Blais, Shewit discuss plans for year ahead
Rachel O'Grady | Wednesday, August 23, 2017
It was a busy summer for student body president and vice president Becca Blais and Sibonay Shewit. Between securing a bike-sharing program on campus, improving their diversity and inclusion initiatives, executing a Flick on the Field event and laying important groundwork with University Health Services, they’re ticking items off their to-do list every day.
But as the year actually gets started, Blais said she is excited to focus on the students.
“I think the biggest thing … is just a growing presence of student government in people’s lives,” Blais said. “What I want is, at the end of the day, if you pluck a random student off the sidewalk and say, like, ‘how does student government help you?’ they’ll be able to name something. We’re just doing small, tangible things.”
That starts with her team — Shewit, her vice president and Prathm Juneja, their chief of staff, most immediately.
“The three of us have been working together really well,” Blais said. “It’s very different from any partnership between a president, vice president and chief of staff before. We work in a very unique way. I like it a lot.”
The camaraderie between the three, Shewit added, has led to enthusiasm about new ideas for the year.
“We just complement each other and get so excited about things,” Shewit said.
This excitement about the upcoming year is particularly evident every time they start to talk about their long term plans.
“A big thing we’ve talked about is going back to how it was when we were campaigning — really reaching out to different student groups, getting input, getting more ideas,” Shewit said. “We did that a lot last semester and I think we just want to push that more, especially with the freshmen coming in.”
The enthusiasm extends to the rest of the cabinet, and Shewit said they have “not slowed down” all summer.
“They’ve been so on top of everything, they’ve made our lives so easy, too,” Shewit said. “With pretty much everything we’ve put on the platform, they’ve been able to give us really good updates, which has given us more time to focus on where student government is going as a whole and the big picture, too.”
This pace has allowed for Blais and Shewit to stay on track toward their goals, and they’re “right where [they] want to be” as the year kicks off.
“You always kind of freak out — like, ‘Oh no, are we where we’re supposed to be?’ — but the minute we talk to one of our cabinet members, we’re exactly where we need to be,” Blais said. “They all got what they needed to do done.”
Continuing to form and strengthen a relationship with the University’s administration has been “super helpful,” Blais said.
“The administration has been super awesome about working with us and helping us get these things done. Even working with the administration, they’ll say like, ‘We trust your judgement on this, and we trust it because we’ve worked with you for the past two or more years.’ So that’s been really nice,” Blais said.
“It’s skipping that learning curve and the getting-to-know-you process and just getting straight to the work,” Shewit added. “We feel really comfortable being open and honest with them.”
Over the summer, at the request of many students, student government was able to get LimeBikes on campus, Blais said.
“So [LimeBikes] have been worked on from a couple of different angles,” she said. “Student government people have been pushing for it to happen, so we partnered with the people in the office of sustainability, as well as different marketing classes, which was basically all of these people together. So they launched it in South Bend, and then we got 175 bikes on campus, for 175 years [since Notre Dame’s founding].”
Shewit said she hopes to get more ideas from students just visiting the student government offices.
“It’s very much like a think tank, with open discussion and creative spaces,” Shewit said. “It’s just so great because it goes beyond just the 22 people up here. You’ll just see people coming in and out of here, bringing their own ideas.”