Candidate Profile

Joseph Bowers candidate profile

By Joseph Bowers March 17, 2024

The Poly sent out a questionnaire to every candidate running for Grand Marshal, President of the Union, and Undergraduate President. Below are the unedited responses from PU candidate Joseph Bowers ’25.

Why do you want to be President of the Union?

I hope to be elected President of the Union to improve the student experience at RPI. In my opinion, the Rensselaer Union is the cornerstone of the student experience at RPI. If elected, I plan to work to ensure the Union is doing everything possible to help students enjoy their time at RPI.

What qualifies you to be President of the Union?

I have served on the Union Executive Board for the past year as a Member at Large Representative. I have also participated in the Union’s Business Operations and Club Operations Committees during this time. Over the past year, I have developed a strong sense of how the Executive Board operates, and I feel I can step into this larger role as President of the Union with a strong background of what is expected from that role. I have also served in high level club officer positions during my entire three years at RPI, which has familiarized me with how a club interacts with and utilizes the resources of the Union. I feel this gives me unique insight into where the Executive Board may currently have room for improvement, as I work with the Executive Board and Union Administration as both a member and club officer.

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.

In the short term, my primary goal is working to provide clubs an increase in funding. Most club budgets have remained largely flat since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, and this has seen clubs struggle to keep up with their increasing expenses, as inflation has been very significant during the past few years, often leading to significantly increased dues. This relates closely to my second short term goal, which is increasing revenues from the food service venues in the Union. There are currently two spaces in Rathskeller that are either unused or underutilized. Filling these spaces is an important way to increase the Union’s revenues, while also providing the student body with wider options for dining on campus. In particular, I am interested in bringing pizza back into the Union. My final short-term goal is to improve Union communication. I feel the Union has a lot of room to improve how it gets the word out about the many events held around campus, as well as getting information to club officers about the resources at their disposal. The Union has great systems to support clubs and their goals, but these resources often go underutilized because clubs do not know they exist. As for longer term goals, they largely expand on my short term goals. First, I hope to overhaul club officer training, and make it more accessible, especially for officers who are not in office at the beginning of a calendar year. My next long term goal is to develop a long-term financial plan for capital investments made by the Union. The Union will make its final mortgage payment this upcoming fiscal year. The Union mortgage has represented a substantial investment made by the student body, and with the mortgage payed off, the Union will have a large amount of capital available for building upgrades, maintenance, and other large projects. I hope to work with the Executive Board and Union Leadership to develop a strategic plan for the next stage of Union capital investments. My final long-term goal is to increase student participation in student government, and increase student awareness of what student government does at RPI. In my experience, I’ve seen the Executive Board struggle to fill its seats, and I’ve noticed that other branches of Student Government are having the same issues. I hope through better outreach and publicity that more people will take an interest in student government and find a way to get involved.

In your own words, what do you feel are the roles of the President of the Union and the Union Executive Board? Do you think the current Executive Board is fulfilling that role? If any, what changes could be made?

The role of the President of the Union is to manage the finances and assets of the Union. The Executive Board serves to ensure that all members of the Union are served by the resources of the Union, and that these resources are distributed fairly. I believe that the current executive board does do a good job fulfilling that role. I believe that we could do a better job keeping our responses to clubs consistent, as well as moving more effectively during meetings, however I feel that overall the Executive Board is effective in its role.

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?

I believe Cat’s biggest strength is her experience on the executive board, which is extensive. I do believe I am stronger in a few areas, in particular my public speaking ability and my skills as a leader. I also do feel that, while I am less experienced than my opponent, I am experienced enough to execute the office effectively, and that I make up for this experience by my willingness to learn and adapt to challenges.

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

Currently I believe there is a lot of good with how clubs interact with their representatives, however there is certainly room for improvement. While I can’t speak for all reps, I am always sure to give clubs my respect and attention, and work with them towards whatever goals they may have. I hope to make sure that all club-rep relationships are like that, with clubs relying on their reps as a source of knowledge and advice, and reps helping their clubs to achieve their goals for the academic year and beyond.

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

I believe the Union’s budget is stronger than it has been in recent years, however it is far from an ideal situation. The Union struggled through the pandemic, and has made slow progress towards recovery so far. Additionally, with the introduction of the mandatory unlimited meal plan for freshmen, food service revenue in the Union has gone down substantially. My biggest concern will be working to increase the Union’s income to support my goal of increasing club budgets.

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

I believe the Union needs to get better at communicating with Students. There currently seems to be no good way to reach the entire campus to spread the word about campus events. I plan to work with the Executive Board and Union Administrators to step up outreach efforts, using a combination of social media, postering, email, and other channels. We need to find which channels are the most effective, and come up with new ideas for ways of spreading information.

How do you plan to engage with the president of the Institute and the rest of Institute administration?

I hope to have a strong relationship with Dr. Schmidt and Institute administration. In my role with RPI TV, I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Schmidt and develop a relationship with him, and I hope to further that during my time as President of the Union, if elected. I hope to use this relationship to advocate for all students and encourage RPI administration to find ways to better support the students.

What qualities should a leader have? How are you a leader?

I believe the foremost skill of a good leader is listening. A person cannot lead effectively without first understanding the situation they are in. By listening to those they work with, an effective leader can develop an understanding of the people around them, build trust, and help support the goals of the people who have put them in that position of leadership. I have had many opportunities throughout my life to develop my skills as a leader, and to learn effective strategies to develop good relationships and earn trust. While I am certainly not perfect, I believe my experiences have made me ready for a position as important as President of the Union.