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SGA’s Team IMPACT: Just a campaign strategy

Sebastian Parra helps Nick Smith organize the SGA for a group picture. By: Sean Keenan
Sebastian Parra helps Nick Smith organize the SGA for a group picture.
By: Sean Keenan

Georgia State Student Government Association’s (SGA) Team IMPACT has long been an enigma regarded as a political party, an interest group and a governing platform. It’s none of those things.

Although the coalition is based around an acronym of political aspirations, Team IMPACT is merely a campaign strategy. SGA Vice President of Academic Affairs David Jackson said the team operates solely for election purposes.

“The only time Team IMPACT really exists is during the election season,” Jackson said. “For anyone who says that it isn’t [a campaign strategy], they misunderstand the purpose.”

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Team IMPACT was formed in 2012 by SGA’s former President Marcus Kernizan to keep officials in office and succeed them with more Team IMPACTers, according to SGA President Sebastian Parra.

The “team”– which has yet to face a comparable opposing faction — has claimed every elected position on SGA’s executive board since its inception, with the exception of SGA’s current VP of Budget and Finance Tobi Soyebo. And he used to be on Team IMPACT as well.

“Team IMPACT is great,” Soyebo said. “But this year I felt I needed to do it on my own to have a sense of pride.”

Soyebo said the team is primarily a social network created to build stronger bonds among student government officials. But Soyebo was already acquainted with the Georgia State student body prior to leaving Team IMPACT.

“Because I was an R.A., I had already been with the [students] for two years,” he said. “So that’s a lot of students I already know who I can contact and advocate for…on a closer scale since I was living with them.”

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Parra said the Team IMPACT name helps attract prospective voters to SGA’s scantily attended election polls.

“Voting [turnout] at Georgia State is very low,” he said. “So with Team IMPACT, people say, ‘Oh, I’ll vote for them; I know those guys.’”

But Soyebo said he doesn’t feel he ran at a disadvantage last year without his name on Team IMPACT’s ticket, though he understands the popularity that the team has a cultivated.

“It started with people who were just friends who wanted to be on a team to win together,” he said. “Now we all have this one brand we are buying into. Having Team IMPACT’s brand is kind of like Apple.”

And although Team IMPACT has been dominating the election market for years, newly appointed SGA VP of Public Relations Anthony Nguyen said the team exists “to build unity within SGA” and to brainstorm campaign ideas.

“It’s not so much a political party,” the Team IMPACT member said. “It’s more so a group effort, to get everyone’s ideas in line. During election season, we promote each other and advocate for each other so we all get elected.”

And although the candidates foot the bill for their own ads, Team IMPACT has previously appropriated a campaign manager from the executive board to orchestrate strategic implementation of their flyers, posters and pins.

But once Team IMPACT claims [at least] the majority of the executive board, it becomes time for all-inclusive student government work; no more Team IMPACT, according to Parra.

“Once we win the elections, it’s about governing,” he said. “Last year at the SGA retreat, we made a point; ‘There’s no teams here anymore.’”

Jackson and Parra both told The Signal that Team IMPACT is an open and inviting group. They don’t require applications and prospects don’t need to be a part SGA prior to joining.

And Jackson said SGA and Team IMPACT are always striving for diversity and inclusivity. So strutting into the office with a smile and a handshake is a great way to get started.

“We want to be an organization that represents its student body holistically,” Jackson said.

And Parra’s presidential ticket had runners from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.

“Last year, my ticket had an Asian guy, an African guy, a white girl, a black girl, a latino, and a black guy,” Parra said. “We mostly look for diversity and competency [for the Team IMPACT ticket].”

Parra said he thinks Team IMPACT will continue to campaign together in the future, although it will need to broaden its governmental jurisdiction during the GSU-GPC consolidation. The consolidation will expand Georgia State’s academic reach with newly acquired campuses.

“I think [Team IMPACT] is probably going to continue,” he said. “We may have to develop something of a larger scale to accommodate those from GPC as well.”

However, uncertainty still eclipses any definitive forecast for Team IMPACT’s future. Jackson said he doesn’t think the team’s popularity will escalate to completely envelop SGA. But he said Team IMPACT is not a vital part of the organization’s functionality.

“I don’t think Team IMPACT [will absorb SGA],” he said. “Team IMPACT exists because those students want it to exist. There’s no one in student government saying we have to have Team IMPACT this year.”

Soyebo said, with the growth of the school and the team, he can’t foresee how the power of Team IMPACT will change.

“I’m not saying Team IMPACT is gonna die. I’m not saying it can die,” he said. “Yes, that brand is powerful, but people find interest in different things; like the Galaxy versus the Iphone.”

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