The AS Review: What motivates you to seek out this position?
Nikki Brown: I’ve been involved with the AS for the past two years. Most recently, this year I was involved with the Academic Coordinating Commission and also the Student Technology Fee Committee. So I’ve been involved in a close working relationship through volunteering with the current vice president for academic affairs. So I’ve gotten a good idea of what her position entails, what exactly goes on with that. And, me personally, I plan on becoming a teacher and I plan on working in academic affairs, so a position like this is very close to what I want to do anyway, what I want to be involved with. So I’m very passionate about academic affairs, and that’s why I got on these committees in the first place and through these committees and through my work with the AS I’ve been able to see how having student representatives on these different committees, having student voice, an official student voice, about academic affairs is really important and it’s really respected by the administration and the faculty and staff, and they really look to that student or advice, and the student opinion on academic affairs. So I think it’s a really important position and that my experience has prepared me very well for it, so that’s pretty much what’s motivating me towards it, is that it’s something very close to what I do every day and it’s something that I’m passionate about and that I have experience in.
ASR: What groups of students might be easily overlooked by the AS board, and what will you do to ensure that you represent them in your work?
Brown: I wouldn’t say that the AS board, especially this year, has really overlooked a certain group. It’s just that the students with a certain opinion might be the loudest students, the ones you see more of, the ones you hear more of. And so what tends to happen is that the students who feel not really one way or the other about a situation might be overlooked, the students who don’t know very much about what’s going on, say with the AS or with workings with the administration. And so I think that the most important thing is being sure that you’re putting out an effort to educate other students. Being in the AS, we tend to think that we are the best representatives because we know this much or we have experience in this, but we’re seeing that it’s other students that makes the AS improve, that makes programs better, that makes support decisions better, getting that student feedback. And a lot of that feedback that isn’t received is that feedback from students who aren’t necessarily directly participating in the issue anyway. So things like, the student technology fee, the students that need to be reached with that are the students who maybe don’t even know what the fee is. And those are the most important students to reach because you’re not only going to get feedback on decisions regarding the fee, but you’re also going to be able to educate them on what the fee is, how it works, and that’s not only going to make the AS better, and the decisions that the board makes better, but it’s also going to improve quality of life on campus for students.
ASR: Since you came to Western, what has been the most important issue facing students that went unaddressed or was dealt with poorly? What issue would you say has been addressed most positively?
Brown: I haven’t seen an issue that’s come up that’s really been unaddressed. I think that the AS board and other representatives from the AS have done a really good job addressing student concerns, and even though some people may be confused about why they’re addressed in one way or may not like what happens, they’re still addressed, it still happens. And I don’t think that there’s been anything that I’ve personally disagreed with, I think they’ve done a really good job this year, and they did a really good job last year. I think the biggest issue that’s going to come up, or has already come up, is the student technology fee, with the administration not putting in their contribution. And that’s something that, as a member of the student technology fee, I felt really kind of betrayed personally because I was on that committee, I was looking at these proposals and I was relying on that money being there when making decisions. And so, as a student, I feel like that’s something that the AS board needs to pursue heavily and I believe that’s what they’ve already been doing. But I think it’s really important for next year to really pursue that and especially keep in mind that the new board won’t start next school year, they’ll be starting this summer, and that’s when a lot of this is going to happen, is during this summer. So it’s really important.
The issues that I’ve seen that have been addressed most positively are some of the, I guess, controversies that we’ve had this year regarding Chick-Fil-A, regarding issues that occurred within AS Productions. I think those have been dealt with in a very professional and respectful manner. With both of those issues there were students that were heard on both sides and I think the AS did a good job at finding a compromise between that. So that’s where the job of being on the AS board is really difficult, because how you feel about a situation may not be what’s good for the situation, why it would be the positive manner in which to respond to it. And I think the AS board this year has done a really good job at responding to issues, not necessarily in the way that they feel personally, because they all have different opinions, but in a way that would benefit students, in a way of getting information out and making sure to fully pursue situations so that they could get to the bottom of it and I think that’s what made those situations come out positively. There were still students that were hurt in the end and are still hurt, but they [the AS board] tried really hard.
ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?
Brown: The first one is, in light of budget cuts and with definitely huge impending budget cuts, maintaining the academic quality that we have right now. That includes maintaining class availability, which is going to be one of the first things to suffer, is being able to get into the classes that you need in order to move forward in your major and everything. And then, with that, working to increase the graduation rate, because I think that it’s definitely desirable to be out of college in four years. There shouldn’t be five-year plans for college. You should be able to graduate in four years. And especially with budget cuts, those are going to delay graduation rates by quite a bit, anywhere from a quarter to a year. And so that’s really important, to have a student voice that’s pursuing that strongly and so that’s where I, with my experience with working with the administration already, I think that will really play into that and I’ll be able to really hit the ground running with that goal.
My second goal will be with the student technology fee and that’s ensuring that it is not only spent wisely, but that it’s spent to benefit the learning experience of all students on campus and that we’re not, say, replacing things that don’t need to be replaced yet, or we’re spending on projects that would only be used by a select group of people and wouldn’t be at all accessible by anybody else. It’s really important to keep in mind that while proposals for the student technology fee may be fairly interesting, and they may be really exciting and innovative, but they may not be good for the student body but be good for a select group of people who would use it. So that aspect is really important and also pursuing, working with the administration to make sure that the student technology fee is funded. It’s really difficult with the budget cuts to do that, because they’re not going to be as willing to contribute to it in the future just because they want to keep that money to put it towards other uses on campus, with the budget cuts and everything. But it’s really important that they also have an involvement with the fee, and that’s where my experience with being on the student technology fee committee gave me a really good idea of what goes on with that fee, how it works and how exactly the fee paying out of it goes.
My third goal is, I really want to work with the alumni association and career services to create new and better connections with students who are still here and then with recent graduates, to get them started on not just jobs but careers, so that people graduating, they’re not just [like], “I need to find a job, I need to find any job,” it’s “I want to get started in my career.” And we have a very strong alumni association, very strong alumni and have really good connections with different companies and students could really benefit from that, from having sort of that mentorship and networking that would be available there. So, I think the alumni association and career services have done a really good job at reaching out to students anyway, but I just want to push that, try to push that even further. And it’s definitely going to be difficult with finances as they are right now, creating new ways for those kind of connections to happen, but that’s something that I’m really passionate about.
ASR: When a student comes to you with a question that is beyond the scope of your job, how will you respond to this student?
Brown: If it’s something that could be relayed to another vice president on the AS board, then that would be an ideal situation, if it’s something that I could say, well, that “you could talk to so and so, who’s the vice president for diversity or who’s the vice president for student life.” If it could be applied to them and the student’s issue could be addressed, then that would be ideal. If it’s something that I don’t know the answer to or I don’t know how to respond to it and nobody else does, I’m definitely not afraid to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find you someone who does know.” And, luckily with my experience through working in the Western library, [and] working as the Red Square Info Fair coordinator this fall, I’ve had a lot of experience in going to and finding out more about resources that are available on campus to students. So if a student comes to me with a concern, I can easily direct them to another office or another program that might really fit their needs at that moment in time.