A pandemic, cancelled plans, and disappointments are not halting Spring Buford’s momentum. Buford was recently elected the president of Brigham Young University Student Association (BYUSA) for the 2020-2021 academic year. Buford is one of the first STEM majors to be elected BYUSA president.1
Her journey began by simply recognizing a problem she and many other students experience on campus, which eventually evolved into a successful campaign and a victory for Buford.
In the summer of 2019, Buford observed that she felt really connected to her college, but not to the BYU administration. “I wanted to feel like I belonged to the university as a whole,” she said. Buford then started brainstorming ideas for how student leaders, faculty, and the administration could be more engaged.
After Buford’s husband listened to all of her ideas, he encouraged her to run for BYUSA president. Buford responded, “That’s crazy! I’ve never even been part of BYUSA. I don’t even know what they do.” Despite her reservations, she submitted an application to become part of the BYUSA Student Advisory Council in Fall 2019. The council is a body of student government that functions in a similar way to the US Senate. There are fifty representatives total, and each college and department is represented. Buford then immersed herself in the council and later decided to launch her campaign for BYUSA president.
But Buford’s victory was no landslide—she’ll tell you so herself. “Winning by just three votes was humbling,” she said. That slim margin taught Buford that each person who shared something on social media, picked up a flier, or talked to their friends about her really counted. The camaraderie she felt from those helping her throughout the campaign process truly reflected the central theme of Buford’s presidential platform: unity.
As the new BYUSA president, Buford’s main goal is to help students connect to other students, to faculty, and to BYUSA. “Most importantly, I want students all over campus to feel listened to and that their ideas are being incorporated into what we do,” Buford said. Her plan for connecting BYUSA with students is to make herself available via regular weekly office hours. Throughout the academic year, Buford will be stationed in a different building on campus each week. During that time, students can talk with her about any concerns, suggestions, or challenges they may have.
In explaining why Buford wants to meet with as many students as she can, she said, “If I’m supposed to represent all students to leaders at BYU, I better go out and be visiting students all year round.” Before she informs the administration what students want or don’t want, Buford desires to make sure she really understands who they are and what their needs are.
Additional plans include focusing on social media outreach as well as finding unique ways to reach students without social media. Buford recognizes that while BYUSA has consistently served students in the past, there’s more service to be done. In particular, Buford wants to provide more outreach to STEM majors and any student who may feel unseen and disconnected from BYU the way she did.
Buford also hopes to create more unity between BYUSA and faculty. She and her vice president, Emilee McFadden, plan to do a complete overhaul of the way things are documented and communicated to faculty advisors. “During the elections process, we had to write up lots of documents, campaign outlines, and platforms” she said. The feedback her team received was always, “This is the most organized version of this I have ever seen. We need you to do a training on this next year.” Buford realized that “those are just some skills that being a computer scientist and a STEM major have given me.”
Her background in computer science has also helped Buford prioritize making research-supported decisions. During her data analytics internships at Microsoft in 2018 and 2019, Buford was constantly challenged on why she made certain recommendations because her superiors relentlessly asked her to justify the decisions she made. “Show me the data” became an oft-repeated mantra during Buford’s internships, and it continues to influence her now as she seeks to understand the reasoning behind every leadership choice she makes.
Buford has also gained leadership skills from her role as the student manager of the Women’s Initiative mentoring office since it opened in Fall 2019. Providing a support space for computer science students made Buford realize that “people just need to be heard. They need to feel loved.”
All of Buford’s efforts, plans, and goals for BYUSA come back to unity. “Overall, I’m really looking forward to trying to implement changes and just increase love and connectivity on campus,” Buford said. Even during drastic, somewhat unsettling world events that are affecting BYU campus for the foreseeable future, Buford remains committed to her role as BYUSA president. She is determined to help BYU students connect to each other, the faculty, and BYU administration in an effort to enable everyone to feel a greater sense of unity.
1. Jenny Goldsberry, “BYUSA election results in all-female presidency,” The Daily Universe, March 9, 2020, https://universe.byu.edu/2020/03/09/byusa-election-results-in-historic-all-female-presidency/.