Name: Maya Rao
Relevant Experience: Vice President of Finance, Treasurer, First-Year Representative
Running for: President
In your words, what is the importance of this role?
The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) President serves a dual role in my eyes: internal and external. My role as President internally would be to empower and support USG Representatives and Executive Committee members, ensure members of the General Assembly are held accountable for initiative work and steer the organization in a positive direction over the course of the year. Externally, I would promote the interests of students to the administration, collate student feedback and conduct outreach efforts and serve as a resource to all students on campus.
What is one initiative that you want to complete in your first semester?
In my first semester as President, I hope to continue working on and finalize a campus-wide disability audit process. As Vice President of Finance, I began a project in conjunction with our Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion geared towards ensuring that student groups’ events and practices were accessible to everyone, particularly differently-abled individuals. In the Presidency, I would like to expand upon these resources and work collaboratively with campus organizations like Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC) and Residence Hall Association (RHA) to create and implement core audit processes for campus buildings, large events and university offices and departments.
What are some of the most persistent recurring issues on campus and how do you plan to address them?
I think student burnout is one of the largest issues on our campus that needs to be addressed. Considering the University’s heightened focus on student wellness and the recent establishment of the wellness ad-hoc committee, I believe the resources are in place for our campus to tackle these concerns. In regards to student burnout in particular, I hope to work closely with the USG Academic Affairs Committee and USG Student Life Committee to start campus-wide discussions on reducing course-loads, maximizing academic flexibility and promoting healthy lifestyle habits. Outside of USG, I aim to gather and consolidate feedback from other campus organizations and offices looking at wellness.
Additionally, I hope to dive deeper into student concerns about inclusivity and representation on campus. I believe an inclusive campus can be established from the bottom up, starting with encouraging inclusive practices in student organizations via strengthened recruitment processes and event accessibility and moving up to pushing for inclusive hiring practices and better representation of minority groups in this campus’ faculty and staff members. We as USG can facilitate this process through our administrative contacts and connections with other student leaders, and more importantly, by actively reaching out to underrepresented students and student organizations and ensuring that their voices are heard.
What accomplishments in USG are you most proud of?
While serving as Treasurer in my sophomore year, I allied with other members of USG and student leaders from UDC, RHA, the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women and more, to co-author USG Resolution 26-02, “Access to Free Menstrual Health Products.” This piece of legislation called upon the administration to ensure accessibility of menstrual and sexual health products for the entire Case Western Reserve University community and ultimately resulted in dispensers being installed in nearly all campus bathrooms. I felt as though this was a major stride towards promoting inclusivity and breaking down financial barriers for CWRU students.
Moreover, I served as a key player in the pilot of the new Student Executive Council (SEC) funding structure, taking the newly-elected SEC Allocations Committee from a trial structure to a fully-formed body with robust procedures in place and establishing clear and productive communication between the USG Finance Committee, the Allocations Committee, and the Students Presidents’ Roundtable (SPR).
Finally, under my leadership, the USG Finance Committee became a more-initiative based body and pursued various projects to improve the experiences of student organizations on campus. The Committee is optimizing its funding practices by updating funding guidelines to better meet the needs of our groups and gathering peer institution data to ensure our own funding practices are sound and unbiased; in addition to funding organizations, we are working to change university policies to benefit student groups, like extending rentals on video cameras and projectors from Kelvin Smith Library.
Can you describe your influence in terms of representing the student body through the Student Presidents Roundtable?
On SPR, I will serve as the USG point of contact for other SEC boards. I personally view the SPR as a space for collaboration and consolidation; by gathering student leaders and establishing a central location for common campus-wide goals, we will be able to further advocacy efforts on all fronts. USG currently has a number of well-established administrative contacts and channels that would allow ideas formed in SPR to come to fruition and promote advocacy from a unified front.
How do you plan on holding vice presidents and representatives accountable?
The recent implementation of the USG Initiative Tracker, progress.case.edu, has been a great first step to providing external accountability for VPs and committee members. I hope to expand on this system by ensuring that USG grows more transparent; this would empower the student body to provide consistent feedback on committee work due to increased knowledge of initiatives on the table. In order to increase our transparency, and in turn, external accountability, I want to ensure that USG meetings are understandable and accessible to any community member. To do so, I would consider the way we are running our meetings and attempt to utilize Robert’s Rules in an approachable way, situate USG meetings in places that students are more likely to frequent and provide handouts or short explanations of past, current and ongoing initiatives USG is discussing in our meetings. By ensuring that all students have access to our meetings, each vice president and representative will be aware of the student body’s feedback and be held accountable for their specific work. I would also work to consistently check in with Vice Presidents and ensure they feel supported in their work and in conducting committee meetings.
How will your presidency be different from previous years? How will it be similar?
In the past, I think that USG has not been as collaborative as it could have been. We have made strong strides towards a unified campus community through the establishment of bodies like the SPR, and as president, I would work closely with other campus leaders to tackle large-scale issues and present solutions in a way that is beneficial to all of our constituents. By furthering the personal relationships I have been grateful to make this year, I believe I can create a strong working environment conducive to hearing out everyone’s voices and ensuring that we are striving to achieve our common goal of bettering our campus community. In terms of similarity, I believe our most recent USG Student Body President, Ivy Petsinger, has done a wonderful job of serving as a compassionate and positive leader. Her attitude towards USG as an organization and our role in the campus community is something truly unparalleled; I hope to continue that sort of mindset in the role of president. Additionally, I think past presidents have established strong connections with the university’s administration; I hope to build upon those professional connections to advocate for change on campus.
How differentiate the roles of USG VP of Student Life and VP of Diversity & Inclusion? How will you work with those VPs?
I believe that inclusivity should underscore all of the actions we take as an USG; every member of USG should be considering the implications and scope of their work as they are conducting it. In terms of the different roles of the Vice President of Student Life and the Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion, I believe the distinction lies in the specific initiatives they pursue. The Student Life committee pursues initiatives that students have identified as both large and small-scale campus issues that play a role in their CWRU experience and could be mediated via USG. The Diversity & Inclusion committee is not necessarily sequestered to one area of campus (student life, academics, etc.), but is able to pursue concerns raised by marginalized students and advocate for their voices to be heard on campus. Although the issues these two committees and VPs pursue may seem dissimilar, I believe they will both be best approached with the spirit of collaboration in mind. As President, I would work to foster that communication and ensure both VPs, and the Executive Committee as a whole, feel supported by one another and by me.