Candidate Questions

President of the Union candidate profile

By The Poly March 20, 2023

What makes you the best fit to lead the student body and how are you qualified to do so?

When I joined the Executive Board, I was looking to meet new people and get more involved on campus. At the time, I was living at home in the midst of the pandemic and felt disconnected from campus. I started on the Board as a voting representative, where I met club officers who displayed so much passion for their clubs and represented them in the budgeting process. I joined the Business Operations Committee and was able to be a part of important conversations regarding the Union businesses and facilities. I began to recognize that everything I was doing on the Board really did have the power to change the student experience for the better. As time progressed, I became more vocal and confident in my opinions in Board discussions and my abilities as they pertain to the Board. My voice began to hold a strong weight, in meetings with other Board members but also in meetings with Union administrative staff. I developed a strong passion to build a Union that operates in the best way for our students, and that is why I want to be President of the Union. I care a great deal about our Union, our clubs, and our student experience as a whole and I want to listen to you all as students to make it better.

What qualifies you to be President of the Union?

I joined the Union Executive Board as a voting representative and member of the Business Operations Committee in February 2021. I currently serve as the Vice President of Club Relations, which entails overseeing club representative duties assigned to Executive Board representatives and coordinating events to introduce current and prospective RPI students to clubs and organizations on campus. In my time on the Board, I have advocated for clubs, acted as a mediator between club officers and Union administrators, drafted new RUGP amendments, worked to change the Union and Mueller Center hours, pushed for the initialization of renovation projects, trained our Board's new members, planned activities fairs for the Accepted Student Celebration days, and coordinated Union events such as the Candy Cane Hunt and Super Bowl Watch Party. In doing all of these things, I have built relationships with club officers and Union administrative staff and learned what it takes to organize and manage events and projects. I believe that my experience on the Executive Board and my passion for building a Union that best serves students qualifies me to be President of the Union.

Name three short-term goals (within your term of office) and three long-term goals (beyond your term of office) that you have for the Executive Board.

Short term:

1) Ensuring all clubs are well-represented

The student experience is largely shaped by clubs and organizations on campus, many of which receive Union funding. One of the responsibilities of the Executive Board is to prepare the Union budget for the following fiscal year. The Union budget funds Union clubs and organizations, among many other items. Each Union funded club and organization receives a representative from the Executive Board who speaks on their behalf during budgeting. A critical component of budgeting is to ensure clubs are well-represented to maintain the fidelity of the budgeting process, which I will ensure by thoroughly preparing the voting members of the Executive Board in pertinence to our budgeting policies, communication with clubs, and more.

2) Revitalizing the Union Hair Salon to cater to all hair types

For a long time, the Union Hair Salon has catered to a particular group of students and seen a decrease in activity. The Executive Board is currently evaluating potential candidates who can redevelop and revitalize the space and cater to all hair types. If elected, I will ensure a well-qualified and suitable candidate is chosen in a timely manner to enable the start of the HR process which is expected to take a few months. Over the summer, I will ensure the space is redesigned to cater to the candidate’s preferences and a grand reopening event will be held at the beginning of the fall semester. Our Union spaces need to work for our students, and I feel that if the spaces are not being maximized in potential, that they should be re-evaluated.

3) Expanding the communication of the Executive Board’s work

The Executive Board handles meaningful work that affects every student, but such work is not always advertised in a clear manner and many students do not know what the Board does. I will work to better market the Board’s work, including the work of our committees and the work done during weekly Board meetings. By further developing our marketing, it will increase transparency of our Board and garner more student interest in the Board’s operations, leading to new members and thereby new perspectives.

Long term:

1) Build relationships with athletics

The Union activity fee was established in 1912 as a self-imposed tax by students to support student organizations, activities, events, and athletics. Of the Union's budget, 36% was allocated to athletics. In February 2016, under President Shirley Ann Jackson's administration, athletics was removed from the Union budget. As a result, the Union's involvement with athletics has dwindled in recent years. I will work with athletics to rebuild and maintain these relationships, request athletic representation on the Executive Board, evaluate ways that the Union can better cater to athletes, and establish spaces in the Union for visibility of athletic events.

