….See what we did there?
Eight o’clock in the morning sitting in a Starbucks isn’t typically a time for deep conversation. However, this particular day I pulled myself out of bed to interview the members of our newly elected Student Government Executive Board. Leading the group is President-elect Brianna Hathaway, a Junior from Atlanta studying economics and political science. Rochester, Minn. native Ishtpreet Singh, affectionately known as Ish, is a junior majoring in biology, political science, and economics, and will hold the Vice-Presidential position next Fall. And last but not least, is future Treasurer Robert Renfro, a sophomore from Fayetteville, N.C. studying human & social development and psychology.
Despite the insanely early meet-up time, the interview with the three of them became a blend of beautiful, insightful, and comical comments that woke me up and made my day. Read below to see what I discovered about UM’s future Student Government leaders.
Distraction: How did you guys meet and decide you wanted to all run together on the same ticket?
Brianna Hathaway: So the three of us actually worked together in different aspects [of] Student Government. I mean, Ish and I obviously did work together in Senate Student Government, Robert and I worked together last year in Canes Night Live, and he’s CNL Chair now. Ish and I also worked together in Orientation, and then Robert and Ish worked together at Homecoming. So, we all have a very diverse background concerning the things we’ve done together. So, we were kind of just talking amongst each other and we realized that we had the same, direct vision that we wanted to see in the school, which is to help everybody find the thing that they love to do. Since we knew what we loved to do, we wanted to bring that to everybody else. So, we discussed it with each other and realized we were the most qualified for the job. And hopefully, with this experience we’ll get things done.
Ishtpreet Singh: Yeah, it sort of came together nicely. You know, when you think about running, you think about the best people for the job and we felt that we came together very, very well. As Brianna mentioned, we worked together in different aspects, we are all very qualified for each of our positions, and that sort of showed through our interactions and our relationships. I think it came together pretty nicely and pretty easily, honestly.
Robert Renfro: I think one of the things that really stood out with our ticket is that we came from diverse backgrounds here on campus. So, it really allows us in these positions to connect with different administrators and different individuals because we do have all the diverse backgrounds going into it.
D: What issue/project will be your top priority next year?
BH: I don’t know if we have a top priority issue. When we first talked to different outlets and different people, we did have a list of Top 5 things that we wanted to see accomplished on campus, and it was mostly just the things that people voice their concerns about. In general, we have a lot of security things on our palm card, and I think security should always be the top priority no matter what. Students safety around campus has been subpar to say, so I know we’ve had different administrations, different tickets, and different platforms working on different security issues, whether its San Amaro safety, safety in different parking lots, etc. So I think just continuing in that aspect to ensure we actually do have change done, especially considering all the recent accidents that have happened, so just making sure we work towards that is important.
Obviously, we do have a lot more fun things: increase school spirit, better wi-fi, President’s Picnic, and those are all things that we can get done on the short-term level hopefully. However, the top priority long-term goal is to ensure our campus is safe in every environment, whether its parking safety, whether its climate change safety, anything that revolves around making sure students feel welcome to this school is hopefully where we’re going to push our ideas forward.
IS: And to build on that, [Brianna] mentioned security, and I think that also expands to what we had specifically for the Panhellenic area. The Red lot security, especially, which involves adding better lighting and better security cameras. And not only lighting in that area, lighting around campus in general needs to be improved. There’s no reason someone should be walking in the dark around campus. Also, building off safety, one of our big things we want to see done is a 24/7 food option. That’s been asked about for a while now, especially with the addition of a 24/7 study lounge at the beginning of last year. I think there’s now a demonstrated need for that space, and that’s what we sought out to show. So, that’s another big thing. Brianna also mentioned better wi-fi, and I think that can be a short-term fix. We can start working with IT already, and whether it’s adding more access points or improving bandwidth, we can get it done.
