Stephany Bittar: Inaugural freshman makes history as SGC president

Erica Martin

Stephany Bittar made history twice in her first year of college. She came to FSU Panama City as a member of the inaugural freshman class and now has become the first underclassman president of the campus’ Student Government Council.

Bittar, who is double majoring in psychology and economics, was elected by SGC representatives in spring 2014 when no eligible candidate ran during the regular election.

“Stephany was chosen because the council felt that she possessed the qualities of a leader and demonstrated that she had the knowledge to lead the council forward,” past president and current SGC representative Kalab Hoover said.

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SGC Program Associate Sarah Schreck said Bittar is a well-spoken, genuine leader who isn’t afraid to think for herself. “Stephany has brought to this campus some of what we hoped the freshmen would: life, vitality, enthusiasm,” she said.

“I’ve been given such a rare opportunity on this campus: the ability to take things that matter — not just to me but to anyone — and find ways to make them grow,” Bittar said.

Bittar previously served as the council’s special events chairwoman, revamping Spring Fling into a week of activities, hosting game-watching parties in the Barron Commons and emceeing Open Mic Nights.

SGC Program Coordinator and Advisor Melanie Kelley noted Bittar was active on campus as soon as she arrived. “Stephany is almost always involved and at the center of events happening on campus,” she said. “She likes to participate and take part in everything she can.”

As president, Bittar said she hopes to help SGC serve the whole student body, provide a sounding board for questions, comments and concerns, and foster the creative community on campus. “I want to ensure that council is on the right path to growing the way it needs to with our changing campus,” she said.

Since the addition of underclassmen at FSU Panama City, SGC and student organizations have focused on more diverse activities and campus involvement. Events have been revamped and expanded to draw the newest campus demographic and provide a more enriching experience for students.

“Adding freshmen mixed things up, and all that’s left is to take that and run with it,” Bittar said.

To get the full college experience, Bittar said it is important for new students to join student organizations and participate in campus events. “Especially on a smaller, historically non-traditional campus like ours, the impact that each individual student can make is enormous,” she noted.

Bittar emphasized involvement in something worthwhile and always doing your best.

“I’m inspired by a phrase my mother used to say: If you put your name on something, no matter how small, make sure it’s worth it,” she said. “She taught me how important it is to make sure that everything I send out into the world is the best I can muster.”

Bittar, who lived in Colombia during most of her senior year, said she came to FSU Panama City “by chance” because Colombian students apply for university later than American students. “I’m definitely glad to be here,” she said.

Hoover said the smaller campus has helped foster Bittar’s growth as a leader. “Since we are not the traditional campus where thousands of students can live and make friends, I believe coming here made her mature faster and develop effective communication skills,” he noted.

After earning her bachelor’s degrees, Bittar said she hopes to continue her education through a Ph.D. to research how changing economic policies would affect the population.