Spring break might be time for a week of vacation and relaxation for some, but for students running for positions on Bellevue College’s Associated Student Government for the 2013-2014 year, spring break will be spent perfecting applications and planning a campaign.
ASG is a group of students elected to a series of positions by the student body who work with administrators and other faculty members to make decisions for the school. ASG members work on various yearlong projects both as a team and on an individual basis. They attend weekly team meetings, where they discuss upcoming projects, and Board of Directors meetings, where they hear clubs and programs ask for funding. This past year alone, ASG members implemented a new printing policy, funded projects to make the school more sustainable, negotiated with King County over ORCA card prices and were even called upon to help choose BC’s new president, Dr. David Rule.
Brandon Lueken, the ASG staff adviser, said there’s no perfect candidate for this kind of responsibility, but an ideal candidate is interested in public service, isn’t afraid to work hard and is a dedicated team player. Prior experience in public service or student government is not required, nor is any employment experience whatsoever. After the new ASG staff is voted on, the ASG elect are trained by Lueken and other Student Programs staff to ensure they are fully prepared for the responsibilities of their position.
But before students can start their training, they must campaign and get elected by the student body. The ASG campaign will begin in the second week of Spring quarter, on April 10. The three-week campaign is a mixture of fun and intense pressure as the school becomes informed about the candidates for next years’ leadership. Candidates must follow guidelines set by the school while campaigning, outlined in a required orientation, and can only spend $100 on their campaign to keep things fair. Students can also pool their resources and run in teams, though candidates are voted on individually. Current ASG members have a lot of advice to give to students for their campaigns. “Really put yourself in the voter’s shoes, and see what they really like about you and what they would want or what would grab their attention and do it,” said Keturah Anderson, campus life and events representative. Lueken advised students not to run nasty campaigns “because eventually you’re going to have to work with those people.” Mackenzie Williamson, environmental and social responsibility representative, recommended talking to as many people as possible, because “only 2,000 actually vote in the election out of 40,000 students.” Michael Yoon, vice president of student affairs and pluralism, encouraged students to be creative in their campaigns to make them memorable to students.
The first round of campaign speeches will take place the day the campaign opens, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the cafeteria, and there will be two public debates between candidates on April 15 and May 2.
The campaign is only half the battle; after students are elected, the real work begins. However, ASG isn’t all nose-to-the-grindstone action. “I thought [ASG] would be strict and kind of scary but it was not,” said Yoon. “It was really fun.” ASG President Takhmina Dzhuraeva agreed, saying: “I was scared because it sounded so fancy, but it’s a job that anyone can do. It just takes training. There are lot of people here to train you and work with you. You’re expected not to know anything.”
Yoon and Dzhuraeva are both international students at BC, and they found that their experiences on ASG helped them adapt to American culture. “It was very informative to see how professionals talk,” said Yoon. His time on ASG was valuable partially because of the exposure he got to the deans, professors and administrators at BC because “it’s not student-level, it’s upper-level. I see them and I learn. They tell you how to market things, how to organize things and how to communicate in a professional way.” Dzhuraeva , whose English was not perfect when she first emigrated to the U.S. found confidence in her language skills in her three years on ASG. “I was always in this environment where I had to speak fancy words, so my vocabulary improved.”
Dzhuraeva also happens to be the first international student to be elected president of ASG.
“ASG is awesome and amazing and you get so much leadership experience, but it is also very stressful and very time consuming,” said Anderson. “It feels like you’re always on the clock, because everyone comes to you even if you’re not on the clock. It’s hard to be a student and in ASG at the same time.”
Anderson, Dzhuraeva, Williamson and Yoon all cited “leadership experience” and “people skills” as the main lessons they learned from working on ASG. Dzhuraeva, who is working towards her Bachelor’s degree in interior design, said that while she doesn’t see herself in law or public service in the future, her time on ASG is helping her get internships because of her experiences working with people. As president, she was often put on the spot to make speeches or to be the face of the school, which required her to gain a lot of confidence. Dzhuraeva also learned a lot about herself in her three years at ASG, and found that despite initial apprehension, she thrived as president. “You get this power, this inspiration, that there are 30,000 students behind you and every word you’re saying and everything you’re doing is affecting them,” she said.