As a freshman, Adam Garret was terrified when he started working at AU’s Student Advocacy Center, the student-run organization that assists students involved in the university’s student conduct process.
In fact, Garret may have been equally—if not more—nervous than his first student client who walked into the SAC’s small office.
“The only thing going through your mind is, ‘What if they ask a question I don’t know the answer to, or what if I give them false information?’ because they use that information to make decisions that impact their lives,” he explained.
Now a School of Communication junior, Garret has turned those nerves into good work over the past couple years. He’s the SAC’s current director, and the national Association for Student Conduct Administration recently named him Undergraduate Student of the Year for his contributions to AU.
Assistant director of AU’s Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution Services nominated Garret for the award. After six years in the field, Garret is the only student she has thought deserving of such an honor.
“He’s extremely mature. He’s really able to take in a lot of information and help convey that to his fellow students,” Curran explained. “He has some inherent leadership skills. He’s able to motivate the student advocates and make tough decisions.”
Under his leadership, the SAC—a department within AU Student Government—has seen between 20 and 40 cases each semester, with Garret himself handling 10 to 20 of those cases personally. He’s also restructured the organization to offer each of his 11 fellow student advocates more time with clients while also allowing for smoother leadership transitions.
He views the SAC as a unique learning experience toward law school and eventually becoming a defense attorney.
“There are very few opportunities for undergraduate students in the legal world,” he said. “This is obviously not law. We’re not lawyers, but you use a lot of the same thinking. You have to be a critical thinker. You have to respond to people in crisis.”
Curran is also quick to point out that Garret’s office is entirely student-staffed and run, something that sets AU apart from many institutions. To her, it’s just another way that AU fosters real-world experience for students to couple with their studies.
“We do really empower our students to have important positions and do important things,” she said.
And Garret can’t agree more.
“One of the greatest things about AU is Student Government just because the leadership opportunities it offers students really are amazing, and it’s not just in SAC. Other organizations like KPU, SUB, Women’s Initiative, really all the departments have great opportunities for leadership,” he said. “It definitely involves learning outside the classroom.”
Open Dialogue, Open Future
In the end, Garret couldn’t make it to the Association for Student Conduct Administration’s annual Florida conference in order to receive the award in person; he was just starting LSAT prep courses. He’s since received his certificate in the mail.
His experience as SAC director aside, Curran believes he’ll make an excellent attorney in the future, noting one impressive quality—his ability to listen.
“Adam is exemplary in the area of being able to engage in dialogue even if he disagrees,” she said. “For any student who wants to create change or engage with the government, their ability to engage in an actual dialogue and to listen and hear is going to take them a lot farther.”
Garret laughs when he thinks back to his first nervous days as a freshman student advocate. He considers his feelings now, and award or not, he’s happy and looking forward to assisting any student who steps into the SAC office.
“Now, it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s another case, another person that I get to meet, get to help.”