Why do you want to be Grand Marshal?
Flowers: I want to become Grand Marshal in order to present student government with new focus and a new perspective. I have seen campus as both a student government leader and a constituent, and I know that my experiences are by no means unique to students here.I intend to expand the scope of this campus beyond where it has gone in the past, as I firmly believe that the best things to happen to our student environment are the challenges that will take more than one Grand Marshal’s time in office to complete. I aim to give multicultural students a voice such that there can be a sense of unity and invitation for current and incoming students.
Han: I want to be Grand Marshal because my time here at RPI has been life changing, and I want to take the opportunity to give back to the school in a positive way. I believe I am the best person for the job to bring some positive change to our campus for the student body. My number one extracurricular commitment here at RPI has been the Student Senate ever since freshman elections, and I understand what it takes to be the Grand Marshal, outside of just leading the Senate. My knowledge of the position’s requirements and passion for everything RPI-related makes me the best candidate for the job and allows student government as a whole to act as a stronger union.
Describe your experience in Student Government.
Flowers: I was elected to become a Class of 2016 Senator in the spring of 2013, where I immediately began my focus into aiding academics by joining the Academic Affairs Committee (as vice-chair), as well as the Facilities and Services Committee, the Student Government Communications Committee, and later the Student Life Committee. As I also participated heavily in my Class Council, I had the opportunity to learn about a variety of student interests, but found that as a campus, we lacked advocacy for our academics, the very reason we came here. Thus, when I rose to become the Academic Affairs Committee Chair, I immediately initiated several projects that I feel greatly benefit the student body, including a research index, and revitalizing efforts for a syllabus catalog. As Grand Marshal, I hope to see these projects through, and continue to bring new initiatives to improve the campus.
Han: I have served in the Student Senate as an elected Senator for the Class of 2016 since freshman elections. During my freshman year, I participated in the Senate Communications Committee (SenComm) and the Student Life Committee (SLC).
In my sophomore year, I desired to take a larger role in the Senate’s operations so I sought the position of Treasurer, where I helped change the way the Senate’s budget operated. Previously, we had committee-specific budgets for certain projects and activities. Instead, I decided that the best method would be to have a lump sum of money available to all committees, since the projects that each committee works on are not decided upon the previous year. I also served as the vice-chair of the Facilities and Services Committee (FSC), whose main project that year was to draft a proposal to bring a car-sharing service to campus, like Zipcar. I was very involved in the writing process and look to continue to see the project through in the coming year.
This year, I have been the chair of FSC, and we have seen a revival of membership and project work as a result. FSC and the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee (HSAC), which is a sub-committee of FSC, has done many great things this year, including working to return Arizona Iced Tea in Fathers, acquiring transponders for the Rensselaer Student Auto Shop so they can access their garage during peak hours, and bringing a proposal to administration for energy-saving software for our Green Revolving Fund initiative. We’re also wrapping up our main projects, which include an online portal to report any issues with classroom facilities to FIXX and the registrar, working with Parking and Transportation Services to address student concerns with shuttles and parking, and a new project to bring additional picnic tables on our campus with the help of some student groups.
List your campus activities, including levels of involvement, positions held, and awards received.
- RPI Kendo Club (2012-2013)
- RPI Kung Fu (2012-2013)
- RPI Quidditch Team (2012-Present)
- RPI League of Legends (2012-2014)
- Founding member, Public Relations Officer
- Student Senate (2013-Present)
- Academic Affairs Committee (2013-Present)
- Vice-Chair (2013-2014)
- Chair (2014-Present)
- Facilities and Services Committee (2013-2014)
- Student Government Communications Committee (2013-2014)
- Student Life Committee (2013-2014)
- Academic Affairs Committee (2013-Present)
- RPI National Society of Black Engineers (2014-Present)
- Vice-Treasurer (Fall 2014)
- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated: Omicron Upsilon Chapter (Spring 2015 – Present)
Han: Outside of Student Senate, I’m also involved with the Office of Admissions at RPI, where I’ve worked as a tour guide for just over two years now. I have been a Math Mentor for the Math department for two semesters for Calculus I and have been a programming mentor for the Computer Science department for four semesters, where I’ve mentored for Computer Science 1, Data Structures, and Introduction to Algorithms. I am also a brother of the Sigma Chi Fraternity here at RPI, where I currently hold the position of social media chairman.
