A week before Associated Students Inc. (ASI) President and agricultural sciences senior Jana Colombini was set to graduate, she still had to uphold her responsibilities before leaving. For example, Colombini recently passed a resolution that will allocate a portion of ASI’s reserves to upgrade campus streetlights to LED lights over the next year.
“I think ‘stressful success’ is what sums up my year,” Colombini said.
Developing professionally and personally
Colombini met and talked with students from different walks of life throughout the year.
“I’ve been able to learn what [underrepresented students] go through at Cal Poly — and not necessarily in a positive way,” Colombini said. “I’ve been able to see, not experience, but see the different things they do and go through.”
She said simply learning about others through conversations and holding open office hours has been one of the highlights of her presidency.
Colombini’s immersion at Cal Poly exposed her to an array of cultures that starkly contrasted with the homogenous population of 1,784 in Colombini’s hometown of Linden, California, a small agricultural town in the Central Valley. She often finds herself sharing knowledge about the human experience that she has garnered from attending Cal Poly with friends from Linden.
“It’s a very different world [back home]. I hear some of the ways my friends talk, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, no, you can’t talk like that, here’s how that’s offensive,” Colombini said.
Running at full speed
A go-getter at heart, Colombini is known for running full speed toward a goal and pulling others along with her. At times during the year, however, she struggled to remember her team’s responsibilities outside of ASI.
“I learned to be more conscious of others, just being able to recognize and understand that people have other things going on and that doesn’t mean they don’t care about your cause,” Colombini said.
Determined to fulfill the promises she made during her campaign last year, Colombini found it difficult to “squeeze everything into an academic year.” Despite the limited time she had as ASI president, however, Colombini still completed 95 percent of the line items she envisioned at the start of her term, from off-campus lighting to bolstering mental health awareness.
With a little less than a week left, Colombini is still wants to go full speed ahead.
“Some people think that as soon as the next president is elected, the past president is done … but no,” Colombini said. “Until Riley’s signature can count as being ASI president, I am still going.”
Serving amid federal political tensions
Not every ASI president serves during a federal presidential election year, and the unforeseen nature of the 2016 presidential election shaped Colombini’s role in a slightly different manner from that of previous ASI presidents.
President Donald Trump’s attitude toward undocumented persons presented an interesting challenge for Colombini, who had to navigate the uncertain future with the approximately 200 undocumented students on campus and assure them Cal Poly stood with them.
“[Undocumented students] don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so we try to ease their minds, as much as we can,” Colombini said. “We supported a full-time DREAM Center coordinator, established undocumented student training and a resolution.”
Despite these efforts, Colombini found it difficult to combat the threatening attitude toward undocumented persons that seems to prevail on the national level.
“There’s no tangible thing we can change. To marginalized groups, I can say, ‘That’s not how we feel here at Cal Poly,’ but it only goes so far. There’s only so much you can do,” Colombini said.
Victories at city council
Colombini emphasized the collaboration that went behind each ASI project, and gave credit to her cabinet members and Chief of Staff Anthony Haddad for making her visions tangible. One project in particular, though, Colombini pioneered and pushed until finding success.
The need for more off-campus lighting has been voiced by students for years, but until this past January, little had been done to make this a reality. When Colombini found an opportunity to bring this concern to the city and make it a budget item for the upcoming year, she rallied student government representatives and spoke at the city’s open forum in January. The project made it to an online voting platform, where it garnered more than 800 votes.
Though the installation of streetlights in the surrounding community is not a primary budget goal in San Luis Obispo’s 2017-2019 Financial Plan, the city has agreed to allocate a few tens of thousands of dollars toward these installations over the next two years.
“Three to four new streetlights a year may not seem like much, but that was a huge win for Cal Poly,” Colombini said. “They will be put in very distinct locations that will make a big difference.”
Colombini hopes the achievement of this goal demonstrates to students that having elected student government representatives does make an impact on student life.
Colombini may not be able to see all the fruits of her labor, but the delayed gratification doesn’t bother her much.
“As long as it happens, I don’t care who gets credit for it,” Colombini said. “Let me gift this to future Cal Poly students.”
Summer for relaxation, fall for learning
After graduation, Colombini will return to Linden to work on her family’s ranch before coming back to Cal Poly in the fall. She will be pursuing her master’s in agricultural education, and hopes to teach agriculture at the high school level in the future.
“I’m so excited to just be a Cal Poly student. It’s time to give myself a year of Cal Poly fun and be able to focus on my schooling and get invested in my classes,” Colombini said.
Despite the sleepless nights and non-stop grind as ASI president, Colombini said that if she had the opportunity to do it again, she would “take it in a heartbeat.”
“I’ve given three years to ASI, and I don’t regret anything. I can walk away knowing that I didn’t let myself down and that I did the best I can,” Colombini said.