Caleb Finck always tells himself to keep trying. This was evident when he lost his first election for a Students’ Association senator and was rejected for an at-large senator position his sophomore year.
That was three years ago. This week, Finck finished out his second term as SA president Monday night and hopes to serve in the South Dakota State Legislature next session as a senator.
Even though Finck was set back that first year, he continued to work toward a position on the Senate to help make a difference for students at South Dakota State University.
“The notion that you can make a difference if you want to,” Finck said about students working toward their passion. “You have to have the drive to do it, but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t change that.”
Finck’s terms as SA president have been defined by accomplishments and setbacks along the way. These include finalizing a General Activity Fee increase, increasing communication and connections between the Brookings City Council and the Legislature, dealing with two budget cuts and helping to lobby in favor of the Good Samaritan Alcohol Policy bill.
Before Finck served his first term as an SA senator and state and local government chair, he interned at the State Legislature in Pierre, South Dakota. While there he learned about the legislative process and worked under Brock Greenfield and Jackie Sly. Both have inspired Finck in how he’s served the student body as SA president.
The most important thing Finck said he learned from them in his time at the capital was that “good decisions take time.” He also has tried to emulate Sly’s style of leadership in his position. He’s done this by letting everyone have a voice in conversations.
“By making sure that everyone from those different groups has a seat around the table and a voice in the process, that’s important,” Finck said. “When you have a good, respectable process, decisions almost make themselves as long as there’s good leadership and the process is respected.”
Finck has kept in touch with Sly over the years when he came to lobby in Pierre for SA. Sly never quite realized how much she had influenced him.
“I think the cool part with Caleb is that he didn’t just take what he learned, but he’s applied that in other areas of his life, like areas of leadership and students and adults on campus,” Sly said. “That’s the thing I think for Caleb. He didn’t just take that information and absorb it, but he’s putting that forth in his life and I think that’s really key as an intern.”
Chris Schmit, who has served as an adviser for SA for the past five years, said Finck’s internship has helped SA by using it to the advantage of SDSU. Schmit also said Finck’s fair-mindedness and willingness to allow each person to express his or her viewpoints has had an effect on SA becoming an open-minded group.
“I can see that he really cares about what he’s doing,” Schmit said. “He wants to be fair to people and I think those are some of the qualities that have made him a good leader.”
Finck’s first experience with SA was as a freshman and president of the Jackrabbit Village government. He helped the organization develop a constitution and present it to the Senate.
Even before this experience, Finck knew he loved government and making a difference this way. This started in high school when he served as a page in the state capital. He got mail and ran copies but was grateful to be part of the legislative process.
Originally from Tripp, South Dakota, Finck will continue to work toward his passion in government after he graduates in May with a major in agricultural leadership and run as a candidate for the District 19 State Senator. His platforms emphasize economic development and education in rural communities.
“As I look forward, if I am able to become the State Senator from District 19, I will have a duty to the 26,000 people who live in that district,” Finck said. “I will have a duty to District 19 to represent their voice as best as I possibly can.”