USUAA madame president hopefuls sit with TNL for pre-election Q & A

USUAA Senators Ashley Hice and Sean McGrane are the presidential and vice presidential candidates for USUAA respectively. Hice, a senior social work major, has been a senator for three years and currently holds a chair on the Rules and Finance Committee. McGrane, a senior history major, has been involved with USUAA since October and is currently speaker of the Assembly.

TNL: Why did you choose to attend UAA?
Hice: Originally, I was only going to attend UAA for the first two years. I had scholarships to other places, but after being here, I got involved with USUAA and a sorority. I was way too involved.
McGrane: It’s cheap. Many students even coming from back east, they say it’s the cheapest.

TNL: Why did you decide to run for president/ vice-president?
Hice: It’s something I’ve been thinking about. I first thought about it when I was a freshman. It started there, you’re defined in who you are; you don’t need to worry about people pressuring you.
I’ve seen both sides, whether it’s being involved or not being involved and I feel like I can connect to people. I believe USUAA has come a long way, but with the right administration it can go a lot further.

McGrane: I’m fairly new to USUAA. If you think about it, I’ve moved fairly quickly. A couple people asked me to be speaker this semester. Ashley and I started talking about this a while ago: accountability and transparency. There are a lot of things that need to be done with USUAA for the student body as whole, and part of that connection is lost. You have two people elected that will push that forward, because there’s a big disconnect between us.

TNL: A lot of students have concerns with NANA, with both the price and quality of the food. What will you do to ease student concerns?
Hice: I think we need to really support our dinning advisory committee, and really talk to people. I know the times we pick for meetings generally fit our schedules, but if some students can’t make it, [they can] just shoot me an e-mail and [its about] just telling students to go through the Dinning Advisory Committee. They have complaint cards, and the first thing I tell them is have you filled out a complaint card? And if you do, and they’re not responding to you, then go to the Dinning Advisory Committee and from there, we’ll figure out a way to get your voice heard.
McGrane: The point of the Dinning Advisory Committee is to open the eyes of the administration to see that they need to have a formal committee created by them. We don’t have the authority, but we are working to direct them and show that it’s needed.

TNL: How will you work with Board of Regents and other University entities to make sure that the cost of tuition is reasonable?
Hice: You need a united front, and we need to come together not just as UAA, but with UAF and UAS and as a student body. More people need to attend the Board of Regents. USUAA president and vice-president attend, and senators, and we get up there and talk. But we’re in the position that we’re supposed to do that. Getting students to get up there and talk holds a lot more weight than just me doing it. My parents pay for my tuition, so for me getting up there and talking about the hardships of tuition, I don’t pay it. Having someone who has to work two jobs to pay for school, having to take up massive amounts of loans – that I think is going to tug at the heartstrings of the BOR.

TNL: Ultimately, what do you hope to accomplish?
Hice: We adopted the slogan: ‘Community, connection, community.’ In my mind, that sums up what we want to do. Those are the three things that will push USUAA and UAA above.

- Advertisement -

Current USUAA Vice President Michaela Hernadez of Anchorage is a candidate for USUAA president. She is a junior majoring in philosophy with a minor in Spanish. She has been involved with USUAA for the two years that she has attended UAA. Her running mate, Mallory Graves from Eagle River, is also a junior. She majors in biological science and has been a USUAA senator for a year.

TNL: Why did you choose to attend UAA?
Hernandez: To be honest, UAA has one of the best speech and debate programs in the country, so that helped, along with the top 10 percent of my class scholarship (UA Scholar) and the opportunity to stay close to my family.
Graves: Mainly because it’s close to home and they have a really good biology program. Snd since I want to go to pharmacy school and they only need two years of pre-reqs, it’s a good jumping off place.

TNL: Why did you decide to run for president/ vice-president?
Hernandez: People kept coming and talking to me and asking me if I was interested in it, and I’m always kind of focused on the now, so I was focused on the duties I was currently doing. The one thing that’s always kind of concerned me about USUAA is the fact that we do a really good job of putting on dances and fulfilling the social aspect of student government, but not really the governance part. What made me want to run is that I want to give students that voice they so desperately need so their concerns and issues can actually be addressed.

TNL: What will you do to work to ease student concerns about food on campus?
Hernandez: I think the one thing that we can do is give support to the [Dining Advisory Committee], and give them the authority to go to wherever – Board of Regents- and say: ‘Listen, there’s a problem. We don’t want to get food poisoning anymore.’ I think that giving them our support as executives, and the student support as well, so when they go to these meetings, it’s not just those two people, and there’s more of a presence, not just in support, but as in actual people there with them.

TNL: What will you do as executives to keep college affordable?
Graves: One of the big incentives to come to UAA is that it is affordable. If they keep raising tuition, it’s not going to be an incentive. That’s one of our positions: active advocacy.
Hernandez: Tuition’s not the only thing that concerns me. It’s the fact that state legislators want to put a credit check on students getting loans, which makes it pretty hard if you’re coming out of high school. But what we want to do is to create a response team, so if there is a BOR meeting where they talk about tuition increases, which there will be this fall, we will have students there to say that this is not something we’re interested in. It makes me sad because there are some individuals within USUAA who say we can’t change it, and that’s just not true. You might not be able to lower it entirely, but you may be able to lower it from 10 percent to 2 percent.
Graves: If we all come together on campus as a group, versus one or two people, we’re much more likely to be heard.

TNL: Ultimately, what do you both hope to accomplish as president and vice-president?
Hernandez: First and foremost, I think that the things that are on our platforms are things we want to do and will be doing. First is student success. I think advising should be a major part of new student orientation. I’d like to see the opportunity for new students to meet people who are advisers from their prospective colleges. I think we could be lot more successful if we increase the role of advising.
A lot of our campaign is awareness. For instance, a lot of people don’t know what kinds of services are offered on campus and they wonder about things like, what does AHAINA do? What does Native Services do? What about ANSEP? And we can bring a lot of awareness there.
The second thing is active advocacy, which I care desperately about, which is giving students a legitimate voice, and letting them know that their student government is there to advocate on their behalf and is there to represent them to their full extent.
Thirdly, I think we need increase awareness and access to mental health resources on campus. I think a lot of students aren’t aware of what’s available to them on campus and I think a lot of tragedy occurs as a result of that.
Fourthly, increasing international partnerships with other universities. I’d like to see our university open up the channels of communications with schools that international students are coming from and partner up like sister schools.