Obama might have had his Hundred Days, but when your term’s up after a year, you’ve got to get stuff done a lot more quickly than that.
This past week, Alina Staskevicius, this year’s Undergraduate Student Body President, spoke with the Technique about her plans for student government and the student body this year, as well as a bit of the personal history of the woman leading Tech’s student government.
Staskevicius, a fourth-year IsyE, is, interestingly enough, not a US citizen.
Born in Montreal, she’s only been living in Georgia for the past seven years.
“I went to school up in Woodstock, and I just heard that Georgia Tech was the place you went if you were good with math. I just fell in love with the campus, the environment, and most of all, the balance between the social and the academic,” Staskevicius said when asked how she ended up at Tech.
She says that her plans for her years after college aren’t quite as clear, though.
“I’m still not sure what I want to do with the rest of my life…I’d like to go into consulting for a couple of years, then come back for my MBA,” Staskevicius said.
“Eventually, I’d like end up in hospital management or somewhere else in the health care industry. I wanted to be a doctor for a long time, then I realized I didn’t really like blood or biology, so I steered more towards the mathematics route, but I still hope to get back to medicine,” Staskevicius said.
According to Staskevicius, as undergraduate student body president, she plays two major parts: representing students to the administration and leading the executive branch of the SGA.
“I have a dual role. The first part is to serve as the main voice of students to the administration. The second part of that is to coordinate the activities of the executive branch of the student government,” said Staskevicius.
The other two branches of the SGA, Judicial and the legislative undergraduate house of representatives, are headed up by Zack Higbie and Parker Hancock, respectively.
Staskevicius’ role as the undergraduates’ voice to the administration involves meetings, meetings and more meetings; often with people students typically have very little interaction with.
“[I work with] pretty much everyone in the administration. Dean Stein serves as the advisor to student government, so he and I meet on a regular basis,” Staskevicius said.
“This year, with the Strategic Plan, I get to work a lot with the Office of the President, which is very different, but very fun,” Staskevicius said.
“We also deal a lot with Communications and Marketing for communicating with students and off-campus communications as well. We work a lot with Student Affairs in general, and some with Auxiliary Services, mostly for when student government wants to make changes on campus,” Staskevicius said.
The Strategic Plan mentioned above is an idea Institute President George P. “Bud” Peterson initiated shortly after arriving on campus.
The goal of the plan is to provide a road map for what Tech is aiming to be in the next 25 years.
According to Staskevicius, “[The Plan] is being headed by a committee of about 70 members called the Steering Committee. I’m one of five students on the Steering Committee.”
As can be expected, Staskevicius’ job is a time-consuming one.
“It’s probably more than a full-time job. It’s tough to balance classes with the roles of being student body president, but it’s well worth it,” Staskevicius said.
“[The important part is that] it’s fun; I don’t think you could do it if you didn’t like it,” Staskevicius said.
When asked about her main responsibilities, Staskevicius said, “I mainly try to go to as much class as I possibly can. I also try to stay in touch with the officers, and the executive cabinet. I also meet with various administrators during the day. I probably go to 20, 25, up to 30 meetings a week…[I’m on] a lot of committees, [and]I’m sometimes the sole student on those committees,” Staskevicius said.
Staskevicius says that one of the biggest issues she hopes to tackle this year is communication, both between the administration and students, and between students and student government.
“I think that communication is always one of the key issues, and this year I think it’s more important than ever, with the new strategic planning process,” Staskevicius said.
“I really want to see student government reaching out to students more, and that’s going to start with the new SGA website which we’re launching in a few weeks,” Staskevicius said.
SGA will also be working closely with the administration on several academic issues, one of which includes Tech’s dead week.
Staskevicius said, “Our dead week policy right now is completely lacking. That’s one of our goals: to implement a new dead week policy by the end of October.”
“We’re looking at the idea of reading days, [where we] have two days at the end of dead week when we don’t go to class at all,” Staskevicius said.
“We’re also looking at re-evaluating our add-drop policy, and seeing how that can better serve students, [as well as] the possibility of moving to trimesters instead of semesters,” Staskevicius said.
While SGA’s budget won’t directly be affected by budget cuts (since its funding comes from the student involvement fee that is a default payment all Tech students make as part of their tuition), she does expect to have to confront the issue over the year.
“What I think we’ll see is a lot more organizations and even campus departments coming to SGA for funding because their budgets have been cut,” Staskevicius said.
The first step towards preparing for this budget cut, Staskevicius said, is encouraging student representatives to become more fiscally responsible with the SGA budget.
With every change in leadership, there is a change in the way things run, SGA is no exception.
“This year, we’re holding our first ever freshman elections (which is a big change from the past), we now have an official vice president of communications, and we’re also looking at creating an ad hoc committee to analyze how we can improve our finance committee,” Staskevicius said.
Staskevicius again emphasizes, though, that the biggest change she’s pushing for is more student involvement in student government.
“I want SGA to be open to student opinion. I want students to know who their representatives are, and how they can contact them. That’s my biggest frustration right now,” Staskevicius said.
In order to achieve that, she encourages everyone to get involved, both in SGA and in campus life.
“Find something on campus that you’re passionate about, and throw yourself into it. That’s the best way to really get into campus life, and that’s what you’re going to remember about college down the road, much more than what your GPA was.”