New SG elects speak for UTD

The 2023-2024 Student Government elections have concluded, and the students have selected the term’s executive officers.

The Mercury interviewed junior computer science major Srivani Edupuganti and freshman data science major Leah Sullivan, who ran under the ticket Inspire to explore SG’s future at UTD

President-Elect Srivani Edupuganti

Photo courtesy of UTD SG.

What are your plans for the upcoming academic year?

This year, we got a lot more business done than we have in previous years. We’ve heard [around] 40 resolutions so far this year, not all of which have passed, but you know, that’s just how business goes. The shift that we’ve had in terms of having better onboarding or better knowledge management, telling people, “here’s where you can go to find resources,” a lot of that has been really good for senators being able to create projects and pursue those projects. So, things like that, being able to tell senators, “here’s what you can and can’t do,” we definitely want to continue that. We are planning to do a lot of work over the summer so that when everyone comes back in the fall, we’re ready to hit the ground running.

As for my personal goals for the platform, I want to pursue international student equity, which involves talking to the administration and seeing what can and can’t be done about international student summer internship classes or health insurance policy requirements. I don’t have the information, so I’m probably going to be spending a lot of the summer trying to get a lot of this preliminary information, but those are my big goals.

What challenges do you anticipate as student body president, and how do you plan to overcome them?

A classic challenge that we always have is student engagement. It can be really hard to get students involved when student government is not already a particularly established presence on campus. I know there are some campuses where people look to the student government a lot for various things, and I think we’re slowly building that back up. But I think that is definitely one of our biggest hurdles because we can put on certain programs or start initiatives, but if we don’t have the outreach or the engagement from students, then they won’t be successful regardless of how much work we put into it.

One of the things that we plan to do to try and mitigate that is direct outreach to student organizations. There are student groups — I mean, we have over 300 student organizations. We like to say that a lot, but then we need to use those student organizations to actually reach the students.

What message do you have for the student body as their new leader?

I’m really excited to be the Student Government President. I hope people come to us with their concerns. I feel like a lot of the time, we say, “please reach out if you have any concerns.” And then no one reaches out.

And we don’t know if that’s because students don’t have concerns or because they just haven’t reached out to us, and it’s probably the latter. But when we say that, we do genuinely mean it, because students reaching out to us is how we get our work done. We can’t be a representative body if we don’t have people to represent.

Vice President-Elect Leah Sullivan

Photo courtesy of UTD SG.

What are your plans for the upcoming academic year?

There’s a lot of things I think are really important for us to be focusing on. I think improving constituency, external communications, making sure that student voices are being represented and that we hear them, projects … and getting more petition-type stuff out there where students can like submit issues.

I think we were on a good trajectory from last year. A lot of good work is being done regarding trying to push for more public facing interaction. I think we need to continue on that front. So those kinds of things, engaging with students, and just being more involved in the community … Some big goals are also making sure we’re increasing academic equity, obviously supporting Srivani and her international policies, providing mental health resources and making sure that people feel comfortable using those partnerships with student government and other organizations.

What are your priorities moving forward, and how do you plan to execute all of your promises to your voters and the student body?

I think being really realistic about what we’re able to do. Obviously, I have a lot of goals I want to achieve and things I want to see happen. I’m going to be championing those the whole way through. But ultimately, as someone in this role, a big part of my job is also just making sure all of our senators feel supported in their job. So I think my priority is definitely going to be that I have 60 or 70 amazing people that have amazing ideas — “How can they get all these resources they need to succeed?” And then bringing that to administration and meetings and making sure that there’s transparency.

There’s a lot of continual progress that happens from year to year. I’m not going to be able to get every single thing done that I want to get done, because it’s just not possible. But I can set those things in motion, I can make it easier. I can inspire other people to keep working on those things and to bring more excitement into student government and to UTD. 

What message do you have for the student body as their new leader?

I’ll say what I say to my friends, you know, everyone has bad days, and things aren’t perfect, but there are so many things to be excited about, and I am so excited to be the vice president and to be able to be engaged with the school the way that I am. Our doors are always open. We want to hear from you. Anything you have to say, whether it’s just, “Hey, you want to chat?” I want to know what students are thinking besides myself. Because I’m a student, but I can’t speak for everyone.

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