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Pope brings law student perspective to UF leadership position

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Trevor Pope and Brian Burgoon

TREVOR POPE and Board of Governors member Brian Burgoon celebrate after Pope becoming the first law student to be elected UF student body president since current Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried was elected to that position in 2002.

First-year University of Florida law student Trevor Pope thinks once he’s out of law school and has worked for a while, he might like to “dabble” in politics.

That might not be an unprecedented ambition. Pope has just become the first law student to be elected UF student body president since Nikki Fried in 2002. That would be Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Former House Speaker Dean Cannon also is a former law student/student body president, as is Third District Court of Appeal Judge Ed Scales.

It’s a daunting position.

“Balancing law school and involvement [in student government] has been challenging but fantastic at the same time,” said Pope, interviewed after one law class and while heading to another on appellate advocacy.

“I was happy to see the hard work finally pay off,” he said of the election results. “My team put in countless hours over the course of a few months to ensure that the student body was aware of our platform and goals for the university.”

One of his predecessors as a law student/student body president and who has worked with Pope is Bar Board of Governors member Brian Burgoon. He thinks Pope is up for the job.

“As a law student, Trevor has a unique understanding of the issues facing both undergraduates and professional students, which will make him a better leader for the entire UF student body,” Burgoon said. “The student body president also serves on the UF Board of Trustees, and Trevor’s legal education will prove invaluable as he addresses complex issues that come before the board.”

Pope is a Gainesville native and going to UF was a natural choice.

“I knew I wanted to stay in the state of Florida. UF is one of the top public institutions in the nation and it would provide me with the best opportunity to get the best education I could,” he said.

After earning his undergraduate degree with a double major in economics and political science (and serving as senior class president), Pope decided law school was his best option.

“I would like to work in the public sector and potentially dabble in politics. Going to law school is the best platform to pursue some of the dreams I have,” he said. “It’s a versatile degree, it provides me with a lot of flexibility as well.”

Pope, who won 57.3% of the February 18-19 balloting and takes office in May for a one-year term, comes in at a challenging time. He noted student government controls a $23 million budget, something he said is unique for a public university.

Those funds prompted a controversy late last year after $50,000 was used to pay for an appearance by Donald Trump, Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Fox News commentator and Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, last October.

“We need to keep our political and ideological views outside of student government and we need to work for the good of all 50,000 students,” Pope said. “When you bring a speaker that a small niche group on campus would enjoy, you’re not representing all students. I want to reflect all sectors of the student body because of how large and diverse that student body is.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done promoting mental health on campus as well as sexual assault prevention,” he continued.

Pope said he wants to make students aware of the budget and solicit their views on how it should be used to provide resources they want.

The position also gives Pope a voting seat on the UF Board of Trustees.

“I am not just a vote, I am the voice of over 50,000 students,” Pope said. “Every trustee wants what is best for the student body; they aren’t always able to hear from the students directly. That’s what I provide as a trustee, the student perspective, which I am incredibly proud to do.”

Burgoon, president of the UF Alumni Association last year, worked with Pope who was an association employee as well as senior class president.

Burgoon pushed the association’s goal to improve alumni participation with UF.

“Trevor created a new student initiative to generate cohesiveness within each graduating class. He spearheaded several projects with UFAA that successfully engaged UF’s graduating seniors, providing an important connection between UF and its newest alumni,” Burgoon said. “Through his leadership and innovation, Trevor helped create a culture of engagement and philanthropy among our young alumni and developed a model for successfully engaging future graduating classes.

“Trevor takes on leadership roles not for personal recognition, but because he truly wants to help his fellow students. He genuinely wants to leave a lasting impact on the University of Florida, to ensure future Gators have even greater opportunities. Student government politics can be just as divisive and polarizing as they are on the national stage, but Trevor has a unique ability to unite students to find common ground, regardless of whether they agree with him on a specific issue.”

Last year, Burgoon presented Pope with the UF Outstanding Student Leader Award.

According to information provided by Burgoon, Pope’s election ended a drought after a time when it was common for a law student to also be student body president. Between 1987 and 2002, eight law students held that post: Jeffery Q. Jonasen in 1987, Scales in 1989, Cannon in 1991, H. Christopher Tompkins II in 1994, Kevin M. Mayeux in 1995, Burgoon in 1996, John T. McGovern in 1998, and Fried in 2002.

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