On top of FAU

Kelly Tyko

It was the first week of classes, and rather than getting syllabi and finding out what textbooks he’d need, Student Body President Pablo Paez was busy attending the governor’s inaugural ball, meeting with state legislators, and driving to Tallahassee from Boca Raton and back again.

After the seven-hour drive Wednesday, he was back in his office in the University Center for a few hours, then home to bed. On Thursday after a full day at work in Student Government, he finally made it to his first class of the semester.

“And this is just the beginning. I’ll definitely have busier weeks than this throughout the semester,” said Paez, who’s taking 18 credits this spring.

Paez, 22, is a senior majoring in finance and real estate. Besides being the student body president, he’s a member of the university’s board of trustees and president of three student organizations. To top it off, he’s the chairman of the Florida Student Association (FSA), an umbrella group that combines the efforts of Florida’s universities’ student governments.

And thanks to Florida voters approving Amendment 11, also known as the Graham amendment, Paez’s schedule is busier than last year. The amendment created a new statewide governing board, the Board of Governors, to oversee the state university system.

“I’m so excited because I’m going to express the views of all students,” said Paez, who also automatically becomes the first student to ever serve on the board because he’s the chair of FSA.

“I’m going to not only represent the 25,000 students of Florida Atlantic, I will be affecting all 240,000 students in the state.

“I feel I will have a chance during this really difficult time in Florida to make a difference. Higher education is going to go through so many major changes and I’m going to have a major say,” said Paez.

He will speak for FAU’s students, said Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Reginald Garcon. “He has been out there advocating for students in a variety of ways which has helped students at FAU.”

Paez is the perfect person to do the job, said fellow board of trustee member Jorge Dominicis.

“I couldn’t be prouder and I can’t imagine anyone more deserving,” said Dominicis, who is vice president of Florida Crystals Corporation. “Pablo has been an amazing colleague, he’s mature beyond his years and the way that he brings the relevant information about students. He couldn’t do it better.”

Sherry Plymale, also a trustee, said his position could also help the university. Plymale is a past chair of the State Board of Community Colleges and was Lt. Governor Frank Brogan’s chief of staff when he was the education commissioner.

“Whenever your school is being represented on a big board like this, it gives us more weight in the decision-making,” Plymale said.

And Paez’s position can also directly affect students. Plymale said, “He’s always putting students first.”

Fellow board member and FAU alum George Zoley agreed.

“I think he brings intelligence, maturity, sound reasoning and balance advocacy to the board for the students of FAU,” said Zoley, who is also the chairman of FAU’s presidential search committee. “I think he will benefit the state at large with his participation.”

FAU’s Interim President Richard Osburn only has good things to say about Paez.

“I feel the Board of Governors will be fortunate to have such an outstanding young man as the student representative. Pablo is articulate, uses common sense and works well with others,” Osburn said.

The students of Florida are lucky to have Paez as their leader, Dominicis said. “It’s more important for the students that Pablo is their representative because it gives them a super voice. Pablo is going to be the most effective voice that students have for a long time.”

But in order to succeed, Paez says he knows he can’t do it alone — he needs the support of students.

Students need to register to vote and then actually vote to accomplish this, according to Paez.

“If we could go to the legislatures and say to our representatives, ‘If you don’t support us, we’ll find someone who will,’ then we would be the most prominent voting block in the state,” Paez said.

“We have been given so much more than students in other states. We need to take advantage of this to make our issues heard.”