On a campus of 31,000 students, one person might feel inconsequential.
But truth is, every student—whether an undeclared freshman from Park City, pre-med student from Wisconsin, or grad student from China—is united in at least one way. All are members of the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU), which exists to serve the needs of individual students, as well as the entire student body. Elections are held once a year to provide leadership on important decisions affecting all students.
“Student Government” today is far removed from the outdated stereotype of extroverted kids getting together to eat free pizza, notes Neela Pack, president of ASUU for 2011-12. “There is something for everyone, even if your only focus is on getting your degree and going to grad school,” she says. “Career advice and networking opportunities are here to help students prepare for their next step.”
“And if you’re serious about governing, you can become an assembly member representing your college and help make it function better,” she concludes.
It was her own interest in seeing important things get done that led Pack, an economics and political science major, to run for ASUU President in her junior year. Notably, she is just the third woman in the U’s history to hold that position.
“I was curious about how stuff happens; who makes the decisions,” she says. “For example: building the future Student Life Center on campus. We thought last year, ‘you know, students need this facility more than anything,’ so we decided to prioritize making the new center happen. Students have been actively involved in the center from concept to design—which now includes an outdoor swimming pool.”
Pack also notes that the ASUU offices, located off the Union lobby, are open to all students.
“This is your home, it’s a place for all students to hang out, talk, get connected,” she says. “I was a commuter when I first came to the U, and I learned the value of spending an extra hour on campus instead of clocking in and clocking out. When you come here you find out all kinds of things ASUU is doing on your behalf, and it makes your college experience better.”
And while big concerts may be the most visible ASUU-sponsored events, they are just some of hundreds of activities for students to take advantage of and involve themselves.
Students’ needs and interests cover a very wide spectrum, according to advertising manager Tom Hurtado. ASUU can offset the cost of child care, act as a student advocate in landlord or legal issues, or provide funding for students to organize projects of their own creation.
A walk through ASUU’s website is revealing. Links guide you to:
* career workshops
* how to find a tutor
* tips on how to budget
* a list of student-organized groups from A (African Students Union) to Z (Zero Budget Productions)
* how to benefit the Student Ambassador Program
* an application for working on an annual cancer research fund-raiser called Rock the U.
Hurtado, who is responsible for getting that wealth of information online over the past 18 months, is glad that awareness of ASUU is growing. Now he encourages students to become actively involved.
“Last year, there were 200 student groups, with the addition of an online database for registering new groups, there are now 465,” he notes. “ASUU is funded by student fees so it just makes sense to have student input to put the funds to work where they have the most benefit,” he says.
Both Tom and Neela emphasize that they are not interested in cornering students who come to ASUU for a campus experience. Students can customize their involvement to meet their needs, interests and time constraints. They can run for office or help out on a single event.
And Neela has one last word of advice for those who are still not convinced that ASUU involvement is for them. “Take the leap,” she says. “You have nothing to lose by taking that first jump. There is so much you can do with the resources through ASUU. Create your own story at the U, and you don’t have to do it alone.”