Student Body President hopeful, Najibullah Niazi and members of Team Engage say that the $6 million budget student government controls ought to pr ovide the average student with more than just occasional dance parties. They say they want to put UVU on the map by improving the level of student experience and involvement and raising the identity of the campus community to that of a university. To accomplish their goals they have made a list of 10 changes that, if elected, they hope to implement.
“The power of students is the power of people,” Niazi said quoting an Afghani poet. “And the power of people is the power of God. So basically students in every community are a strong power that can change and bring change in any way they want.”
Niazi, an Afghani immigrant who landed at UVU after fleeing his war-torn home, has assembled a team of campus heavy-hitters to join him in the executive offices of next year’s student government.
Jack Jared Waters, who is running for Executive Vice President, is described by Niazi as a “geek of writing.” Waters brings with him an abundance of experience and training from his years as a UVU Review staffer, including his current tenure as Editor-in-Chief. Waters says that one point on the Team Engaged list of changes that he feels strongly about is their desire to raise the amount of funding for UVU’s literary and other journals, such as Touchstones, Warp and Weave, Crescat Scientia, etc.
“… I’ve been associated with one of the journals, Touchstones,” Waters said. “And I’ve just been amazed at their lack of funding how they’re able to come out with such a good publication with such a tight budget. I think, in line with university status, things like campus journals should get a boost.”
As for the team name, Waters admits that the word “engage” is often overused in marketing catch phrases. But, as he explained, the decision to use it in spite of that was born from the desire to give the lost meaning back to the concept of community engagement. “We’re going to utilize the verb essence of that term and just be actively engaged in progressing our goals,” he said. “I think that it really does a good job of describing what we want to see happen in our different areas of responsibility … “
Britnee Nguyen, running for Vice President of Student Life, is a communications major with emphasis in public relations. Nguyen has some previous experience in student government. Last November, Nguyen was awarded Utah’s PR Student of the Year award. As VP of Student Life, Nguyen said that she hopes to provide students with a more authentic university experience through better scheduling of on-campus activities.
“I feel like a lot of [students] haven’t been able to have that,” Nguyen said.
“They’re in class during a lot of activities, which always take place at noon.” She also said that she hopes to foster more of an on-campus housing feel by co-sponsoring activities hosted by the resident engagement coordinators at the apartment complexes nearest to campus.
Joseph Demke, a biochemistry and accounting major says that he first met Niazi in the accounting lab where Demke works as a tutor. Their friendship developed through Demke’s tutoring of Niazi in math and accounting.
Demke said that he has harbored an ongoing interest in participating in student government for quite some time. “I wanted to do a senator position last year but I couldn’t because of my schedule,” he said. Demke said that he is available now because his job in the schools’ accounting department, which he had thought was very secure, was cut as one of the many recent budget reductions.
“To complete our ticket we needed his skills to have the financial side covered to be able to give a strong report on anything we’ve spent,” Niazi said.
Team Engaged says they believe their team offers a fresh approach to student government.
“I think what really sets us apart is that we are set apart from the government, that our hands are in multiple departments around campus, ” Waters said. “Based upon not only our experience by our majors, and our level of experience I feel we cast a wider net than anyone who would run against us.”
Team UVoice, led by Trevor Tooke, Student Body President candidate, wants to be the voice of UVU students for next school year. Tooke, an Orem native, is a veteran with student government, having served as a club ambassador and in his current position as Executive Vice President, “Student government is my passion,” he said. Tooke was also the brains behind the creation of the MAWL and served as president of the Wolverine athletics supporters 2007-2008.
Team UVoice is rounded out with Richard Portwood, Executive Vice President candidate of Team UVoice, a business marketing major with a minor in Spanish. Portwood is currently the Service Council President. Kyle Brown is running for Vice President of Academics. Brown is currently the Vice President of Clubs and is in his fourth year at UVU, double majoring in Graphic Design and Business Marketing. The final member of Team UVoice is Kim Rasmussen, candidate to be Vice President of Activities. Rasmussen has been involved in the MAWL this year and has contributed to its growth to over 700 members. The team said it formed through a strong friendship. ?Each member of UVoice has served on UVUSA for at least two years and up to four years. Tooke spoke of their experience together by staying, “We started as friends and developed into a team.” Portwood added that the team fits together because they share the same vision and goal, regardless of their friendship, they are still candidates.
Team UVoice believes that experience sets their team apart from Team Engaged. Brown said, “We’ve worked with the respective positions before.” Rasmussen added, “We already know the process.” Rasmussen also said UVoice is familiar with the student government system and know how to go about change while also being aware of any boundaries.
Brown and Tooke currently serve as members of this year’s executive branch of UVUSA under the direction of current Student Body President Joseph Watkins, each in a different role than they are running for in this election. Tooke acknowledged this and said, “There is a lot more room for change.” Brown also said, “I’ll be using the experience that I have to change the things that we had problems with before.”
The first of four platforms Team UVoice presents to the students is being an accurate student voice. Brown said he would like to continue the debates that have been held on campus that contribute to a wider academic conversation, but would also like to expand and diversify those events to serve more students.
The second platform is an environmental go green initiative. This platform’s goal is to expand the current recycling program on campus to include plastics. Tooke mentioned that the current recycling program was designed for a community college and since the school has evolved into a university, the recycling program could also use growth.
The third platform covers campus safety. Team UVoice’s goal is to make more students aware of the campus safety plan and also improve lighting in particular areas on campus. Portwood said students should feel safe and welcome on campus and believes the lighting would help students feel that way.
The fourth and final platform focuses on equity funding. Because of impending budget cuts, Tooke said, “We do not want to compensate with student money.” Tooke feels as though lobbying for UVU to have equal funding per student in comparison to other universities in the state is a major goal for UVoice. Also part of the final platform is cutting out unnecessary student fees that are no longer applicable now that the institution has reached university status.
Missing from the platforms of Team UVoice was one specifically focused on student life. Rasmussen said, “We’ve had a lot of success. The numbers are up on events.” Both Rasmussen and Tooke have served in leadership positions with the MAWL and said the athletic department was not adamant about being included in Team UVoice’s platforms because they have already proven their commitment to Wolverine Athletics.
Brown said he hopes to, “Take what I know and expand senate and academics to be more mainstream. This is the right move for me with my experience.”
Currently in its fourth year, the Executive Vice President position is still a work in progress, according to Portwood. “I’ve been able to see the role evolve,” he said.
Tradition is also a factor Team UVoice wants to instill in the student body. “We want to establish tradition on this campus, with non-traditional students,” Tooke said. “Our platforms aren’t the limit. We are just UVU students with a lot of passion for change.”