As the semester and the 2018-19 academic year comes to a close, so does the Student Government Association presidency of Megha Gupta.
Gupta, who was born in Nepal before moving to America when she was 8 years old, made the decision to run for President of the Student Government Association to try to better both herself and ETSU.
“I was involved with SGA for three years,” said Gupta. “I started out as a senator and was really interested in seeing the impact SGA has on campus. We have a lot of voice, and I really wanted to gain that leadership experience, and I also wanted to voice student concern to different faculty and staff and see myself grow as a person and as a leader and see that I can handle the rigor of college while also being involved on campus.”
Gupta said she’s proud of the things the SGA has accomplished during her presidency, such as the strategic planning of events due to renovation of the D.P. Culp Center.
“A lot of the events that we organized on campus have been strategic since the Culp wasn’t part of student life,” said Gupta. “So we really wanted events to go smoothly this year and have students engage as much as we could because we thought student involvement would go down because of the Culp.”
Gupta said her favorite part of her presidency was working with other student leaders.
“This year I’ve had the opportunity to work with great student leaders,” said Gupta. “It was a collective effort and we worked on a lot of different areas and made sure everything ran smoothly from events to legislations to how SGA works and to being a representative on different committees. So, I feel like we did a really good job on that.”
Gupta said she won’t have an SGA position in the upcoming 2019-20 year, but she said she would still be involved with different student committees.
“It’s not really part of SGA, but I’ll still be there to voice student concerns,” said Gupta.
Gupta’s successor, Aamir Shaikh, decided to run because he felt confident he could do the job.
“I had a culmination of experiences that made me feel that I was capable, so I had that confidence that I could fulfill this role, so I think that was one big reason I ran,” said Shaikh.
Shaikh said he has many things he wants to address during his presidency, including an increase in transparency between ETSU, the SGA and the student body.
“I especially think our administration, at times, needs to be a little more transparent with the students,” said Shaikh. “I feel like our students are not only disconnected from student government, but they’re also disconnected from administrative decisions as well, and I want to increase that transparency.”
Shaikh was born in Atlanta but raised in Knoxville. He moved to Johnson City and attended University High School here on ETSU’s campus. Shaikh has been involved with Alternative Breaks, the Honors College Student Counsel, the Multicultural Association of Pre-health Students, Diversity Educators and served as the SGA Secretary of State for the 2018-2019 academic year. Shaikh was also key in planning this year’s civility series.
“I was responsible for planning the civility series, which I just loved,” said Shaikh. “I loved that role. I’m thankful that the past president appointed me for that role. If you look at my past experiences, you can see that diversity is a huge value of mine, and civility series really allowed me to express that so I’m very thankful for that opportunity.”
Along with increased transparency and diversity-related issues, Shaikh also wants to help make changes to student health facilities on campus.
“If you look at the university strategic plan for 2025, they want to increase the enrollment number to 18,000, which is about a 4,000-student increase,” said Shaikh. “Given our current facilities, I don’t even think they can handle the current student load, so I’m trying to understand how they possibly think that current facilities will fit the needs of 18,000 students.”
While student healthcare is one of Shaikh’s main focuses, he also wants to increase staffing and resources at the counseling center.
“The nationally recommended staffing ratio for an accredited counseling center is about one counselor per 1,000-1,500 students,” said Shaikh. “Here, we have one counselor per 3,000 students. I think we need to change that.”
Shaikh said he is most looking forward to addressing those issues with the new student government body.
“Something different that I’m excited about is the new senate,” said Shaikh. “I think we have a great group of young leaders that are very diversified in their interests and are very vocal in what they’re passionate about, so I think our meetings this year are going to be very engaging and very exciting. We’ve got a great student government for 2019-2020.”