Meet the presidential, vice presidential candidates

The parties are organized alphabetically, by ticket, below:


President: Joseph Shepard

Vice President: Taben Azad

Motto: “Engage. Empower. Enhance.”

Main objectives: Student safety, student health and student life

Running inspiration: Students are given the same kind of opportunities Shepard and Azad have been given.

Meet Shepard: Shepard is currently student body president. He is a senior majoring in criminal justice with a minor in psychology. Originally from San Diego, Shepard said he came to Wichita and fell in love with the university. Shepard has previously served as an at-large senator for SGA. He is a member of the Black Student Union, has been a Student University Inclusion ambassador since 2013 and has been president of Alpha Phi Alpha since 2012. Shepard has been accepted into the Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) program at WSU for the fall.

Meet Azad: Azad, a native of Wichita, is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in political science. This is his first year in SGA, serves as an engineering senator and was recently appointed Campus Issues Committee chair. He is also involved in Muslim Student Association, the Global Awareness Student Project and the Model United Nations. Azad has also been accepted into the MPA program this fall.

Joseph Shepard and Taben Azad say they are not afraid to use their voices to raise students’ concerns. 

“I think all the presidential candidates are great, honestly, but I think that’s what sets us apart,” Shepard said. “When we look at where our state legislators are going, we need leaders who are vocal.”

Azad expressed a similar sentiment. 

“I want to make sure students know they have leaders in office who are willing to stand up for them and make sure their voices are heard,” Azad said. 

Presidential candidate Shepard and vice presidential candidate Azad are running mates on the Progress ticket.

Azad said Progress has three main objectives — student safety, student health and student life. 

As the campus issues committee chair, Azad said safety is something he has and will continue to focus on next year in regards to concealed carry. In January, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a law requiring public universities to allow concealed weapons, coming into effect July 1, 2017. 

Shepard said student health has a component that is oftentimes ignored — mental health. 

“We’ve realized nationally there’s been an issue where we see students suffering from low self-esteem and lack of self-awareness,” Shepard said. “We want to use SGA to help those students by connecting them to the Counseling and Testing [Center] and Student Health Services.”

Shepard said he wants to further student life by making new organizations, platforms and systems to make students proud to be Shockers. 

“The freshman retention rate is about 71.8 percent, so we’re not too far away from other collegiate institutions, but it’s also ‘satisfactory,’” Shepard said. “Taben and I don’t want to be a ‘satisfactory’ college.”

Both Shepard and Azad said they have family members who have helped motivate their SGA bid.

“I have a 7-year-old nephew, Malik,” Shepard said. “With everything going on at the state level, we see a lot of controversial bills being passed that affect a lot of young students like Malik and even collegiate students, like Taben and I. So we want to take this opportunity to protect these students and serve them the best way we know how.”

Azad has a brother who is a freshman at Wichita East High School.

“I want to make sure that if he comes to WSU, that he comes to a campus that is inclusive of all people,” Azad said.

Both Shepard and Azad — who are currently seniors at WSU — have been accepted into the Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) program for this fall, allowing Shepard to run for re-election.

Shepard said his presidential term has been a success and he wants that success to continue into next year. 

“We’ve done several things I’m proud of during my term, but I’m most proud of the food pantry that we created to combat food security students have struggled with,” Shepard said. 

Shepard said anyone who doubts his relationship with university administration should not worry. 

“I think what the administration respects about me is the fact that I’m not a ‘yes man’ and I challenge the status quo,” Shepard said. “I think that as you look at the presidential candidates you will find one that has been vocal, whether he is standing alone or is standing with other people. And I think that individual is me.”

— Andrew Linnabary of The Sunflower

Shockers United

President: Ruben Lebron

Vice President: Matthew Brinkmeyer

Motto: “Uniting all Shockers behind a common goal.”

Main objectives: Communication, safety and Shocker Advancement

Running inspiration: Lebron and Brinkmeyer said their reason for running is passion. 

Meet Lebron: Ruben Lebron was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He enjoys working out and staying fit and spending time with family and friends. He is a senior double majoring in economics and political science and serves as Organization Outreach Committee Chair in the SGA senate.

Meet Brinkmeyer: Matthew Brinkmeyer is a junior double majoring in international studies with a focus in Latin America and political science. He is involved in Beta Theta Pi and Student Involvement and is an executive on the Interfraternity Council. A two-term student government senator, Brinkmeyer resigned as Campus Issues Chair during winter break because of “the discourse and disconnect” within student government. 

Ruben Lebron and Matthew Brinkmeyer said they want to change the student government status quo at Wichita State.

“We feel that while SGA did a good job this year of getting student voices heard, there are still groups that are not represented and feel they don’t have a voice in student government,” Lebron said. “As a Hispanic, for instance, I do not feel represented.

“That’s why we’re Shockers United. We want to unite everybody and have productive and professional conversations with the administration so we can get things done. We can’t make great things happen if we are divided.”

Lebron, a senior majoring in economics and political science, is the Shockers United candidate for student body president. He said what sets Shockers United apart from the other candidates is that they represent the largest, most comprehensive ticket that includes the most student groups.

 “As organization outreach chair this year, I sometimes joke that I’m a de facto member of all student organizations,” Lebron said. “I reach out and communicate with every student group, I know what their issues are, and I will bring that ability to communicate and make sure everyone is represented.”

