FGCU’s 25th Student Body President Retires

Grace Brannigan’s Lasting Mark on FGCU


Jessica Piland

Former Student Body President Grace Brannigan retired on April 1.

Abigail Muth, Staff Writer

Former Student Body President Grace Brannigan did not come to FGCU with the intention of running for the Student Government presidential ticket, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t work in this role as if she was meant for it. 

When Brannigan first got involved in Student Government, she did not know what the experience would hold, but a lot happened between being a senator and becoming student body president. 

After being a senator as a sophomore and getting appointed into the appropriations chair position going into the summer before her junior year, Brannigan had the opportunity to run for senate president in the fall of her junior year. 

When asking for advice from former Student Body President Alyssa Fleischer about going for this position, Fleischer asked Brannigan if she could see herself going for the position of student body president in the future. 

“Sitting there in her office I realized yes, I did. I did want to be the student body president and I felt that in the time I had been in Student Government, and the things that I was watching happen, and the things that were already starting to sort of form on the horizon, I had realized that that was what I wanted to do,” Brannigan said. 

There were several unforeseen circumstances this year that she didn’t need to take responsibility for, but chose to for the good of FGCU’s student body. One of these circumstances was surrounding Hurricane Ian hitting Southwest Florida. 

Brannigan made the decision not to evacuate her home and shelter elsewhere, but rather to stay with the students and assist in the Alico Arena shelter. During her time there, she had a student come to her and say “I feel better knowing you’re here,” which made her realize she had made the right decision. 

“I found that choice and the things that I got to do and the things that I did afterwards to be the most rewarding,” she said.

After Brannigan made the decision to stay in Alico Arena, she then did not return home for 12 consecutive days as she was assisting her peers and helping making decisions which would affect the whole university. 

The 25th presidential ticket retired on April 1. (Jessica Piland)

One of the many challenges that come with being the student body president, is having to show up as a representative of her peers in the Board of Trustees meetings. 

“The tricky thing about the Board of Trustees is that you have to always choose what hill is a hill worth dying on because anybody would seem unreasonable or misinformed if every time an issue comes up, you are really aggressive or really dedicated to the issue,” Brannigan said. 

This can be difficult for her as the student body representative because she does have strong opinions on most subjects regarding how to make campus life, and FGCU in general, better for her peers. 

“My ability to make a strong statement was dependent on the validity of my voice,” she said.  “And so I think that the hard thing about the Board of Trustees is that if you come in too hot or you come in too emotional, then you discredit yourself and they don’t want to know what you have to say.” 

Brannigan was also a member of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee and handled the presidential search with dignity and grace. However, she was disappointed that her hard work did not end in having the opportunity to vote for FGCU’s fifth president due to the restarting of the search. 

“It is difficult to do this kind of work and to not be consumed by it. I live on campus, I go to class. There is never a space I occupy where I am not this thing unless I’m sitting in my apartment alone,” she said. “So it has affected my personal life, but also I have met so many people I would not have met otherwise. And I’ve learned so many things that I think I would have only learned much later in my life.”

Starting when she first came to FGCU, she had it in the back of her mind that she wanted to work in a public interest job, whether that be as a lobbyist or working in public policy. 

“Student Government helped me take the nebulous idea that I wanted to be doing that kind of work and more solidify the feeling that I wanted to take this thing (that it was seeming I was starting to be pretty good at) and transfer those skills out into being an attorney instead,” Brannigan said. 

Her parents raised her not to chase fame or fortune, but to do the right thing for the sake of the people around her. 

“When I walk across the stage in May, I will be the first person in my family to ever have gotten a degree. And so I have a lot of familial pride in doing this. I’m very proud of my name and my heritage and my parents background. And the work that they have put in to come to the United States and to make a life where I am able to do this kind of thing

The last time Brannigan was in contact with Eagle News, she was waiting for acceptance into multiple different law schools. She has a passion for advocating for people, and ultimately wants to go into politics in order to stick up for people, something she was able to do during her time as FGCU’s 25th student body president. 

“Ultimately, in my life, I’d like to be a politician. Mostly because I think that what this has shown me is that people want to feel represented. People want to feel represented by people that they believe care about them and by people that they believe are competent,” she said.