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ASSU Executive announces cabinet, community board

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After 18 hours of interviews, ASSU President Michael Cruz ‘12, Vice President Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13 and Chief of Staff Emma Ogiemwanye ‘12 finalized their roster for the executive cabinet and the newly created community board. According to Macgregor-Dennis, the structure and mission of the executive team are “already revolutionary” and “radically different.”

The student leaders held their first meeting with the cabinet and board last Saturday afternoon.

The newly announced ASSU community board met for the first time this past Saturday (Courtesy of Kamil Bojanczyk of Techcrunch).

“The vision for this year is to try to become the world’s most innovative student government,” Macgregor-Dennis said.

“Almost every other department at Stanford and in the Silicon Valley is at the cutting edge,” he added. “So we’re trying to bring the student government up to the same level.”

This year’s ASSU Executive is substantially larger than those of previous years, featuring 16 members in the executive cabinet and 18 on the community board.

As a result, Ogiemwanye will not be the sole person responsible for supervising the executive team; Macgregor-Dennis will serve as “point of contact” for seven of the members and Ogiemwanye for nine. Communities Chair Aracely Mondragon ‘13 will be the point of contact for the 18 community board members.

In the applications for the 2011-12 executive team, Macgregor-Dennis and Ogiemwanye gave students the option to apply for chair positions of their own creation.

“The whole point of the cabinet is to be a reflection of hot spots for the campus, a reflection of things that a large number of students are interested in,” Ogiemwanye said. “Instead of just deciding what those things are, we decided to open it up to everybody else and see what we were missing. We actually got some really good ideas.”

Shadi Bushra ’12 and Jonah Rexer ‘12 proposed establishing a chair of global engagement and will both serve in that cabinet position. According to Ogiemwanye, the two balance each other out because Bushra is “the man out on the streets” while Rexer is a “knowledge resource.” Together, they will spearhead initiatives similar to the Japan and Haiti relief efforts.

Another new position is the food chair held by Janani Balasubramanian ‘14, who will use her position to “connect various movements and service groups,” Ogiemwanye said.

Dan Thompson ’13 and Jonathan Manzi ’13, who have started their own companies, will work as chairs of entrepreneurship. One of their goals is to establish an entrepreneurship-themed dorm on campus.

Vineet Singal ’12, founder of Anjna Patient Education, will serve as the chair of social entrepreneurship. Singal hopes to develop the necessary infrastructure to enable students to start their own social entrepreneurship projects on campus.

According to Ogiemwanye, the ASSU has struggled in past years with the translation of “the rhetoric of tolerance into results.” With this in mind, Cruz and Macgregor-Dennis established the community board led by Mondragon and made up of leaders from various communities across campus.

The community board will include Vivian Wong ’12, last year’s chair of disabilities; Justin Lam, head of the Asian-American Students’ Association (AASA); Chiney Ogwumike ’14, forward on the women’s varsity basketball team; and others.

“The ASSU has great ideas, but they’re not necessarily fit to the communities that they’re targeted at…which creates a disconnect,” Ogiemwanye said. “But if you have a group of people who already have an understanding of the needs of the community, then you don’t have to worry so much.”

“We’re going to take what they’re doing to the next level,” Macgregor-Dennis said. “It’s about taking specific initiatives and scaling them up to the entire campus.”

According to director of design thinking Nishant Jacob ’13, the goal of next year’s meetings is to move away from “the old dogmatic structure” where energy often “dies” to a more collaborative “design thinking” style. To that effect, Jacob and Macgregor-Dennis encouraged cabinet members to “connect on a human level” by interviewing each other about their goals and visions at last Saturday’s meeting. They then brainstormed ways to keep next year’s meetings efficient, energetic and positive.

“Student government tends to spend an enormous amount of time in meetings, choosing sides and trying to defend those sides,” Jacob said. “The most effective way to break through that is to replace that binary dialogue with collaborative brainstorm sessions.”

“You reserve judgment, you encourage wild ideas, you keep the energy up,” he added.

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