Former President Ronald Reagan praised Brigham Young University Friday for electing its first woman president of BYU's student association.
Amy Baird, who became president of BYU's Student Service Association Thursday, said she was flattered by the vote of confidence. But she hopes her personality and experience, not her gender, will make the difference."I feel honored and I feel that the students have put a lot of trust in me," Baird said. "I don't want to let them down."
BYUSA is a service organization as well as forum for student dialogue.
Because of the way BYU is set up, the student body may not have much formal power, Baird said. But students can have input into the administrative processes and give feedback.
The students can influence administrative decisions, she said.
For example, Baird said, BYUSA was instrumental as a liaison between the students and administration when the rates of the university's medical insurance were increased substantially for some students during the past year.
"I am not here to represent the feelings of all students," she said. "But I can be a spokesperson for them to the administration, and that is what I want to do."
Carol Yager, BYUSA public relations spokeswoman, said she has worked with Baird for the past year and believes she will do an excellent job.
"From the first day, I was impressed with Amy," Yager said.
According to Yager, the best thing about Baird is that she is not planning to "change everything" but just build on the programs and operations that already exist.
That shouldn't be hard for Baird because she has been working with BYUSA for three years and believes she understands the organization.
She was an assistant to the president, an administrative vice president and chairwoman of the Access program, which is a Big Brother/Big Sister program for Provo area youths.
Brett Blake, current BYUSA president, said Baird will fit in well.
One of the biggest problems in the past was that the presidents have had to get used to the job, Blake said. "Baird won't have to do that because she has already been around."
Yager said Baird has seen the BYUSA service programs change people's lives firsthand, and she has worked with the overall structure of the organization as well.
Baird said, "Other people may get experience in only a few areas of BYUSA, but the positions that I have held have given me the opportunity to interact with the whole university operation."
She said she believes her experience with BYUSA over the past three years will help her understand and represent the issues that are facing the students.
The BYU student body is diverse and Baird said she wants to represent as many as possible.