UMKC’s Student Government Association elections are underway for the 2015- 16 school year. SGA aims to strengthen UMKC by creating a connection between students, faculty and UMKC administration.
UMKC Alive is a group running for the executive board. This includes students Ida Ayalew, Alex Varon, Fatima Sharif and Pedro Tonhozi de Oliveira. They are running for president, vice president, administrative vice president and comptroller, respectively.
UMKC Alive’s goal is to offer a community of inclusion, efficiency and advocacy.
“One of the biggest pillars that Chancellor Morton strives for is diversity and inclusion,” Ayalew said. “We want to be transparent with our inclusiveness. We want all students on campus to feel like they are a part of the UMKC student body.”
UMKC Alive has ideas to change a lack of student involvement in SGA.
“There seems to be a communication barrier with UMKC,” Ayalew said. “There are so many people that want to get involved, but a lot of students, myself included, haven’t officially created a situation where we can bring together campus cohesiveness.”
Ayalew touched on the fact that most universities and colleges work with individual student organizations, but do not bring the organizations together. According to Ayalew, UMKC organizations seem to lack diversity, but including students in a single, large organization like SGA can help to establish one large community.
“Our students are the leading factors as to why this school exists. To better understand this campus, we have to try to understand our students,” Ayalew said.
The members of UMKC Alive are diverse, and all bear ideas that will initiate the goal to have students’ voices heard.
“One of the biggest concerns that I have seen in SGA and in other student organizations is the inactivity of students,” Varon said. “So when organizations go for approval, I want to work hands- on with them to make sure the organization has a growing influence on campus.”
The vice president’s job is to focus on student activity, student organizations and student initiatives. Varon hopes to shine light on student initiatives in the upcoming year. Sharif has a lot of experience with executive committees. She has remained committed to her positions in student organizations.
“This is a good mix of being a vice president, but also being able to do jobs that I have not been able to contribute to,” Sharif said.
The comptroller’s position is to track student activity, take care of budgets and make recommendations. Tonhozi de Oliveira is concerned with how to improve budget management. “One of the biggest problems that we face right now is that we all have our personal finance, and we need to know how we are using our money,” Tonhozi de Oliveira said.
“My goal for this position is to create a cooperative structure between the councils and organizations in a way [where] we can do more with less,” he said.
As president, Ayalew offers her experiences as executive vice president from this school year. She also understands the importance of acknowledging and embracing racial diversity as a first generation student in the U.S.
“My parents are first generation Ethiopian- born immigrants. I saw my parents struggle to provide me the life that they never had in Ethiopia,” she said. “What sets me apart is my perseverance and determination. I will not take no as an answer. I am not afraid of rejection. You may reject me, but that does not mean that for me it is over. I will find a way to make it happen. Someone may tell me no, but I will never tell myself no.”
Ayalew took a trip to Ethiopia and witnessed the extreme poverty her parents grew up with, which motivated her to be a more successful person with the opportunities provided to her in the U.S.
UMKC Alive offers different perspectives through diversity in the way that its members think, along with their ethnicities and races and what they study. UMKC Alive understands how to address the many issues at UMKC.
“Uncomfortableness drives people to new limits and heightens their senses. I believe that talking about issues that are uncomfortable in the senate … are conversations that need to be had,” Ayalew said. “We understand the way in which to address those issues.”
UMKC Alive wants to strengthen the community within UMKC and provide the senators with opportunities for growth.
“We are the representations of our students, and we are nothing without anyone else. We cannot represent our students well if we cannot first represent ourselves,” Ayalew said.
UMKC Alive has endorsements from the Muslim Students Association, Multicultural Student Organization Council (MSOC), the Interfraternity Council, the Collegiate Panhellenic Council, National Panhellenic Council, Arts and Science Student Council, Biological Sciences Student Government, International Student Council, Interdisciplinary Doctoral Student Council and UMKC Athletics.
“The reason MSOC chose to recognize UMKC Alive is because we [MSOC] recognize that we are now moving back to a student- focused, student-based way of running this institution,” said Rakeem Golden, vice president of MSOC.