From greeting each SLO Days group to flipping pancakes for WOWies during Week of Welcome, Associated Students Inc. (ASI) president Riley Nilsen has kicked off her presidency for the 2017-2018 school year.
Wowing the WOWies
Though the conversation was “nonstop,” agricultural science senior Nilsen said she enjoyed talking with new Mustangs about student life and emphasizing her open communication platform.
“[SLO Days] was really fun and really exciting,” Nilsen said. “[The freshmen] had all the nerves and excitement and emotions.”
As part of her welcome, Nilsen talked to the incoming students about tips for success as they start their academic endeavors at Cal Poly.
According to Nilsen, ASI also registered approximately 200 WOWies for voting. Pushing for stronger student voter education is an item on Nilsen’s agenda, considering that next year will be an election year in San Luis Obispo County.
The remaining eight weeks of fall quarter will bring many events Nilsen has planned with her cabinet, the first of which is entirely new.
Celebrating diversity on campus
On Monday, Oct. 9, student government will be supporting Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day.
“We will be respecting [indigenous groups] for being here first, acknowledging them and celebrating with them,” Nilsen said.
Diversity roundtables will continue to be hosted on the third Thursday of each month. Nilsen hopes that the discussions will spur positive change because “this is the year it will happen.”
Buck the Stigma will return, more powerful than before
The following week brings “Buck the Stigma” back to campus, which is centered around mental health awareness. Nilsen notes that this year’s “Buck the Stigma” will take on a much more serious and reflective tone.
Rather than interacting with students through the use of mechanical bulls, ball pits and booths arranged in the University Union (UU) plaza, the information regarding mental health will be conveyed to students via visual displays around Dexter Lawn and other locations on campus throughout the week.
“It is definitely more self-involved, and self-initiated rather than [student government] forcing information down people’s throats,” Nilsen said.
An open mic night will be held on Wednesday evening in the UU Plaza, where students will be invited to share their experiences with mental health “through poems, song, or dance”, Nilsen said.
“Buck the Stigma” will culminate on Thursday, Oct. 19 with a memorial recognizing the 17 Cal Poly students that have committed suicide over the past 25 years.
17 backpacks will be arranged in the shape of a semi-colon — a manifestation of the suicide prevention message, “your story isn’t over”— and an explanation of the significance of the number “17” will accompany this visual display.
“A semi-colon marks a pause in a sentence,” Nilsen said. “[This symbol] teaches people that your story isn’t over yet, just like the sentence isn’t over.”
Maintaining transparency and trust
Nilsen has been working to build relationships among the student body since the beginning of her presidency, maximizing engagement with students both in-person and across social media.
Snapchat stands as a popular platform for connecting with students; Nilsen has over 3,000 followers, and often gathers student feedback via her Snapchat story. This information is then relayed to fellow cabinet members and Cal Poly administrators.
One of Nilsen’s primary goals this year is to inform students that they hold great power in determining the future of Cal Poly, and to teach them how to wield this influence.
“Students feel their voices aren’t heard or acknowledged, but there are so many avenues for them to use and capitalize on that,” Nilsen said.
From attending ASI Board of Directors meetings to connecting with the appropriate resources, there are many opportunities for students to pioneer change.
“This year, I’m here for the students. I’m not here for my agenda,” Nilsen said.