Name three short-term (within the term of your office) goals and three long-term (beyond your term of office) that you have for the Senate.
Flowers: My short-term goals while in office start with work to restore all-entrance access to student residence halls. Further, I will work to expand online resources the Institute provides for student academics. Lastly, I will work to collaborate with nearby colleges to host events beneficial to both universities. In the future beyond one term in office, I wish to see the completion of a wide-spread support system for upper classmen coursework. Further, allowing more access for multicultural groups on campus to present themselves as available organizations to incoming students, and be more involved in their exposure process to RPI. My final goal is to eliminate the stigma of a negative social setting that comes with our school.
Select passionate, enthusiastic, and responsible committee chairs and start planning for the upcoming school year immediately.
Take the initiative in communications by reaching out to students, instead of waiting for them to come to us.
Utilize the new RPI Petitions website to open additional methods of communication between the student body and the Senate.
Maintain and continue to improve the professional relationship between Student Government and RPI Administrators.
Complete our existing long-term projects, including our pharmacy proposal, car-sharing initiative, and residence hall improvements.
Increase student participation, both in committees and through online platforms.
What do you feel are the roles of the Grand Marshal and the Student Senate?
Flowers: The role of the Student Senate is to work to protect student rights and advocate for student opinions so that not compromise, but collaboration can be reached between students and faculty/administration. The role of the Grand Marshal is to keep the Student Senate efficient, provide ideas and inspiration, and be a channel for student voices to high levels of Institute administration, and the campus at large.
Han: The Grand Marshal acts as not only the chair of the Student Senate, but also the student body president. This means that he or she is the chief representative and spokesperson for the student body in all matters. They should be the prime example of school spirit for the student body and act as a liaison between the students and the RPI Administration.
The Senate’s role on our campus is to advocate for students’ rights and improve the quality of life here at RPI. This can be done with various different methods but is mainly achieved through project work and initiatives. We act as a sounding board for all student concerns and work to address all of them to make RPI a better place to live, work, play, and learn.
What do you think are the incumbent Grand Marshal’s strengths and weaknesses? What would you do to improve upon them if you are elected?
Flowers: Weaknesses of the incumbent Grand Marshal lie primarily in methods regarding organization of the different areas of the Student Senate. There was occasional conflict between different areas, or varying opinions in smaller discussions. That being said, the structure and guidance given to the Student Senate this past year has allowed it to be the most productive Senate in a very long time, and will only continue to inspire students to put forward their best foot on student initiatives.
Han: I think Kyle’s strength is his ability to lead committees in their project work. He was the one that initially introduced the Senate to the subcommittee structure that all Senate committees currently employ, and it has allowed us to have better productivity and use our time more efficiently. He has done a great job of focusing on publicity and opening up more of the conversations we have in the Senate and also began planning for the upcoming year over the summer, allowing us to start off strong this year.
I think his weaknesses lie in his tendency to focus more on the big picture and have so many ideas for the grand vision of what he wants the Senate to achieve. This is absolutely critical to be a successful Grand Marshal, but it is also equally as important to identify the steps in between and recognize when things are not as feasible as they may seem. This is why one of the main points of my platform is to increase our focus on short-term, tangible goals for our projects. For our long-term projects that won’t necessarily get completed in one term, I want to set goals to have some meaningful progress toward a tangible product on our campus by the end of my term.
Looking forward, what do you see as possible issues facing student government in the next year?