A passion for public service binds Lebron and Brinkmeyer together. Both want to join the Peace Corps after graduation and eventually start their own nonprofit organizations. 

Lebron said Shockers United is focused on three key issues for SGA: communication, campus safety and Shocker advancement.

“We have high expectations for the student government,” Brinkmeyer said. “We hear a lot of talk, but we don’t see as much reaching for the stars. That’s what we want to do.”

Shockers United took issue with the way the student fees budget was handled this year. Several campus organizations faced cuts to their proposed budgets, but Student Government Association retained the same level of funding for its own organization.

“Our student government is one of the highest paid student governments in the nation,” Brinkmeyer said. “I think when you can’t fund an organization even a few thousand dollars, but as a student who is supposed to be serving the university and trying to make the university better and you’re getting paid over $10,000, up almost to $20,000, I feel you could cut your pay a little bit. You could make those sacrifices for the university.”

Lebron said he was disappointed by some of student government’s budget decisions. 

“We need to lead by example,” Lebron said. “We’re telling all of these organizations that we’re going to take their money away, but we’re keeping the same salaries and resources for ourselves, and, moreover, they’re used very ineffectively, let me tell you.”

Brinkmeyer, who was involved in this year’s campus safety walks with students and University Police, said one of his primary focuses for next year would be solving the jurisdiction issue between campus police and Wichita Police.

“I think something that separates us from the [other candidates] is that we have real changes we want to make, instead of just talking about safety in general,” Brinkmeyer said. 

For example, University Police does not respond to calls off campus. 

“We want to work together with UPD Chief Sara Morris and the new Wichita Police chief and the administration to solve these problems. Kansas University and Kansas State have both solved these issues and we need to do that here,” Brinkmeyer said.

“Ruben and I both have plenty of things that make us look good on our resumes. But this year I decided to run for student body vice president, but not because I needed a resume builder, not because I wanted the money — because they get paid so much — but because I really, really, really want to change this university and I have a passion to serve this university,” he said. 

— Chance Swaim of The Sunflower


President: Michael Schultz

Vice President: Mariah Smith

Motto: “Your Voice. Your Mission. Our Purpose.”

Main objectives: Enhancing the student experience, increasing outreach and growing association education. 

Running inspiration: Both Schultz and Smith said they are passionate about serving the student body. 

Meet Schultz: Michael Schultz is a senior majoring in finance and marketing, with minors in sociology and personal selling. He is from Wichita and has been involved with SGA for two years, serving as a business senator for the 57th and 58th sessions. He serves on the academics committee for the 58th session. Schultz is involved with Beta Theta Pi and has served in several capacities in that fraternity, including president, new member educator and scholarship chairman. 

Meet Smith: Mariah Smith is a junior majoring in finance. She is from Newton, Kansas and has been involved in SGA for three years. She was appointed as a Liberal Arts & Sciences senator during her first year, serving on the budget and finance committee, and has served as Senator At-Large, Legislative Director and now treasurer. Smith is also involved in Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, the National Society of Leadership and Success, general education committee for the faculty and is an officer for Conduct Board. 

Wichita State senior Michael Schultz added an extra major and minor just so he could run for student body president.

Schultz is majoring in finance and marketing and minoring in sociology and personal selling.

“I was just planning on doing one major and minor, but I decided when this whole thing came up that I wanted to stay another year and help the student body,” Schultz said. “So I added another major and another minor so I could extend a year to run for this.” 

Schultz is the presidential candidate on the Spark ticket. His running mate is junior finance major Mariah Smith.

Schultz and Smith are serving in the 58th session of Student Government Association. Schultz serves as a business senator, and Smith is the treasurer. 

Schultz said he and Smith work well together. 

“I really feel like Mariah and myself make a fantastic team really in just overall making the student body a better place and making Wichita State a better place,” he said. 

Smith said the ticket’s name is about finding out what students’ passions are and what drives them every day.

“We really want to know that from students because we feel like if we’re going to represent students, we need to see what they value to create an experience that benefits them,” Smith said. “We need to make sure we’re catering that experience toward their passions and toward their values.” 

One goal of Spark’s, if elected, is to make SGA and the people involved with SGA more personable.

“We feel that oftentimes students don’t want to come to student government because sometimes they feel that we’re talking at them, and we’re not talking to them,” Smith said. “We really want to focus on changing that dynamic.” 

Schultz said students sometimes view SGA as being akin to university administration.

“We’re still students and we want to connect with students on that student level,” Schultz said. 

Smith said part of her inspiration for running for executive office is Gordon Parks. When Smith began in SGA three years ago, she said the first meeting was held at the Ulrich Museum of Art and meetings were held about gathering the Gordon Parks collection. She said Parks stood for giving people a voice when they didn’t have one.

Parks, born in Fort Scott, Kansas, was the first African-American photographer for Life Magazine and first African-American movie director in Hollywood. He also wrote music and poetry and many books.

For Smith, student government helped give her a voice.

“Student government gave me the ability to learn about myself, about leadership, to learn about resources to really fall in love with this campus,” she said. “I think that student government has the tools and the resources to do that with every student. That’s why we’re running.” 

— TJ Rigg of The Sunflower

How to vote

  • Voting begins at 8 p.m. Monday and ends at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
  • Login to and find the link for the election.
  • The winning ticket will be announced at a reception at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Rhatigan Student Center.