The last two days, the Daily Wildcat asked President Robert Shelton about his hopes and concerns for the coming year. Today, the Wildcat's Marissa Hopkins discusses student leadership and the budget with Associated Students of Arizona President and health sciences senior Chris Nagata.
Daily Wildcat: What are your goals for the school year?
Chris Nagata: My goal for this year is basically to reestablish credibility with the students. The methods to do that are just going to be for us to be very transparent, very open and also to be very available. And so, using those three I hope to rebuild that credibility, and also kind of re-brand it and make it better.
How are you planning on getting the word out about what you're doing for students?
A lot of times student governments in the past have depended on the students to seek out their elected officials, and I think that's a backwards method of doing things. In order to truly represent the students and truly encompass and articulate their wants, needs and concerns, student leaders and representatives need to go out and seek out the students. We need to go to their meetings, we need to go to their lunch tables, we need to go to their hang-out spots and really engage the students to figure out what concerns them.
What are you already working on for this year?
A lot of the summer work, and there will be a formal presentation at Wednesday's senate meeting, but a lot of the summer work has been about planning and configuring a sustainable budget. We need a budget that won't just carry us through this year, but will also set us up with some stability for five, six years down the road. We've also been partnering up with a lot of community and campus organizations, all with the purpose of enhancing the programs and services that are already institutionalized within ASUA. But we also need to supplement outside funding sources to, again, just make our programs and services more sustainable.
Currently what we're doing … Zona Zoo's in full swing. We are also in the process of planning our Southwest Student Leadership Conference that's happening here in October. Family Weekend is in the grind as well. We're looking forward to having our retreat, just to get everybody on the same page. Furthermore, we're also going to be planning a forum and it will happen Sept. 13. It's just an opportunity for students to come in and participate in a dialogue about what they want to see out of their student government, how they can personally affect change and how we operate. So those are kind of the main things we're working on.
What does your budget look like for this year?
We have inherited a huge loan from the bookstore, part of which went to pay off the (Jay-Z) concert from last year and part of which was an outstanding obligation. So that will definitely comprise a smaller portion of the overall pie, because the pie has definitely shrunk, so to speak. But through partnering up with community organizations, through donations and sponsorships, and through the student fee, we definitely were able to beef up some of the areas, like the (appropriations) board. This year they will be able to give out nearly $150,000 to clubs and organizations, where as last year we only had $100,000. So, there are definitely some strong points in our budget and there are definitely some areas that we had to consolidate, some areas that we had to scale back on.
What areas were scaled back?
Special events. This year's not a presidential election year, so a lot of the money that was allocated to that item isn't necessary this year because we're not running a huge voter registration drive, we're not running huge voter mobilization efforts. I think obviously we're approaching concerts with a much different strategy and we won't be taking concerts on by ourselves anymore. That will be definitely a partnered approach. So there's no need to have an exorbitant amount of money for special events like there has been in the past.
Are you still planning on doing a concert this year?
Provided the right venue, the right performer, the right price and the right time, provided those stars all align, absolutely. I think that it's definitely a focal point of the campus and I think it's definitely one of those unique experiences that students get to participate in as a Wildcat. We wouldn't want to take that away from the students, but also we wouldn't want students to think we were representing them in an irresponsible way by having outrageous figures of loss when we go and plan a concert.
And because some students don't know, especially new students, what is it exactly that ASUA does for the students directly?
I say in the large part, that the student elected officials and the leadership in ASUA, we aim to promote and advance student concerns and student issues with the hope of enriching their college experience. That's really at the crux of everything we aim to do. We're here to represent the students and take care of their needs and concerns so that at the end of the day they can have a really holistic and rewarding college experience.
Do you think you have a big enough influence on campus to be able to do the stuff you want to do this year?
Absolutely. I definitely think we are in position to make substantial contributions to the daily student life and that's what we're energized about. That's what we're really passionate about doing.