2) Establishing new campus spaces for student activities

The Executive Board has voted in support of new spaces on campus for student activities. These new spaces are soon to be evaluated by the Institute Board of Trustees for a final verdict on their development, at which point they may be discussed more openly. I will push for the creation of these spaces and, if successful, represent students in the oversight of their development processes. These projects vary in complexity, cost, and size, and will take place over the next few years. The next term will lay the foundation for these projects.

3) Use Union facilities and resources to build up student involvement in Greek life

In 2018, 23% of undergraduate students were involved in Greek life. In light of the pandemic, membership has struggled in recent years. I will work with Greek life to understand their plans in rebuilding their organizations and assess ways in which the Union can help.

In your own words, what do you feel are the roles of the President of the Union and the Union Executive Board?

The President of the Union is the presiding officer of the Union Executive Board. The President appoints the Executive Board’s membership, with the voting members being approved by the Senate. The President oversees Executive Board meetings as an unbiased moderator. The Executive Board is the chief operational branch of the Union. The Executive Board prepares the budget for the following fiscal year while administering the current year's budget. The Board works to support new and current Union clubs and organizations, and manages the business affairs and facility operations of Union facilities. The Executive Board committees include Business Operations, Multicultural Leadership Council, Union Annual Report, Club Operations, Marketing & Strategy, and Student Government Communications Committee.

What do you think are the incumbent President of the Union’s strengths and weaknesses? What would you do to improve upon them if you were elected?

Colleen took on the role of President of the Union in the midst of a transitional year for RPI with a new Institute president and has done a remarkable job. She speaks on behalf of the Executive Board with eloquence, puts much consideration into her thoughts and decisions, and always has the best interest of the members of the Union in mind. Colleen cares about and fights for students, clubs, and organizations, but also for her Board members. She is always open to listening to any student concerns and is thorough in her evaluations of these concerns and her responses. Colleen, I feel, has been a great leader to the Executive Board and the Union.

The Executive Board struggled with turnover this fiscal year due to many appointed officers graduating in December or leaving for their Arch away semesters for spring 2023. Because of this, most leadership positions on the Board were reappointed in January and therefore made the Board a bit unstable. Although I support many of Colleen’s appointments, I feel that the instability was foreseeable. Moving forward, if elected, I will work to ensure any midyear transitions are smooth. By appointing vice committee chairs under our Board committee chairs and allowing members to shadow Board vice presidents in preparation for a departure from the Board, transitions will be much smoother.

What does the club-Executive Board representative relationship look like? What should it look like?

The club-Executive Board representative relationship should have open and continuous communication. Executive Board representatives should reach out to their clubs on a regular basis with any deadlines or information the club may need, and the club should reach out to their Executive Board representative with any questions or concerns regarding Union club operations. The current relationship is missing the element of continuous communication, which I plan to improve with proper Executive Board member training and regularly informing Executive Board members of any upcoming important deadlines or information.

How would you evaluate the current Union budget situation? What do you foresee as future budget concerns?

The Union is currently in a healthy budget situation, allowing the Executive Board to look towards developing new campus spaces and renovations of Union-operated buildings to better the student experience. The Union building itself was renovated in the early 2000s, and a mortgage was taken out to fund the renovations. This mortgage will be fully paid off in 2025, at which point the Union may use the money which has annually been allocated to the mortgage towards new projects. I am unable to speak regarding the 2024 fiscal year budgeting at this time, as the Union budget must first be approved by the Institute administration. I do not currently foresee any future budget concerns.

How do you intend to encourage students to fully utilize the resources of the Union?

I believe that oftentimes, students will not fully utilize resources available to them due to simply not knowing they are available. It is critical that students are aware of the resources of the Union, which is fairly simple to do: if the Executive Board conveys to students the resources which the Union has available to them at the start of each semester and advertises them, the resources will be much more utilized.

What is your stance on transparency during Executive Board meetings?

I feel that transparency is very important in the Executive Board’s work. The Executive Board works to represent students, clubs, and organizations, and therefore transparency is vital to maintain the fidelity of the board, maintain accountability, and ensure representation is more than adequate. However, the budgeting process is restricted to Executive Board members, their respective clubs, and the Student Activity Resource Persons (SARPs). Budgets must be kept private until the Union budget is approved by the Institute administration. Because of this requirement, any discussion pertaining to specifics of the upcoming fiscal year’s budget must be closed to only relevant parties.