A discussion with new 1st year MA SGA representatives, Hengrui Liu and Nathasha Soon:
Could you tell me a little bit about your background prior to coming to SAIS and what you plan to study here?
Hengrui: I come from Chengdu, China, but got my BA from Brandeis University. During my time at Brandeis, I served as a research assistant to a Chinese history professor. I later returned to China where I interned with the US-China Business Council in Beijing and analyzed government policies related to US companies operating in China. I study ERE here at SAIS.
Nathasha: I’m from Seattle, WA, and attended the University of Washington where I majored in Economics and Psychology. After graduating in 2013, I worked for a year in consumer banking, and then decided to apply to graduate school. I also used this time to travel to Southeast Asia, where much of my family is from. I am pursuing a dual-concentration in International Law and Conflict Management, and also hope to complete the Infrastructure and Finance specialization.
What first inspired you both to run for SGA office?
Nathasha: I really wanted to be more involved with SAIS and get to know the community better. I’m learning to appreciate all that the SAIS community has to offer to students. I hope to bond the students more closely to their administration and build greater cohesion in the community.
Hengrui: I used to be the VP of the Chinese Students and Scholarship Association, so I have some prior skills and experience. I wanted to contribute these skills to my new community at SAIS. More importantly, I want to make SAISers’ lives and studies easier.
What is it that you hope to achieve within this first year as SGA representatives?
Nathasha: I want to increase student attendance of SGA events and build more community. There are many different students at SAIS, such as MAs, MIPPs, MIEFs, Nanjing students, Bologna students, etc., and I’d like to bring those minds together.
Hengrui: Going off what Nathasha said, not too many students are aware of SGA’s role in SAIS. I want students to become more cognizant of how we can help them. I want SAIS students to be content and comfortable during their time here, and I’d like to be a channel for students to express their thoughts and concerns.
You asked students to express their concerns on the SAIS 2017 Facebook page. Among those that were expressed, which do you think are actionable?
Hengrui: Many students expressed concern over bike racks. Many do not know, myself included, however, that there is one underneath the BOB building. Hence, there may be some lack of communication between students and administration regarding the extent of facilities available to them. This is what I am trying to work on. Students also expressed an interest in a bike pump, which is something we are working on and hope to provide soon. Students have provided many great suggestions. Some we can act on quickly, whereas others will take time. Finding solutions will require support from both students and administrators.
Nathasha: Personally, I [want to] collaborate with Career Services in being more responsive to students and giving feedback to Career Services of the needs of the student body. I want to bring to Jean-Amiel’s attention that the professional development courses are not efficient for the diversity of students we have at SAIS, especially in terms of course length and excessive assignments.
What have you found to be most enjoyable about your new position?
Nathasha: It’s great to meet with other members of the SGA and learn more about how things are operating.
Hengrui: The most exciting thing for me is the interactions with students. The Facebook example is a good one; I was able to get a lot of input on how to make improvements to student life in SAIS, which is important.
How would you characterize the role of SGA?
Nathasha: The role that we have in student government is very fluid. We solicit opinions from students, many of which we also share, and bring them to administrators, all to build community. We all only have two years here, and we want to make sure students can make the most of their time.
Hengrui: I think the role of SGA is to be an intermediary between students and administrators. This requires clear communication to and from both sides. I think this communication is the most important task of SGA.
What has been the most difficult part of your taking on SGA responsibilities?
Nathasha: I don’t think it’s been difficult at all! When I have more responsibilities, I become more efficient. This has made me more sharp, actually.
Hengrui: I agree with Nathasha regarding efficiency. We are in graduate school, where the curriculum is much more rigorous. It’s all about time management. I’m very excited to be elected, but I am also more aware of the responsibilities I now have.
What would you say are the most important qualities for an SGA representative to have?
Hengrui: I would say passion. You have to have passion in order to make changes.
Nathasha: You have to be very sociable. You need to be able to connect with people and share perspectives fluidly between students and administrators.