Despite spending their summers working separately, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska’s executive team is ready to hit the ground running.
Through internships, conferences and leadership positions, each team member acquired new skills to bring back to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s student government. They also prepared for the upcoming year by working on new strategies for member communication and student engagement.
ASUN President Emily Johnson said she had a busy summer representing the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a student regent on the University of Nebraska’s Board of Regents.
In early June, Johnson attended the National Campus Leadership Council’s Presidential Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., where she spent five days with student body presidents from other Big Ten universities, as well as student presidents from Ivy League and Southeastern Conference universities and colleges.
Johnson said during the conference she was able to learn about university student government policies and spend some time on Capitol Hill advocating for higher education legislation.
ASUN external vice president Ibraheem Hamzat said he spent his summer as a molecular engineering intern at the University of Chicago. While at the University of Chicago, Hamzat was able to volunteer at a hospital with a patient population spanning multiple socio-economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds, which inspired his goal to bring diverse voices to ASUN and better represent UNL students.
ASUN internal vice president Jared Long said he worked as a New Student Enrollment orientation leader this summer and with the Seward County Independent as an intern reporter. Of his two experiences, Long said NSE has provided him the most insights to transfer to ASUN.
“Seeing the incoming students and hearing how excited they are to get involved, it’s a reminder of the importance of making sure it’s easy to get involved,” Long said.
As internal vice president, Long said he has tried to ensure members are prepared for the academic year and have the resources needed to perform their jobs.
Hamzat said ASUN has been devising strategies to improve communication and ensure members are aware of the resources needed to complete their work. According to Hamzat, ASUN roadblocks are usually due to a lack of communication between members.
“It’s been a lot of communication with committee chairs, both this coming from me and speaker of [the] senate Drew Harrahill,” Long said. “Between the two of us, it’s just been emails out to ASUN members, particularly committee chairs [and] making sure they’re prepared to dive in and lead a committee.”
When the Engage Party won the ASUN elections in March, the executive team had an ‘engage with others’ campaign pillar, which included simplifying the process to form recognized student organizations on campus.
“That is one of our big goals this year,” Long said. “It will be one of the first things we address this fall once we get into the swing of things.”
In addition to working with student involvement, Long said he wants to renew the Converge Nebraska political discussion series, which paired students of two different political ideologies together to promote dialogue and understanding. Additionally, he will plan a retreat for ASUN members.
“I’m really excited for the retreat,” Long said. “This will be the first time that a lot of ASUN members sit down and consciously think about the impact they want to make on campus and the projects they want to work on.”
After the retreat, Long said ASUN will have a better picture of events and policies to plan for.
According to Johnson, ASUN senators and committees have been working on a variety of projects over the summer, including learning about sucide prevention courses and working with the City of Lincoln to ensure students complete the census in 2020.
After months of processing, Long said the biggest ASUN summer accomplishment has been transitioning from physical copies of The New York Times to a digital subscription, which has caused some confusion.
“It’s interesting, we’ve sometimes gotten emails from angry professors saying, ‘I can’t access my New York Times,’” Long said.
Johnson said as the semester starts, ASUN will start looking at last year’s election results and start to develop policies reflecting student survey results. Specifically, students voted to ban plastic bags from campus in last year’s ASUN elections.
Johnson said she and the Environmental Sustainability Committee plan to present a resolution to the ASUN senate early in the semester in support of the Office of Sustainability, which, if passed, would be presented to the UNL administration.
As part of the Engage Party’s pillar to engage with decision makers, Johnson said she has been working with Nebraska legislature senator Adam Morfeld to review the age of majority in Nebraska.
She said she’s concerned with Nebraska’s age of majority being 19 years old because it leaves 18-year-old students with being unable to make medical decisions without parent or guardian approval.
She provided a hypothetical situation where an 18-year-old student might need parental permission to receive basic medical care, such as receiving a flu shot. Johnson said this might be a problem if the student’s parents live seven hours away.
As the 2019-20 academic year starts, the ASUN executive team wants to continue its work improving student engagement. Long said he’s optimistic for the start of the school year and is ready to implement the team’s ideas.
“I’m excited for the school year,” Long said, “ [The executive team is] really excited for the school year. We look forward to serving students to the best of our ability; students can come to us if they have any concerns about anything.”