RR: In terms of our initiatives, we would try to find a balance between convenience and also being safe and secure for the campus are inclusive…because some students may not recognize the safety aspects of the campus because they’re just caught up in more of the convenience options. So, like Ish said for the 24/7 food option or the massage chairs and nap pods, those are things that are out there…not necessarily for show, but for more student-centered goals.
D: What part of your job are you most excited about? And what frightens you the most?
BH: My fear and excitement are kind of the same thing. I have to be in a higher position when working with administration. As Speaker I’ve been doing it already, but I’m very excited to take it to a new level. We meet the Board of Trustees, and have a closer relationship with them, and that’s something that excites me but it’s also something I’m hesitant about. Obviously any student going into an upper position has a spotlight on them. People know your face and you are a representative. So, for me I’m excited to be that representative but I’m also kind of nervous. I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, “You’re President!” and I’m like “Hi! Nice to meet you! I’m still a still a student. Don’t treat me any differently.” I’m here to be a student rep and a student. So, it’s kind of the give and take. Yeah, I get to meet with administration, but now I’m also a spotlight in the administration’s eyes.
IS: For the role of Vice President, one of the biggest responsibilities is to oversee the Freshman Leadership Council, which is a group of Freshman that we select at the beginning of next year to work on many different initiatives that specifically our ticket came forward with. We sort of bring Freshman into SG, begin to show them the ropes in hopes of getting them more involved throughout the years. Also, we help them learn how projects are done, how to work in different areas of SG and administration. That’s honestly what I’m most excited about. I’m excited to be able to present that opportunity to so many incoming students, who come right in and want to get involved. So, that’s very exciting and I’m really excited to see the passion and energy that these students have to get involved, which is honestly similar to what we had: that passion, that drive, that vision. So, that’s the most exciting thing. What makes me the most nervous? Um, these are just individual and personal thoughts: I just want to ensure that the whole process goes smoothly, that I’m able to show them the ropes in a good way. So, definitely I mean, to turn that around keeps me going and keeps me determined to make sure that I’m organize and make sure I pick good project coordinators to select the best Freshmen. So, I think it works hand in hand.
RR: What I’m most excited about, and I guess this is my Tresurer nerdiness coming out, but since I’ve been involved on campus I’ve had Treasurer experience. So, numbers are what make me tick here on campus, so the logistics, budgeting; all those things are something that really excites me. I think it’s something that’s really important behind a lot of our initiatives: money is key when trying to implement different things. So, if you don’t have money, you don’t really have anything when talking to administrators and finding out how to get things done. So, it’s really important. What I’m most nervous about I guess is seeing how well I do coming into SG and not having experience. I think meeting the standards that are already around me, but also setting a bar that could be potentially higher than the bar that’s already been set.
D: If you could have anyone be the next University President, who would you want?
BH: Congresswoman Ileana Ros. I don’t know why, but I am so infatuated with that lady. She’s such a go-getter. It’s very interesting, with President Shalala, she’s so student-centered, and goes out of her way to get all these different speakers, because she has all these connections. So, I feel like having someone who also has that high position, and who can help give students better connections and bring people to campus would be wonderful, and she can do it. Also, she just reminds me of Shalala.
IS: Honestly, I’m pretty hesitant to bring in a politician. FSU recently did it, and not only did it split the school –students were strongly against it, and I think it was more of a political move than anything. So, I’m not set on one specific person, but I think that person needs to have experience in education, they need to have experience at a university…ideally. Or, they need to know exactly how to work with students, how to be receptive, how to be open to listening to the students, because we are a necessary part of administration, I think…especially at this point, with a new President coming in. It’d be amazing for them to listen to us as the voices of the student body as representatives. So, I think someone who’s receptive, someone who isn’t afraid to take a stand on athletics, because that is a huge part of student life, and balancing that with academics. I think experience is necessary and reception is necessary.
