DePaul President answers questions, addresses concerns at SGA meeting


Kiersten Riedford

President Robert L. Manuel attended the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9, to respond to questions regarding his plans for the future of the university.

President Rob L. Manuel attended his first Student Government Association (SGA) general body meeting on Feb. 9 alongside Chief of Staff, Arbin Smith, who visited SGA a few weeks prior. 

After commemorating the conclusion of his first six-months at DePaul, Manuel addressed student concerns while continuing to promote his visions for DePaul’s future. 

For the first hour, Manuel answered questions from SGA members on a variety of topics, but the overarching theme was what he could do to improve DePaul and how students fit into those visions.

“I didn’t expect to see the consistency between the stuff I learned in the interview and what I’ve seen in my first six months,” Manuel said at the meeting. “What I didn’t calculate is how powerful DePaul is in its quietness. I’ve found it to be incredibly welcoming and incredibly interested in engagement.”


Freshman Suzan Arab, SGA senator for community and government relations, posed the first question asking Manuel about his plans to improve DePaul’s brand. Arab believes that improving the university’s brand on a national scale will attract more leaders to the student population.  

“Everything has a brand and everything has that external presence,” Arab said. “If we’re not thinking about that at the end of the day then what are we doing?”

Manuel responded by saying DePaul needs to prioritize showing their brand. He talked about his first time visiting Cinespace Studios, a production facility used by the School of Cinematic Arts film program where students take specialized film classes using industry-standard equipment alongside other high-profile productions in the same space. Manuel used this example to explain how engaged he felt when visiting the site compared to how stagnant he feels the website portrays the facility. 

“It’s not about creating a brand, it’s about exposing a brand,” Manuel said. “How can we take what is really unique about your experience and show it rather than write about it?”

Arab wants to see a brand that emphasizes culture and what she describes as “hype.” While she says DePaul does have the tools and resources to execute this rebrand, she wants to see more of an effort put into it.

“As much as I feel he gave a good response, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree and say that we need to up the ante in terms of our brand and our name,” Arab said. “We are so great academically but at the end of the day, after whenever you end classes, you still want that school spirit. When you create hype, you create an exciting environment for students.” 

Magoli Garcia, SGA Vice President and junior, said SGA needs to focus on rebranding so more students are interested in being involved in on-campus issues such as DEI. (Kiersten Riedford)


SGA members like junior Emmaeilin Salgado-Diaz addressed concerns regarding student engagement, asking Manuel his advice on how student organizations could humanize themselves to better connect with the community. 

“I’ve seen [Manuel’s] appeal and I’ve seen how human he is even through social media, so I wanted to see if there was a way I could somehow embody that,” Salgado-Diaz said. “I want to know how people can easily come to me as a student and simply as a person rather than look at me as a student employee or just another person who goes to DePaul.”

Manuel responded by talking about his own efforts to humanize himself for DePaul, saying that what community members see of him online is not a persona he is crafting. He encouraged student organizations to do the same, showing their values and goals to allow students to engage with each other as equals. 

“Everyone is asking me how I’m going to change it but my charge is asking how you’re going to do it,” Manuel said. “If we’re in this together and I believe we are, we all have responsibilities in designing our future so we have to all be equals. Building that in with empathy is the ethos of what we’re trying to do.”

Although Salgado-Diaz said she asks everyone she can about student engagement, she wanted Manuel’s perspective because of his experience at various universities, and now, as DePaul’s president. 

“I’ll take his words and use them to my advantage but I do not think he’s the only person who could’ve answered that question,” Salgado-Diaz said. “It made sense though because by trying to be equals and put in the same amount of dedication into engagement, it’s going to show progress. We need to have faculty who care about student opinions and care about our engagement.”


When asked what areas of SGA Manuel saw potential for growth in by junior Sergio Godinez, executive vice president for academic affairs, Manuel volleyed the question back. He instead asked Godinez what areas of improvement he saw in SGA and how Manuel could support him.

“In SGA, we always have big discussions about what we want to accomplish, what our goals are, and how we want to lead,” Godinez said. “We can get tunnel vision in what we plan at the beginning of the year. We lose track of the ability to adapt to situations as they change so it’s always great to get outside perspectives to get their input on the work we’re doing.” 

Godinez believes being asked to reflect on his own leadership style in SGA rather than outsourcing the question to Manuel allowed him to think critically about his goals for SGA to create more inclusive solutions.

“You ask someone to give you their perspective from the outside looking in and it wasn’t the response I was expecting but I think it’s the response I needed,” Godinez said. “I think with every leader, you want to know their vision for leadership and for the success of the institution.”

Manuel then challenged SGA to reflect on their own leadership by suggesting SGA co-leads one of his upcoming design sessions to potentially create a students-only event. Godinez said this is a realistic idea within this school year and believes it could be part of SGA’s work to collaborate with administration on bigger events.

“It’s definitely achievable as long as emails are sent and people are talking,” Godinez said. “Sometimes we deal with such critical issues that we forget about all of the great things happening. This is one of those possibilities where we can engage with the good to celebrate the vision that is being created and really be an integral part of shaping that.”