UF's Student Government gave students an opportunity to meet, greet and address questions to the SG president and eight panelists at the first-ever Student Government Town Hall Forum on Wednesday night.
The forum was formed as an outreach initiative to get students involved and was held at the Reitz Union.
SG representatives, along with the dean of students, had a chance to speak to roughly 70 students about SG's role in campus community.
After a 15-minute introductory period, the floor was opened for questions and students took turns grilling the panelists about funding, party ties and the SG election process.
Along with addressing these questions, the panelists offered encouragement to students and urged them to step outside of their comfort zones to leave a positive mark on The Gator Nation.
"There are a number of student organizations you can get involved in, and we want to help those people who haven't found their niche on campus yet," said David Fliegel, the director of events for IDEAL and student member of the Center of Student Activities and Involvement. "We have over 900 organizations on campus right now and may hit the 1,000 mark if we can make it."
While the panel stressed the importance of participation in student organizations, the dean of students addressed the scholastic benefits of SG.
"According to national statistics, students involved in Student Government have higher GPAs and are more likely to graduate early," said Jen Day Shaw, dean of students and assistant vice president of student affairs.
Senator Jordan Mullings acknowledged that SG's $17-million budget comes out of students' pockets and wanted them to understand that they have the power to influence where the money is going.
Students at UF pay more than $13 per credit hour in activity and service fees, and with 1.3 million credit hours purchased in 2010, the overall budget continues to grow.
"It's our money, and if you're involved in SG, you can see where it's going," said 18-year-old chemistry student Aggie Boron.
Nikki Swanson, 18, said she initially thought SG was only a "poli-sci thing," but the panel showed her that she could pursue medical school and still impact her university.
Senate Pro Tempore Katherine Getty said she wasn't expecting such a large turnout for the meeting and hopes to hold a forum each semester.
"I was excited to see so many students," Getty said. "This is something we've tried so many times and haven't been able to accomplish, and finally to have all the components - the students, the panelists and the senators from each district - come together is really great."
UF Student Senate President Micah Lewis speaks during a town hall meeting in Room 282 in the Reitz Union on Wednesday night.