RR: They pretty much said everything, but I was going to answer in terms of not only one person, but rather the qualities in that person. I think definitely since President Shalala has been here for such a long time and implemented so much change, this new President really has to be open to seeing change done. In order for us to stay at the same level ground, and then to also move forward and improve, they really need to be student-centered and willing to see change here on this campus.
D: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
BH: I first started looking at this school to play soccer. I played competitive soccer since I was five and I actually was going to play here. But, I ended up tearing both my ACLs and my meniscus, but then I ended up loving the school anyways so I just came. But, my first attachment to UM was my love for soccer and then my love for the school grew gradually from there.
IS: I might need a minute.
RR: I guess most people won’t know that I’m a dancer currently on Miami Ballroom, and I’m a Performance Team member. I started dancing back in 9th or 10th grade. So, I haven’t been dancing my whole life, but I first got involved in hip-hop and then transferred over to ballroom.
IS: I need some help guys.
BH: You recently acquired a new vehicle.
IS: Should I mention that? Okay, well I just got a new motorcycle. I don’t know if people think of me as a motorcycle type of guy. But yeah, I have one. I don’t know if that’s the thing I want to say.
RR: *whispers* Talk about your hair!
IS: Oh yeah! So, my hair goes down to my thighs, and yeah, Brianna has a picture of it. So, because of my religion, I don’t cut my hair. That’s the reason my hair goes down to my thighs. On several occasions I’ve worn it down, I’ve worn a bandanna and put on sunglasses and scarves. But, I do have long hair. Most people wouldn’t know that.
BH: He chooses to look like a rocker sometimes.
[Then BRIANNA showed me a fabulous picture of Rockstar Ish.]
D: Oh, wow! Oh yeah, you should wear it like this all the time.
IS: It does get in the way sometimes.
D: Yeah, when it’s windy!
IS: Yeah, when I’m riding my motorcycle, right?
D: Describe each other in one word.
BH (about RR): Calm. He is literally the calm to our crazy. Without Robert we would be a hectic bunch of spastics. Ish and I together are crazy, so Robert keeps us sane.
RR (about IS): Engaged. He puts his 100% into things and really goes for it.
IS (about BH): Visionary *Brianna gasps* In everything I’ve seen her do, she sees what she needs to accomplish, sees the end goal, and does whatever she needs to do to get there.
That’s a really good word.
BH: I thought you were going to say crazy.
D: Now, describe each other in one word again, but the word has to be a food item.
BH: Ooh you better know mine!
IS: Brianna, you like so much food though!
RR: Whenever I eat around Ish, it’s always some sort of pizza. So, I guess I would have to say pizza, just because of my personal experience with him. Whether it’s Papa John’s or that oven-baked pizza, he is the connoisseur of all sorts of pizza.
IS: Honestly, Brianna I feel embarrassed.
BH: My food starts with the same letter as my first name.
IS: That’s it! That’s it! Okay, my excuse for not knowing that is because I’m vegetarian. For me, my experience around Brianna has been remembering what she’s allergic to. She’s allergic to a ton of things.
BH: That’s true.
IS: Apples, bananas, carrots, nuts & soy. I made an acronym for it: A.B.C.N.S.
BH (to D): Very proud of him.
D: He’s clever.
BH: Okay Robert, I’m giving you birthday cake, because birthday cake makes people happy, and you make me happy.
RR: I do like birthday cake. Plus, that’s also my favorite song.
BH: I can see that too! So, you get birthday cake. You’re like a celebration.
We then spent the next fifteen minutes discussing our favorite Netflix shows and discovering that we are all basically Netflix soul mates. So, if there’s any reason to be excited for who’s reppin’ our student body next year, the fact that their Netflix game is on fleek should be one of them.
words_rachel watkins. photo_courtesy of for u.
Rachel Watkins is a Junior studying Creative Advertising & Graphic Design at UM. She enjoys speaking her mind, Netflixing while doing homework, and excels at overcoming procrastination with poise. Rachel hopes to become and Art or Creative Director in the future.