The AS Review: What motivates you to seek out this position?
Ramon Rinonos-Diaz: I think the first thing that motivated me to seek out this position was just interacting with a lot of my friends and students that are on campus and just because we’re all here, like the one thing that unifies everyone that I know here on campus is that we’re all students and we all have academics and we all are impacted by any sort of like decisions that are made or all the issues that we have. Really it was the more negative things and the issues that my friends were having that started to get me a lot more involved in the academic affairs realm. I want to try and make things a lot more positive in that respect, because we have a lot of really awesome and amazing things that happen at Western, and I think sometimes, like you can have ten great things happen and one negative thing and you might tend to focus on that one negative thing a little bit more. And so that’s what really got me motivated to go in toward Academic Affairs. But I love leadership in all aspects, and so I’m really motivated to help things succeed. I love being a part of groups and I love seeing everyone working together and I love just the group accomplishing things, so I think that’s what motivates me in general.
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?
Rinonos-Diaz: I think students that tend to get overlooked are the students that are quiet. They’re the ones that are not calling a lot of attention to themselves, whether that be because they don’t want a lot of attention brought to them, or they don’t know how, or what channels to go through to try and get people to look at them and their circumstances and what’s going on with them specifically. And I really want to increase that communication so that students know that if there’s something that they need help with, there are all sorts of services that we have, and if anybody is needing, anything really small [like] ‘I’m not really doing that well in math, I don’t really know what to do so I’m just going to sit here’ as opposed to that, instead having that communication and just you know sort of letting them know ‘oh you know, we have this service for that.’ Or students again that are having issues and they’re kind of like ‘oh, I don’t know what to do with this problem, so I’m just going to feel really disempowered’ and really like ‘I’m just gonna be sad over here in my apartment.’ And instead, just letting them know ‘hey, if you’re having an issue, this is who you’re going to talk to and this is how we can help you fix it.’ And of course it’s not about forcing yourself on people, but instead making yourself a lot more available, and that’s something I really want to do, as a part of the board, is just making myself and the board a lot more available to students by being out there and being visible and really interacting a lot more.
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?
Rinonos-Diaz: I tend to be involved in a lot of leadership things and when I first came to Western, the first thing I did on my first week was to come down to the Ethnic Student Center and see how I can start doing things here at Western, and that expanded to other leadership things across campus. And the biggest problem that I’ve seen is students that are doing things and they’re being active are getting distracted from their academics, and you tend to not do as well when you’re spending all of your time doing other things. And that is, I think, a huge problem, not just in leadership, but when students are not prioritizing as effectively as they could. I’ve noticed especially lately that there’re so many different ways that different areas on campus are starting to, I’m sure they’ve done it in the past as well, but it’s starting to rebound a little more. Like in the Ethnic Student Center there’s tutoring that happens between clubs and there’re academic, I don’t want to say, there are all motivations to do well academically in the Ethnic Student Center. In the residence halls they have floor study groups and things like that. So I think it’s really starting to, at least in my eyes, pick up.
I think just in general the most amazing thing related to academics or student life or anything in general is that at Western people do a good job of making individual students not feel isolated. I really feel like we do a good job of making it available to get involved within different areas or just letting students know that there are things to do and getting them to do it.
ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?
Rinonos-Diaz: The first one, the biggest goal that I have, is to get students a lot more involved and knowledgeable in the area of academic affairs. Because I think everyone knows what “academic” means and everyone knows what “affairs” means, but once you put them together into “academic affairs,” a lot of people don’t know what exactly falls into that realm. And those are decisions that are impacting everyone... So I want to get students a lot more involved in academic affairs. My second goal would to be to have much more outreach to students about our academic services that we have on campus: all sorts of things, from our tutoring centers to career services. Because all these different services that we have really are a lot of services for students and I feel like they’re being underused and if different aspects are being underused, then they’re being undervalued by students. And so I think that we really need to place emphasis on that, especially with our big budget issues that we’re having. If something is undervalued, then it might be something that we might not have. And then my third goal would be related to that, but getting student voices and student priorities heard and across to our administration, because there are going to be budget cuts, and we need to make sure that what students are valuing and what students are using and what is most helpful for students is what we’re keeping.
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?
Rinonos-Diaz: I think definitely sending them to someone who can help them whether I would know specifically who to go to or not, figuring that out would be the first thing that you do, making sure that the student knows just because I can’t do it I’m not going to leave you out here on your own. I’m going to make sure that they know ‘come with me and we’ll figure it out together, let’s go and locate the people that can help you and we’ll connect you together.’ Because it’s not about one person, it’s about all of us working as a group.