Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and educated at an east coast boarding school, Stephen Keller said he has really been independent his whole life. As a young teen he secured an interview at Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, handed the directions to his mom and hit the road.
“We went, we toured it and it took a lot of convincing, but it was probably one of the greatest things I ever did,” he said.
Keller, a junior majoring in finance and economics with a specialization in real estate, is one of two candidates running to serve as the 2015-2016 Student Government Association President.
Keller has been involved with the SGA in some capacity since his freshman year. He was elected as a first year councilor, served as a senator for Culverhouse College of Business his sophomore year, and was most recently elected to serve as the vice president of student affairs during his junior year. Outside of student government, Keller is involved with his fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon.
“Other than [DKE], I’ve really focused my time on student government,” Keller said. “I know that they ask for ten or so hours a week, but I try to give as much of my time as possible.”
Keller said his most impactful experience within SGA has been the “Say Hey SGA,” initiative, a campaign spearheaded and led by Executive Secretary Polly Ricketts and Director of Media Relations Mackenzie Brown.
“It was brought to our attention that we needed an initiative that goes out and comes to students,” Keller said. “I know being able to go out there for those two or three hours, once a week, twice a week or depending on how often Polly wanted to do it; that was great.”
It was during the campaign, Keller said, that he truly learned of student issues regarding football ticket sales. He said he has been working with the athletic department since last August on an initiative that would enable fourth-year college students to obtain away game tickets, instead of a disproportional allotment going toward students with several credit hours, like fifth and sixth-year seniors.
“Right now we are about 98 percent through with the proposal and working on confirmation from Bill Battle so we can start implementing it in upcoming seasons,” Keller said.
Hamilton Bloom, current SGA president, said he has worked with Keller for the past three years and said he is excited to see him run for president.
“Through initiatives such as the Diversity Caucus, and the Athletics Proposal, among others, [Keller] has done an incredible job listening to students and acting on their concerns,” Bloom said.
Keller is running on a platform he calls “tomorrow begins today,” a metaphorical tomorrow, as he explains in his campaign videos, that previous SGA administrations have failed to reach. While he describes his platform as rather large, Keller said he is certain he is going to keep the multiple promises he has made in his campaign, which include working on priority registration for veterans, increasing the perimeter of 348-RIDE, creating new Crimson Ride routes, continuing to grow the diversity caucus, increasing street lighting on areas surrounding campus and working with UA parking to alleviate the student burden of parking tickets.
“We’re unveiling more initiatives than, I believe, any other candidate has ever done,” Keller said. “And not only are we unveiling more initiatives, we are telling students how we are going to do it, what they are and when we are going to do it.”
Andrew Cicero, Keller’s campaign manager, said he believes Keller has the potential to be “the most active SGA president of our time.” Keller explained the Bloom administration has spent the past year “rebranding” the SGA, and he plans to change the culture.
“His personal relationships with Dr. Hebson, Dr. Bonner, Dr. Hood and multiple other administrators allow him to enter the presidency ready to enact change from not only SGA, but administration as well,” Cicero said.
During last year’s campaign, Keller was charged with an election violation for failing to report a series of fliers on his financial disclosure form. Keller was sanctioned by the elections board and forced to complete 75 hours of community service. This year, he said, his campaign is making an effort to be completely transparent with all students.
“We released out financial disclosure forms on our Facebook page,” Keller said. “We don’t want any question as to where our money is going and we want students to understand where we have allocated our funds and how those funds affect them.”
Keller said he believes he is ultimately the best candidate for the position because he has experience working with the executive members of SGA, unlike his opponent Elliot Spillers.
“I think it is very easy to have spent years within an institution, understand its issues, and once you become at the helm, be able to fix it from the inside out rather then from the outside in,” Keller said.