience this summer was everything I hoped it would be. I was really impressed," Knoedler said. "I was wary of SA. I had heard all the negative rumors that go around campus ... but I felt my help was really appreciated."

Ms. Knoedler goes to SA

Knoedler said she was nervous at first about stepping into such a highly influential role.

"Its crossed my mind as to what exactly I'm doing in this position as someone who hadn't even taken notice of SA until this summer."

Knoedler said she sees her position as similar to that of a U.S. cabinet member -- selected to work with the president, but not elected by the people.

She said she would ideally like to see committee chairs be chosen by the students, but that the College's voting history is too lax.

Only 1,259 students voted in the last Assembly elections, the lowest turnout since 1989.

Knoedler said she also does not see much wrong with many members of the Assembly having secured their seats through means other than the annual spring election.

Knoedler said she does not think there is a lack of diversity on the Assembly but said she does see a lack of opposing viewpoints.

"I think we do attract a lot of liberal white males, but not as much as the students perceive ... I'm not a fan of total consensus but you can't manufacture dissent if there is none," Knoedler said. "I'm looking forward to the resolution that doesn't pass -- even if it's mine."

So far this year, six resolutions have been brought before the full Assembly. All six passed -- and all but one passed by a landslide.

Despite her activist past, Knoedler said the Assembly has to maintain a balance between focusing on short-term, directly tangible projects and long-term issue-oriented missions. "It's a fine line to walk."

This theoretical debate has been an issue for the Assembly in the past, and was highlighted in last spring's elections.

Despite these areas of concern, Knoedler said she greatly approves of the activities of this year's Assembly.

"I've been very impressed. I'm impressed with the turnout. [The members] are interested and involved," Knoedler said. "Josh and [Assembly Vice President] Case Dorkey ['99] have done a really good job. They're a good team."

She said she plans to continue to work on the Conversations series, as well as pushing for a student vote in elections to pick members of the Board of Trustees during her tenure as student life chair.

Growing up a Knoedler

Knoedler was born in St. Paul, Minn., but moved to a small suburb when she was 10.

She attended a small, private and unique school for 12 years. "I went to a K-12 school, and I was a lifer ... It was a very sort of liberal, innovative school. I loved it. I thought is was an incredible place to learn."

At this school, "certain liberal issues were taken for granted," Knoedler said. "It was a very inclusive environment. That environment contrasts with real life and Dartmouth and that has made an activist out of me."

In addition to normal high school extra-curriculars, like the debate team and student council, Knoedler said she also participated in service activities.

"We had a service requirement for graduation and I ran the bloodmobiles."

Knoedler was also a three-sport athlete, competing in skiing, soccer and track and field.

Knoedler has one brother, Johnny, who is a senior in high school. "He's the best kid ever. He's my best friend."

She said she sees herself as a city person and wants to return to her urban roots after her time in Hanover is complete.

While Knoedler said she does not have definite career paths, she hopes to go on to a combined attorney/medical graduate school program, and someday wants to run for political office.

The experiment

Six weeks into Knoedler's term as chair, Green said he is pleased with the results.

"I think it's working out really well in we have an amazing student life chair ... and people who never would have thought to come to SA did. That's all I needed," Green said.

Roommate and friend Sarah Blanton '00 said she thinks Knoedler's Assembly inexperience is an asset in her new role.

"She's sort of dove right back into [student government]. Sometimes I think it can be good to get some fresh blood into the system," Blanton said. "I think because she took some time away from doing student government work, her re-entry can easily be characterized as having more enthusiasm and determination than it would have."