As president of Wooster’s Student Government Association (SGA), Hannah Haas has grown accustomed to attending meetings, conferences, and discussions during her short time in office. However, she was caught off guard at a February Roundtable with Young Americans event in Cleveland when an unexpected visitor entered the room.
A group of 14 students representing five colleges in northeast Ohio had just completed its meeting when suddenly the door swung open and in walked the President of the United States. “I couldn’t believe what was happening,” she said. “It was the surprise of a lifetime.”
President Obama made his way around the room and shook hands with each of the participants before taking a seat at the head of the table. “We had been discussing green initiatives as well as how to give students the right skill set for the job market,” said Haas. “The President allowed us to ask him anything we wanted during the 10-15 minutes he was there. After that, we took a group picture and then went upstairs to hear his closing remarks” [at a “Winning the Future Forum on Small Business” gathering] .
During the session with Obama, Haas asked him about his vision for implementing grassroots initiatives among college students, and she came away very impressed, not only with his answer, but also with his sincerity. “He seemed really interested in what we had to say,” she said. “I believe he is committed to following through on what was discussed.”
Haas was invited by the White House to attend the event, although initially she was skeptical about the authenticity of the invitation. “They called me on the phone, but when they asked for my Social Security number [to conduct a background check], I realized that it might not be a good idea [to give that information],” she said. “I asked if I could call back and then checked with our Student Activities Office, which assured me that it was okay, so I followed up and finalized the arrangements.”
Haas’s memorable encounter with the President reinforced her desire to pursue a career in politics. “I plan to run for public office at some point,” said the junior political science major from Erie, Pa. “I have a strong interest in education policy because of its importance in shaping people from a very young age.”
Her attraction to public office was influenced early on by her mother, who served as president of the school board in her community. Haas followed that lead and was elected president of the student council at McDowell High School.
At Wooster, Haas ran for SGA president last fall and took office in February. “I want to step up the reputation of governance on campus and make students aware of how active we are in representing them,” she says. “Awareness is a big issue, and we want students to become more active on campus.”
In addition to her leadership role, Haas is a member of the Wooster Chorus, Campus Council, and Pi Kappa social club. She also works for the Office of Admissions, where she speaks glowingly about Wooster to prospective students and their parents.
Haas is pleased to be serving the student body and thankful that she chose Wooster as the place to further her education. “My classes and professors are great, and I really like the fact that you can do so many things here without obstacles to get in your way,” she said. “You can have dinner at the president’s house, and you can talk freely with the deans, who know you by name. Choosing Wooster was the best decision of my life.”
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