By Emily Rich —

Madison Pumphrey strides into the Student Government Association office with two Kroger bags full of Halloween candy dangling from her arms. Her blonde hair is pulled back in a braid and she’s wearing jeans, a blue sweater and a blue, knitted jacket. As she walks into the office, she greets the staff with an  upbeat “What’s up?”

The staffers respond casually, still rushing around like ants in an anthill. While everyone settles into their seats for the executive staff meeting, they chat about the weekend.

“Did you see my Halloween costume?” Pumphrey asks, flashing a picture of herself dressed as the Virgin Mary. She doesn’t even mention being crowned Homecoming Queen that same weekend.

Then it’s time for business. Pumphrey signals the meeting’s start with an assertive, “Okay.”

Side conversations halt. She scrolls through the meeting agenda on her Lenovo laptop, a staple for engineering students, and transforms into the Chief of Staff. Pumphrey commands the room with ease.

In part, this stems from her previous leadership experience. Last year, she served as the Director of Council Infrastructure on the Speed School Student Council. Now, she’s the council’s Director of Society Relations in addition to being SGA’s Chief of Staff.

As the meeting progresses, she works through her report expeditiously.

She lingers to debate a reservation system for the newly assembled conference room, filtering through staff ideas like a kid sorting through candy the day after Halloween.

Efficiency is her key to success.

Her industrial engineering background, she says, provides her with exceptional management and organizational skills. The deliberation falters when Director of Marketing Nico Thom starts to ask a question.

“Huh?” Pumphrey asks.

“OK. I don’t know. Never mind. Ignore me,” Thom replies.

“No. I’m wondering. Like, what’re your thoughts?”

She tries to provide constant support and encouragement for her team. She wants them to feel appreciated. Thom launches into a question about access to the blue books SGA provides to students, and the discussion is back on track.

The meeting winds down with a debate about the university’s role in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Multiple conversations spring up and the gathering dissolves into hectic chatter. Pumphrey switches off her Chief of Staff mode.

“Thanks, guys, for a great meeting,” she says. “Hope you all have a good night.”


Photo Courtesy // U of L SGA