Flowers: Possible issues facing student government in the coming year are a large influx of student ideas from the new petition website, and ensuring that Senate properly recognizes these ideas, and further allocates the appropriate amount of resources to addressing issues. Further, there is the need to have incoming committee chairs strongly advocate for non-Senate members to join and continue onward as part of the committees, to enhance our diversity of students within our project teams.
Han: I believe the greatest issue moving forward is the issue of transparency. I want to shed more light on how the Senate operates as a whole. The situation surrounding the Union Annual Report this past month is a clear example of this – with a better understanding of how the Senate and Executive Board operated and drafted the UAR, people would not have had the response that they did to the early release of the document. I think the best way to do this is to release more working documents and release documents in stages, instead of when it is complete.
Another issue that we face involves the class councils and the revitalization of the Undergraduate Council. If the new Union Constitution amendment concerning the UC passes, there will be an increased amount of power and responsibility given to the UC. This means that the UC will be forced into a position that it has not previously been able to have – managing the class councils and approving any kind of budgets/expenses that they would want to spend. Each class council would no longer be separately constituted; they would follow the UC’s decisions on that matter as well. This creates a lot of changes in the way each individual class originally decided to run their council in their own constitutions and we face many challenges trying to combine all the different ideas into something that maintains the individual spirits of each class. Again, these are still pending changes, so it might not even be an issue in the future.
What is your opinion of the current communication lines between the administration and the student body? What plans do you have to maintain or improve them?
Flowers: The lines of communication between students and the administration have improved over the last year, and I aim to continue that upward trend. I’ve worked on this improvement of communication myself, including with faculty, and the main element in this line of communication is ensuring that the administration is aware of the schedule that the Student Senate operates under, and ensuring that the proper amount of checks occur in the various departments.
Han: I believe the current communication lines between the administration and student body are very good and are continuing to improve. The Student Senate has great access to administrators and staff, and they have been very open to working with us to address any student concerns and accomplish the projects we want to work on. My goal with this topic is not only to continue to improve our work with administration on their side, but also to have more involvement from administrators on Senate initiatives. I want them to be more aware of the process so that we as Senators can have greater insight into how they work and focus on issues that we can achieve real change. This could be involvement during GBMs, participation in events or project work, or even just consistent monitoring and responding to our new petitions website and student government website.
What do you see as the current purpose of the CLASS initiative? What role should students have in its implementation?
Flowers: Right now, CLASS is about finding ways to inform students about the support opportunities available to them, and then further developing solutions to accommodate for any gaps that remain. One part of CLASS that I have been working on is student-faculty engagement, which I firmly believe is a necessity for a comfortable education environment. The role of students is to change their attitude towards their academics: instead of searching for problems to dwell on, we should first be looking at the solutions that have already been provided, and collaborate to resolve the real issues that may occur in student-faculty, and student-student relationships.
Han: I believe the purpose of the Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students Initiative, or CLASS, is two-fold. One, it allows for students to have a better connection and stronger ties to the school that they decided to attend. It encourages students to really be able to call this place their home. Second, I believe that CLASS gives students the opportunity to better themselves in a personal development aspect as well as from a professional development standpoint.
Students can have a very active role in implementing the CLASS initiative on RPI’s campus. Faculty-student engagement, residential clustering, and time-based clustering all involve effort from both administrators and active students to help incoming students adjust to the rigors of college and current students to better integrate into our campus. However, the most important part is just participating in the many events that would be offered to further the CLASS initiative. The Senate can have a role in leading that charge, but ultimately, without student adoption and participation, the purpose of CLASS has no meaning. I also think CLASS gives us a good way to push Senate projects through to administration. By explaining how a project adheres to the core principles of CLASS, I believe that we can further strengthen our case for all of our projects.
Editor’s note: All candidates’ submissions were reviewed and edited minimally and only for Poly style. No additions, deletions, or revisions were made for typographical or grammatical errors.