SIKESTON -- There's no denying Ryan Beaird will have a full plate during his tenure as student body president of Arkansas State University.
Currently the Jonesboro, Ark., university is undergoing a mascot change from the Indians to the Red Wolves. This next academic year also marks the centennial of the school, and to top it off, at 20, the Sikeston High School graduate is making history as the youngest student body president ASU has ever known.
But Beaird, who was elected March 6, said he isn't feeling any pressure. "I'm just excited about getting in there and getting things done," said Beaird, son of Mike and Nikki Vaught and Jim Beaird of Sikeston.
Among Beaird's goals is to represent the entire student body -- something he said was lacking from the previous administration.
"It kind of came to that point where the current president and staff were only concerned about themselves. They were doing the leadership without serving the constituents well, and I want to get back into the heart of being a representative of the student body -- whatever that takes," Beaird said.
He continued: "We don't just want to be leaders of the campus but servants of the student body," Beaird said.
Beaird plans to use an approach similar to the one he used on the soccer field during his high school days -- the whole team working together for one common goal.
"My work ethic was built around Derrick Long, my high school soccer coach. He made me who I am in part of my work ethic and dedication," Beaird said.
Also Beaird plans to use the mascot change and centennial as a way to promote the school.
Beaird said he's always had an interest in government and credited his parents for that.
"My parents always taught me to be that go-to person for people who can't get it done or are not willing to get it done," Beaird said.
Beaird's first student government experience was in seventh grade, when he became Student Council president of the middle school. Then when he was a senior in Sikeston High School, he was elected student body president.
When he started school at ASU in fall 2006, Beaird ran for freshman senator, and by the end of the year was even voted senator of the year. This past year he was elected as a senator at large, which means he represents all 11,000 constituents at ASU.
But Beaird's real challenge came about a month and a half ago, when he worked to amend the Student Government constitution to allow students with 60 credit hours to run for Student Government president.
"Before that only a senior could be president, and I did what had to be done to change the constitution," Beaird said.
This included Beaird drafting a detailed resolution to allow juniors as well as seniors to run for office. The Student Government then had to hold a special election to pass the amendment, which required two-thirds of Senate votes, Beaird said.
Once Beaird was eligible for candidacy, he and his running mate began their campaign.
"We spent day and night campaigning for a week and a half," Beaird said. "We put a lot of things on the Internet and lots of signs around campus. We were talking with constituents and organizations on campus and free speech areas."
A debate between Beaird and his opponent was held March 3, and finally, the two-day election arrived. Beaird defeated his opponent by 188 votes.
"I was stressed and looking toward the end of tunnel whether we won or lost and it was so hectic," Beaird said. "Once we found out we won, it took a bit to come down off that stress level."
Since the election, Beaird has been appointing members to his staff, he said.
"My first duty is to allocate a budget of $80,000 in the next couple weeks," Beaird said.
Beaird said his new student government position is like having a full-time job on top of going to school. A member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, the business management major manages to maintain a 3.94 GPA.
"There's no time to sleep anymore," Beaird joked.
Although Beaird would like to go into politics some day, he's just focusing on the present.
"I'm so dedicated in getting this job done, and I don't want to look too far in advance," Beaird said. "I want to get the job done right, now that I'm in this position."
Meanwhile, friends and family said they're not at all surprised by Beaird's success in student government.
"It is a big opportunity for him. It will be a busy year, but I think he can do it," said his mother.
Beaird's high school soccer coach said he could tell early on Beaird had good leadership skills, serving as the team captain during the school's first soccer district championship and again the next year.
"I saw he had it in him to the lead the team and made him team captain," Long said.
Beaird showed leadership -- not verbally -- but through the way he motivated the team by his work ethic on the field, Long said.
"He's a great guy and will do a great job for ASU," Long said. "They couldn't have have picked a better guy to run their student body."
Crystie Drake Ressel, Sikeston High School Student Council sponsor, said Beaird's recent accomplishment is making an impression on current Student Council members.
"He did an excellent job (as student body president)," Ressel said. "When he was a senior, he was such a hard worker and took his job so seriously that I knew he would go on to be involved in government for sure when he got into college -- I can very well see him doing it after college, too."