Six semesters in the making: ASG’s new executive branch – The Arkansas Traveler

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When the polls closed on Wednesday, March 8 at 4 p.m., the University of Arkansas Associated Student Government (ASG) announced Mason Berres, Aleesa Williams, Sydney Roulhac and Rhea Patel as the 2024-25 executive team.

Berres will be the ASG president, Williams will be vice president, Roulhac will be secretary and Patel will assume the treasurer role. 

The four worked with one another in the Freshmen Leadership Forum (FLF) in 2021 and 2022. FLF is a freshmen-only branch of ASG that promotes leadership development, community engagement and personal growth. Beyond their time together in FLF, some of them already had experience working together in UA student government. 

Williams said she and Patel worked together their sophomore year at the UofA on the vice president team, where Williams was the director of special events and Patel was an advisor to the vice president. 

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While all four campaigned as a team, each member was elected separately, Williams said. Berres was the only executive team member running in a contested race. Roulhac, Wiliams and Patel were all running unopposed.  

“There were a lot of nights where I stayed up past midnight just worrying and thinking about things,” Roulhac said. “I honestly think running unopposed really helped me to more so talk to students and engage directly with them in one-on-one conversations and kind of hear different things that they wanted to see implemented on campus or different things that they did not know about ASG.” 

 Williams said most of the campaign efforts went toward Berres’ race. While campaigning was challenging at times, Williams said Berres’ victory instilled confidence that the initiatives they are prioritizing resonated with students voting.

“Mason and I have both kind of been talking about this as a goal we both wanted to accomplish since freshman year,” Williams said, “so it was really sweet to see it kind of come full circle and actually accomplish those goals.”   

Roulhac said the team’s platform had three primary initiatives: accessibility, transportation and engagement. As it pertains to her role as secretary, Roulhac said she will mostly be dealing with engagement. Part of the engagement initiative is making sure students are aware of certain programs within ASG. 

Roulhac said making sure students know about programs such as Work it Off, which allows students to work community service hours to waive up to $75 off of parking tickets, is an example of her engagement initiatives.

Addressing transportation will play a big role during their time in the executive office, as ASG’s student poll reveals parking and transit to be one of the biggest things students complain about year to year, Berres said. Students seem to take issue with a lack of parking spaces on campus and a lack of bus drivers. 

Berres said he and Williams sat down with Gary Smith, the director of UA Transit and Parking, and Adam Wadell, the associate director for Transit and Parking, to discuss logistical solutions to parking and transportation issues on campus before they were elected.

“We cannot just throw more money at (the parking issue),” Berres said. “We cannot just build a parking garage because that takes years and you have to raise funds for that, and that would just kind of increase the traffic that we have on campus logistically.” 

Berres said the team’s primary takeaway from the meetings was to continue the development of the Razorback Transit system. As someone who takes the transit system every day to get to campus, Berres said he understands how it can be a struggle for some students. However, the resources are there to mitigate the challenges the transit department faces, he said. The transit system is actively working on buying more buses, hiring more bus drivers and getting better pay for them.

Accessibility will also be a big priority for this ASG executive team, specifically the accessibility of registered student organizations (RSOs) to minority students on the UA campus. 

As treasurer, Patel will be in charge of the Office of Financial Affairs board. She said she will assume the responsibility of allocating money to RSOs. Patel is currently the president of the Indian Cultural Association and plans on making funding more accessible to minority students. 

“The RSO that I am currently president of is a minority RSO,” Patel said. “I think that is an untapped market that has a lot of students —  with potential international students, students from different backgrounds — and I think we need to work on making our resources more accessible to them.” 

On a tangible level, Patel said she hopes to translate the standing rules posted on ASG’s website in multiple languages. The standing rules determine how funding is allocated and what an RSO can apply funding for. 

Williams said each member of the new executive team is embracing their role from different backgrounds and perspectives. Williams comes from California, Berres hails from Texas, and Roulhac and Patel are from Arkansas. Not only do they come from different places, but they come from different socioeconomic statuses and have different backgrounds.  

“I think we just have a very unique and diverse perspective to make sure that we can touch as many groups on campus as possible,” Williams said.

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