Meet the candidates: Nithin Palyam and Amy Pham
As part of their platform, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Nithin Palyam and Relations Committee Chair Amy Pham hope to accommodate all campuses and adapt to their specific needs and cultures.
If elected, the ticket plans to accomplish their diverse set of goals by narrowing them down into the acronym H.E.R.D. — or health, empowerment, resources and development.
Palyam said the health division is aimed to protect the well-being of students and the environment of USF through three main ideas: mental health, environmentalism and food insecurity.
Combatting long wait times at the counseling center is one thing the duo hopes to address in order to provide students with easier access to its services, according to Palyam.
“Currently, students are coming back for in-person classes and the pandemic really had a big effect on the mental health of students,” he said.
“The Counseling Center has [been facing] really long wait lines, so we wanted to collaborate exclusively with the counseling centers of all three campuses to reduce that wait time and see how we can help financially or in any other way.”
One solution to some environmental issues occurring at the university is to reduce food waste through composting, according to Palyam.
“There’s a lot of food that is being wasted in the dining halls like Argos, The Hub and JP,” he said. “If we have [a composting initiative] then we’ll have free fertilizer that can be used in botanical gardens so we don’t have to spend more money somewhere else.”
Other initiatives to solve environmental issues on campus include expanding the amount of recycling machines and introducing a community clothing exchange program. Students would potentially be able to sign out clothes for specific occasions and return them after a certain period of time, according to Palyam.
Under food insecurity, Palyam and Pham hope to establish the Feed-A-Bull program on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, spread awareness for the program and provide support in obtaining a freezer to store any produce donated to the program in order to avoid food waste.
The empowerment portion of the acronym intends to advocate for international students, members of the LGBTQ community and the safety of students, said Palyam.
“We wanted to do survivor advocacy [by] creating mandatory training on Title IX, sexual assault prevention, how to respond in case of emergencies and bystander training so that everyone is aware of the social responsibilities that they have,” he said.
“We also want to collaborate with [the Office of Multicultural Affairs] in any possible way to represent the LGBTQ community a little bit better and increase the use of pronouns around campus and to include those in student IDs as well.”
Palyam and Pham also want to emphasize advocacy for international students due to Palyam’s personal experiences of finding it difficult to comfortably work and communicate with those around him, said Palyam.
“Being an international student myself, I had really gone through this phase where it was hard to communicate,” he said. “English was not my first language. I was trying so hard to find a job as there were a lot of international students there with the requirement being [that] they can only work on campus and on-campus jobs are really competitive.
“We wanted to advocate for them and organize workshops where we actually teach them [about] job [and apartment] finding and hiring and all of the other processes that are required for them.”
The duo’s third topic in the acronym — resources — intends to spread the word about what Student Government (SG) can do to address student concerns.
Not many students know what SG does or has the capability of doing, which is why they plan to not only increase student awareness, said Pham, but to ensure students can easily navigate certain resources so they can make their voices heard.
“Something that we came up with was developing an ultimate resource guide of USF, which would be basically consolidating all the information [about] campus resources, such as student success or mental health resources, and making it into a digestible document for students to access,” she said.
The document would highlight students in SG to act as directories for students, according to Pham. Therefore, if a student has a concern about a specific topic they know who they can contact in SG to discuss the matter.
Creating an SG roadmap is another initiative that could clarify the significant role SG plays in a student’s daily life, Pham said. The map would be a visualization of how SG is structured and operates.
Something Pham has implemented in her current position is a student’s concerns page on BullsConnect, which she wants to continue as a way to give students the resources to voice any concerns they may have.
The final topic in the acronym — development — promotes the concept of OneUSF, and focuses on issues such as transportation and parking.
Transportation between campuses is an idea that has been requested numerous times by students, according to Pham. She said she and Palyam hope to implement a solution to the issue.
“I’m happy to say that we are in the relations committee taking steps to find out whether or not this is something that students are interested in,” she said.
“Hopefully in the future, we get an opportunity to implement cross-campus transportation to give students the resources to be able to attend classes on another campus. [Handling] gas, money and time is really hard and we can’t expect students to do that themselves.”
Searching for options to improve the parking situations on the Tampa campus during their potential term, they plan to rezone certain parking areas in order to provide additional parking options for students, said Pham.
“So there are [different] types of parking permits, and that means that you can only park in a specific area,” she said.
“We wanted to start the conversation with the university administration to ask, ‘Are all of the spots in the specific zones being fully utilized? If they’re not, maybe we can rezone it to allow students with an S permit or an R permit to be able to park there.’”
Beyond their plans for the future of SG, Pham said they also hope to adopt a welcoming and nurturing environment for members of SG.
“I have learned that in Student Government, the work environment is everything,” Pham said. “I really want to create a very friendly and welcoming environment, somewhere [where] you feel comfortable talking to each other because to me, open communication is so important.
“If you have a concern that you want to address, I find it so important to reach out to that individual first and have that conversation. I will do my best to be approachable, as I’m always there if they have questions and I’m super open to constructive criticism.”
Creating a stable work environment first begins with strong relationships among its leaders, which Palyam said he and Pham have confidently obtained.
Once Palyam met Pham for the first time, he almost immediately knew he wanted her as his running mate due to their similar ideas and personalities, said Palyam.
“She has impressive initiatives where she wants to market Student Government to the students and show how resourceful we are,” he said. “I wanted to be working on the financial aspects of SG and then Amy could be working on some student initiatives like food insecurity.
“I knew that when I first met her and when I learned about her and her passion to actually serve students, I wanted her to be my running mate. I didn’t wait [to ask her], because I knew if I waited, someone else would have ‘stolen’ her from me.”
Although Palyam was eager to begin working with her immediately, Pham said she had to take at least a couple of weeks to make her decision as she wanted to ensure she did not put too much on her plate.
“When I commit to something I really commit to it,” she said.
“That can be really detrimental sometimes, especially if you overcommit, which is part of why I spent those two weeks really deciding whether or not this was something I wanted to do.”
After seeing her committee members beam with excitement when discussing their potential initiatives, she found the importance in sharing responsibilities and opportunities with those around her, according to Pham. She is proud of her decision to run with Palyam.
Creating a collaborative and engaging community within the university is an opportunity Palyam hopes he and Pham have the liberty of putting into action.
Having complete transparency with students will ultimately lead to their goal of achieving a more stable consolidated university, he said.
“We want [students] to feel comfortable in reaching out to us for any concerns that they might have so that we can actually collaborate with them in resolving that particular problem they found on campus,” Palyam said.
“We just want to make USF a better place because this is my home and it’s going to be for a long time, and I’m proud to be a Bull.”