Senator at the University of Rochester

Sakhile ALA ‘15

An interview with Sakhile ALA ‘15 after winning a position as Senator at the University of Rochester.

Published: 15 December 2020

What inspired you to run for a position in student government?

I’ve always flirted with the idea of running for student government at the University of Rochester. I was student body president in my high school and ran for the position of Chairman at ALA. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself which includes a fight for a greater good and to contribute towards the wellbeing and success of those around me. These values inevitably find root in my upbringing by the concept of Ubuntu—the sense that our individual success is linked to the work and achievements of others—and growing up in post- apartheid South Africa. So when the opportunity came for me to run, I knew that I wanted to put my name in the race. Shortly after I became a Senator, I was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the new Chair of the International Student Affairs Committee (ISAC).

What are some previous experiences you think prepared you for this new role in student leadership?

Since I came to the University of Rochester, I have been involved in many projects. I worked as an editor of a student newspaper, providing a platform for students’ expressions, advocacy, and any other things students felt most passionate about. I later became an Equity Officer at the University of Rochester Debate Union (URDU) where I drafted an Equity Policy, developed a Mentorship Program and handled equity complaints. Moreover, I have also been involved in a project aimed to improve Native American outreach and representation through our campuses as a way of correcting historical injustices and practices that seek to erase native people’s history and culture. I’m a strong believer that our commitment to justice will always be measured by our response towards the most marginalized and least represented among us. That is why this project is very close to my heart. By the time I became Senator, I already had experience with advocacy and liaising with university administration which is very essential when you’re in student government.

What are some of the challenges you faced on the journey to winning the student government position?

The election coincided with the initial implementation of social distancing measures which presented technical voting issues for many students around the world. Many students were not connected to a secure campus network, or a new administration system that would enable them to vote. We also only had a week to campaign and virtually no students physically on campus. I knew I had to rely heavily on my record with student leadership, social media, and my personal experiences with students to vote for me and hope for the best.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to a student leadership position?

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” Henry Ford.

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