Halfway through their tenure, Student Body President Nithin Palyam and Vice President Amy Pham said they have directed their first six months toward understanding the logistics of carrying out and student demand for their campaign projects.
With several initiatives planned for entering office, Palyam and Pham campaigned under the acronym H.E.R.D, or health, empowerment, resources and development. Pham said food insecurity prevention initiatives, such as food drives and donations to Feed-A-Bull, were one of the first items on the agenda.
“It’s really nice to see that we are able to get people in SG and around Tampa to come in and donate,” Pham said. “I believe it is something that is also going to be replicated on the other two campuses, so that is really exciting.”
While discussing how the executive branch is making sure students are more aware of the resources available, Palyam said the main issue they are working on with USF programs is the marketing and advertising of those resources on social media accounts, or even on campus.
“Most of it has to be social media, but we are also collaborating with the orientation department,” Palyam said. “Because this is the first contact you have with the university. While you are looking around campus, some mentioning of the resources when they [freshmen] first come in could put information in the back of their heads.”
One of the most prominent initiatives, not only campaigned by Palyam and Pham, but also by other members of SG, was providing transportation for students between campuses. Palyam said the challenges go beyond the university’s budget and reflect more on understanding the real need for inter-campus buses.
“Finding out the logistics and how many students it would accurately benefit was one of the first challenges we faced,” Palyam said. “We sent out a survey asking if students would use this [intercampus transportation], and most said yes, so we are going to bring that back up.”
Although improvements around the Bull Runner were also planned by the executive branch, the cabinet expressed concern about the actual usage rate of the transportation options. Palyam said the fees for unused transport of all USF students was one topic of conversation with the administration.
“Even though other students are not using transportation on the Tampa campus, they are still paying for it, and that is not very fair in my opinion,” Palyam said.
Representing and catering to international students’ needs was a big issue in Palyam and Pham’s campaign ticket. In order to provide international students with more opportunities in the workforce, Pham said providing information on the requirements to find jobs and internships through events is on their list of priorities.
“So through SG connections, bring in people who work for companies and know that those companies are friendly for international students,” Pham said. “Maybe seeing if we can bring them to talk to students, just as an incentive to get more people involved and participating.”
While international students could benefit from career fairs and other events catered to jobs after graduation, there is the demand for work-study jobs coming from 10% of the student body, including foreign students with working limitations due to citizenship.
Still advocating for the creation of more space for international students on on-campus jobs, Palyam said he is focusing on highlighting the existing resources available to students, and making sure the information reaches them.
“There are a lot of resources available to find and apply for these jobs, but they are just not aware of it,” Palyam said. “We want to highlight them by having town halls, just to excise ‘Hey, this is available.’”
As climate change is now at the forefront of most campaigned issues, Palyam and Pham had plans for improving sustainability with the implementation of composting and recycling on campus. Pham said even with the reverse recycling machines implemented at the Tampa and St. Pete campuses, they encountered challenges after meeting with the Sustainability Department regarding the composting initiative.
“There are a couple of things that are required for compost that were maybe not feasible for the one year’s work. But we have been working, and want to work with local gardens, such as the one at the Honors College,” Pham said.
Even with strategies directed at unifying all three campuses, through transportation and enabling the availability of resources to all students, Palyam and Pham recognize the importance of maintaining individual campus cultures. Palyam said working with other campuses’ student leaders on their particular needs is crucial to maintaining individuality.
“We can work together, but having individuality is like having personal identity,” Palyam said. “We like doing things our own way, and giving them that ability to have their own identity is kind of important to satisfy their own needs.”