Newly elected ASUA President talks plans for next year
Since becoming president-elect of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, Issac Ortega, a business economics junior, said he has already started preparing to take on his responsibilities as president. Ortega will be inaugurated May 1 and receive a stipend of $6,000 for the 2014-15 school year. The Daily Wildcat spoke with Ortega to find out what issues he will be focusing on during his presidency.
Daily Wildcat: What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to be ASUA president?
Ortega: I almost can’t remember those 10 to 15 seconds when it actually happened. I just remember hugging my closest friends and being so grateful that they were there. … They carried me through the last few hours when I was dead tired. … It was absolutely amazing. The next few thoughts I had after that were, ‘I can’t let them down. No matter what happens, I can’t let them down.’ … I actually forever feel in debt to the students who voted for me and put me in this position. I’m going to make sure that I don’t waste it.
So, your platform is you want to commit to campus families and the community. How do you plan to fulfill these goals?
We’re going to go out to very important student groups that sometimes, in the past, have been kind of neglected in some way or another. That includes student media, it includes Residence Life … things like Career Services or the Think Tank, and we’re going to start to get student feedback.
And then we’re going to be able to hopefully work with the Daily Wildcat or KAMP Radio to add media outlets at the same time to let students know that this is what we’re doing.
As far as the community, I recently spoke with a director inside the [Office of] Early Academic Outreach inside the Dean of Students Office, and they got funding for this new program called Pave the Way. … It’s supposed to create this kind of college-going mentality within high schools. Tucson hasn’t necessarily in the past had the greatest college-going mentality, which kind of hits like a soft spot in my heart because I come from one of those high schools, Pueblo High School in the south side, and I really want to get behind it. And I think if we start building those relationships now with those high schools, it’s going to eventually grow into higher retention.
The last thing that I’m also working on … is diversity inside ASUA, what we claimed it to be in the past, where it stands now and what we want to see it be in the future. We’re going to take this summer and really hammer out those details. … In the past … and it’s not a secret, I don’t think — there hasn’t been a strong connection between the cultural centers and ASUA and all the resources that we have. … So I’m going to hire my executive director for diversity and between me and whoever that person is, we’re going to go to the cultural centers, and between the coordinators and the very involved students that are there, we’re going to start to build a new kind of diversity.
Why did you choose to become involved in ASUA?
I did New Start. … I remember the thing my peer adviser kept telling me, or stressing to all of us was, “Break out of your shell. You’re going to love this university, you just have to put yourself out there and do something you really care about.” And I was kind of lost — like most freshmen, I think — and they were showing a presentation and they were like, “OK these are the things you can get involved in,” and ASUA popped up and it was Freshman Class Council and I was like, “Those kids look like they’re having fun … and that’s part of student government and that sounds important, maybe I’ll try it out.” It was honestly on a whim and I was lucky enough to get probably one of the most amazing opportunities. … It was like a growing love for this thing [ASUA].
What do you plan to do to help be a student voice during tuition-setting?
We’re coming into a really interesting time because we do have a small [tuition] hike … and then this next year something in the proposal for our UA tuition is to implement the whole guaranteed tuition thing that [ASUA President] Morgan Abraham has been fighting for, as well as [UA President Ann Weaver] Hart’s now on board with it. … I think that Morgan’s going to finish out this year and hopefully I’ll be able to help him in his last steps with setting tuition … but I think it’s time to start looking for something bigger.