Devon Pettigen (pet-a-gin) was elected as the student representative to the Rock Valley College Board of Trustees in April of 2017, and will serve in this role through May of 2018. As the Student Trustee, it is Devon’s responsibility to act as a conduit between the student body and the Board of Trustees, and to make sure the students’ best interests are being considered by the Board.
Devon was born in DeRidder, Louisiana, a town of about 10,000 people, and was raised in Houston, Texas until around age 20 (Incidentally and fortunately, none of Devon’s family or friends have had to evacuate because of Hurricane Harvey.). He moved to Davis Junction in the summer of 2016 to live with a girl he met online who shared many of his values and political interests. She was attending NIU at the time and it was Devon’s intent to do the same, but he arrived too late to start there last fall. He instead decided to attend RVC, a twist of fate that has been good both to him and the College.
It’s clear within seconds of meeting Devon that he is passionate about anything he sets his mind to, and something he set his mind to almost immediately after arriving at RVC was encouraging his fellow students to get more engaged in and knowledgeable about important issues affecting the College.
He was elected to be the president of the Philosophy Club for the spring 2017 semester and set out to make the club more accessible to students. Around that time, he also began working to form a new organization, the RVC Activists Club. The goal of the RVC Activists Club is to encourage students to attend board meetings, get involved, and to help students understand things that are happening on campus. On a larger scale, it promotes getting involved at the state and local political levels as well to promote change in Illinois and our region.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” says Devon. “I always wanted to figure out how to make politics relatable to people. I normally gravitate towards candidates that make people feel cared for.”
Devon says he personally has no political leaning, and in fact he never originally intended to get involved in “official” politics at RVC. It was only after a conversation with RVC’s Dean of Students Rick Daniels that Devon started seriously considering the idea. Dean Daniels was inspired by some of the things he was seeing Devon doing on campus and tried to convince him to channel that attention toward the efforts of the Student Government Association (SGA).
“Initially I wasn’t interested in being involved with SGA,” says Devon. “I’m usually less interested in bureaucratic processes because I feel like they can sometimes slow down the momentum you need to make things happen, but at the same time you need them to make stuff happen so I eventually made the decision that that was the better way to go about things.
“I saw the Student Trustee as a position that would allow me to do what I love, which is to help be a voice for other people and help get people interested in things that are really important.”
Devon was officially sworn in as Student Trustee in June. He says so far it has been mostly as he expected, although the amount of reading he has to do in preparation for the monthly meetings was a little overwhelming at first.
““I saw the Student Trustee as a position that would allow me to do what I love, which is to help be a voice for other people.”
As far as his viewpoint as Student Trustee, he has an open mind.
“I like to look at things objectively,” says Devon. “I went into [this position as Student Trustee] with a clear mindset.”
Although he openly supported specific candidates who were elected to the Board last April that has not affected his objectivity when it comes to how he makes his decisions on issues facing the Board. In fact, he says there have been a number of times already where he has voted the opposite of the members he supported in the elections.
When it comes to how he prefers to engage with students, his answer may surprise you.
“I find it is sometimes very difficult to have effective communication with students through technology,” says Devon. “Which is ironic because you would think that’s the best way to do it because everyone’s phone is always in their hand. But we’re all preoccupied with other things.”
He instead prefers to talk to students in person. Even when campaigning for the Student Trustee position he would approach students cold on campus and engage them in conversations about issues affecting the college. He found that most students are not even aware that there is a Board of Trustees at the College or that a Student Trustee position exists. Devon intends to change that.
One of the first things he will do this semester is visit classrooms on campus to introduce himself and let students know how to contact him. He hopes most faculty members will embrace this idea and allow him to take just a few minutes of class time to make this valuable connection. He plans to make these visits from mid-September through mid-October.
Looking further ahead, when all is said and done what does Devon hope to have accomplished when his term as Student Trustee ends in May?
“I hope that this campus is more civic-minded and politically engaged, and just more social with one another, more interested in knowing the other students on campus, knowing the professors and the administrators, and the board members.”