They fill a room with their dynamic presence. His sly smirk and her charismatic smile blend to create a welcoming, supportive atmosphere for anyone that they come across.
Though they have diverse backgrounds, one hot cider in a cafe was enough to kick-start the campaign that led them to where they are now. As president and vice president of Northwestern’s Associated Student Government (ASG), Christina Cilento and Macs Vinson work to appeal to the opinions and desires of the undergraduate body. They refuse to #settle on important issues and work to represent the needs of the students.
Vice President Vinson and President Cilento both joined ASG during their freshman year, but had different reasons for doing so.
Cilento, who is majoring in learning and organizational change along with environmental policy. never thought that she would find herself in student government. Instead, she had planned on pursuing interests in the environmental field. She joined the Sustainability Committee her freshman year and at the end of freshman year assumed the role of vice president of the committee. Cilento remained in the role for two years and eventually ascended to the role of president during her third year in the committee.
Vinson, who is studying industrial engineering, was introduced to student government in his first year through Thaddeus Tukes, the then VP of Accessibility and Inclusion, who inspired Vinson to become more involved.
Vinson was introduced to student government through a different path. The Vice President of Accessibility and Inclusion Vinson’s freshman year, Thaddeus Tukes, inspired Vinson to become more involved.
“I met him randomly at a dinner. He talked about why he ran in the first place and how he thought it was an avenue for him into traditional white space,” Vinson said. “Through government, he could cause change and be able to create a place that was never really there.”
Vinson and Cilento both served on the executive board of ASG last year, Vinson as vice president of student activities resources and Cilento as vice president of sustainability. They both shared a common interest in social justice and elevating the needs of marginalized students on campus, which eventually helped them create their campaign platform.
“We wanted to do something that was outside the box, something that was really focusing on the largest needs of Northwestern, which were the needs of inclusion and spaces where all students feel welcome on campus,” Cilento said. “We wanted to focus on the needs of marginalized students and those students that both the university and ASG has put on the back burner for a while.”
With a campaign slogan of #dontsettle, the duo challenged themselves and the Northwestern community to rise above societal norms. Their campaign strategies ranged from a video with an endorsement from Carly Rae Jepsen to posters that rejected the gender binary and endorsed environmental protection.
For their student marketing campaign, the two made an effort to form a direct connection with the student body to make sure that they felt like their voices were heard. They established representatives in residence halls, along with people handing out flyers in the streets and dining halls. Cilento and Vinson also visited a bunch of student groups, which included having half-hour meetings with over 20 student groups in the course of two days.
Brought together from two different parts of the country, Cilento from Allentown, Pa. and Vinson from Los Angeles, their personalities complimented each other from the beginning. Yet, the two did not even decide to run together until a momentous meeting at Kafein on Feb. 22 during their junior year. Vinson paid for Cilento’s hot cider because she didn’t have any small bills, and in that moment, the ASG duo was formed.
“We are fundamentally different people. I think we act completely differently, and I think that difference helps to breed something great,” Vinson said. “Christina is never afraid to challenge me and vice versa. We help each other stay sharp by holding each other accountable.”
When Vinson and Cilento received the news of their victory, they were a state apart and FaceTimed in order to share their enthusiasm in the moment. A group of 25 people who had worked on or supported their campaign gathered together the night the election results were revealed.
“They were all holding their breath because we got the call later than expected,” Cilento said. “In that moment, everyone just kind of erupted into screams and were cheering, crying and laughing all over the place.”
Both Cilento and Vinson act as representatives of the student body and usually attend meetings together. Where the roles differ is that the president is more of an outward-facing component of the student body government, where the vice president is more inward-facing.
Cilento’s responsibilities include giving speeches, like the one she gave at the president’s convocation, and emailing the student body, whereas Vinson’s duties are more concerned with internal management of the executive board.
Change is already taking place on campus through ASG’s most recent initiative, the Menstrual Project. ASG, SHAPE (Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators), College Feminists, Rainbow Alliance and the Northwestern Quest Scholars Network are working to bring free menstrual products to campus in bathrooms of all genders.
ASG released a survey about the project a couple of weeks ago, and within a day and a half, received over a thousand responses from students saying that the project was needed on campus. This type of response is surprising, because students are usually slow to respond to surveys.
ASG also recently helped to bolster the Wild Ideas Fund, a program that provides students with Wild Ideas with funding to carry out projects. Before the Wild Ideas Fund, the 10k Initiative and the Project Pool were used to implement ideas like Wi-Fi on the Lakefill, Discover Islam Week, and Dillo Day Second Stage.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Vinson said. “Sometimes when you say the word ‘ASG’ with certain groups, you will likely not get a positive reaction. We are trying to make this better and we want you to be a part of that process.”