The STAR gets personal with the Associated Students president-elect

STAR: What do you want to accomplish while you're in office?

 

There are so many things I would like to accomplish while I am in office. I want to make so much change this year that will hopefully better Sonoma State University as a whole and each student’s individual college experience. A big priority of mine is to create a larger sense of student community on campus. I want to see more human connection on this campus between students, faculty, and administration. I want students to feel valued and provided for at this university. I want to see that students are able to have a say in what their money is being spent on and that we are made aware of

STAR: What have you learned from Brandon Mercer that you'd like to apply or do differently?

I have seen Brandon model great characteristics of leadership during his time of presidency. Being able to serve as a student representative on the Fee Advisory committee, a committee in which Brandon chairs, I was able to directly see how Brandon always advocated for the best interest of the students. Brandon has a strong voice but is also a great listener and I really admire that about him. I plan to apply Brandon’s level of passion and determination to the AS President position, in order provide what’s best for the students.

I think overall Brandon has been a great leader. Although Brandon and I share similar drive and passion for the students, I believe we are also different in many aspects and this year will be very different from the last. I think one of the things I would like to do differently than Brandon, is to be more approachable to students/ Brandon is very mature, organized and professional and the way he holds himself can be intimidating to an average. Until you get to know him of course, than he is very easy to talk to. However,

I feel that level of professionalism Brandon holds himself to can create a barrier between students and AS. As Associated Students President I would like to continue to portray myself as just a fellow student. Of course I plan to hold myself to high expectations and be organized, mature and professional, however I would like students to feel they can easily approach me at any time. I want students to know that the sole reason I am in this position is to advocate for their best interest and the only way I can do that is if students feel comfortable coming to me to share their concerns, complaints and needs. I really would like for students to feel that not only do they have a voice but that they can and will be heard.

STAR: What do you want students to know about you?

I want students to know that I am no different from them. I want them to know I am a low-income first generation college student and I have worked really hard to be where I am today. I have never had anything just handed to me in life and I put 100% into everything I do. And that will include this position as AS President. I am determined to take full advantage of this opportunity and make sure the student voice is always heard.

I want students to know that I am just a fellow student. I don’t want students to feel as if I am somehow “higher” than them or that I obtain some authoritative power now.

Because I am still an average student like everyone else, the only difference is I have the power to take our common complaints, concerns, and needs and voice them to achieve what’s in our best interest. I want students to be comfortable approaching me because I am here for them. Before I discovered AS I had no idea what to do with these frustrations and desires the typical student faces at SSU and I want students to know that I am that resource and I genuinely want to hear their thoughts. I don’t want students to feel there is a barrier between student government and the general student population. Student government is a resource specifically for the needs and rights of students and students should take advantage of that.

STAR: What is one initiative you plan on working on (if there is one)?

There are many initiatives I plan on working on during my time as president. One of the first initiatives I plan to work on is the Bias Response Task Force. The Hub is coordinating with many other leaders on campus to raise awareness of biases that occur on campus and the Bias Response resource the University offers. I think this is incredibly important for students to be aware of and educated in.

STAR: What is your reaction to being elected?

I was in complete shock when the results of the election were announced. To be honest I really did not expect to win. From the start of this elections process I wanted to win more than anything, but in the back of my mind I already had the idea that most likely I wasn’t going to win. But I decided anyway I would still give it my all and see what happens. And it happened. Students saw my passion and drive and elected me because they agreed with my values. I can’t explain how honored I am for that. The campaign experience itself was such an amazing opportunity; being able to outreach and engage with so many of my fellow students in varies areas of the university. No other program or class has allowed me that opportunity. I think the most exciting part of this for me is that, 23% of SSU students voted in this student election, which is the highest turnout in the CSU system. That is something to be incredibly proud of. It is important for students to have a voice and choose whom they wish to represent them at this university and I am beyond ecstatic and honored to have been chosen.

STAR: What are some things about the school that you would like to see change?

I would really like to see increased transparency and communication between administration and students. I believe students have the right to be more informed about what goes on behind closed doors at this university especially when our time, money, and future are in jeopardy.

I would also like to see enhanced diversity on our campus and a stronger sense of student community. I know many students crave more connection within our student union but no one really knows how to make it happen. One of my goals is to really try to break that barrier and get students more engaged with their community.

In general I would just like to see more value focused on the students at this university. For example I want to see more student art around campus and stop spending our money on art from outside artists. We should be appreciating the artists in our own community and allowing them the opportunity to display their artwork at their own school.

I would also like to see that our four year graduation rate increases this year and that students are able to receive the classes they need to graduate on time.

STAR: What was your position on the strike?  Do you think faculty got what they deserved?

My general position on the strike is that faculty deserves to be adequately provided for. 60 percent of our professors are considered part-time lecturers and their salaries are so small that they are living just above the poverty line. Our semester and annual student fees increase each year, yet not 1 percent of those fees go toward the professors that want so badly to give us a quality education. In fact only 27 percent of our school's budget goes toward instruction. And I think that’s where so many other problems arise.

Our fees keep rising yet our money is not going toward aspects that directly affect our education. You can’t possibly put students first when you put faculty last. Faculty members are essential to our education. Some work several jobs to make a living, and thus cannot give us the one on one attention that brought most of us to SSU. Office hours are becoming shorter and non-existent, our relationships with professors are few and far between, and our class sizes are getting larger by the year. We deserve a quality education, and our faculty deserves livable salaries.

I am aware of the salary increases faculty will receive however I don’t believe I fully comprehend what it means or if it fully meets the needs of the faculty members. So I’m not quite sure if faculty got what they deserved but I don’t believe that’s a question for me to answer anyway. I believe only faculty can vouch for whether or not they received what they deserved.

STAR: What is your individual dream for post college/ life?

Ideally after graduating from Sonoma State University, hopefully in four years, I will have been accepted into a graduate school for law. My dream is to attend the University of Chicago and graduate and go on to become a criminal defense attorney. From there I would hope my career is successful and that I am happy. I hope in between law school and life I can fit in time to travel as well. Seeing the world is definitely a big priority of mine. And then later down the road of life I hope I could potentially hold some position of political office.

STAR: Where do you see yourself after college?

Hopefully after college I will be attending either Columbia University or the University of Chicago for law.

STAR: Do you feel that you are reachable by students to initiate change?

I feel I am absolutely reachable by students. One of my biggest goals is for students to feel they can always reach me. I plan to be available to students so that they can always voice their needs.

STAR: As Associated Students President, do you feel equipped to make changes around the school?

Yes I feel that I am absolutely the right student to make changes at this university. I have such a strong drive and motivation for what I believe is right and that includes making sure students are receiving what they deserve during their college experience. I am never afraid to voice my opinion, even if it is the most unpopular one. I will always stand by my values and speak up for what is right. I have such a strong voice and heart that I believe will take us very far in making change at this school.