Updated: March 22, 2019 at 8:44 p.m.
A sophomore and Student Association senator announced her bid for SA president Monday.
Sen. ShanTorrian Underwood, CCAS-U, launched a campaign focused on adding more affordable dining options and promoting diversity across campus. Her platform includes reaching out to more multicultural GWorld vendors, creating a website for first-generation students and launching an annual retreat for students of color.
“I want to be a voice for students whose voices have historically been unheard,” Underwood said. “I want to be an advocate for historically marginalized communities and ensure all students have a seat at the table.”
Underwood is the second candidate to join the race for SA president.
If elected, Underwood said she would solicit feedback from students about low-cost vendors that could be added to GWorld. She said she would also negotiate with administrators to lower the roughly 8 to 10 percent cut the University takes from all GWorld sales, which could potentially lessen the cost of meals.
She said reducing the fee would allow the University to forge more GWorld partnerships with vendors that offer multicultural foods or options for students with dietary restrictions. Underwood said she will meet with officials and student dining representatives to determine if GW could lower the rate.
“I want to improve, or ease, everyday life for students,” she said. “What this could be is providing more students options for more inclusive dining partners.”
Underwood said she also wants to create an annual two-day, on-campus retreat for students of color before new student orientation in August. Students would apply to attend the retreat, move in early and get to know other students of color before they start classes, she said.
She said she will discuss the program with Cissy Petty, the dean of the student experience, or Jordan West, the diversity and inclusion education director, to host workshops during the retreat covering topics like mental health, food insecurity and diversity.
“We can talk about anything GW-related,” she said. “Students can talk about anything they’d like to talk about. So they want to talk about the mental health at GW, if they want to talk about food insecurity at GW, anything they want to talk about – and they can work together to discuss why this is happening and what steps they could do to help advocate for this issue.”
Underwood, a first-generation student, said she also wants to launch a website that provides “tips and tricks” for first-generation students to navigate college. She said she would create a website for first-generation students that mirrors a similar initiative at the University of Michigan including personal stories from first-generation students and scholarship opportunities.
She will meet with Brittany Abraham, the program coordinator for special populations at the Center for Student Engagement who works with first-generation students, to discuss creating the website, she said.
“I want to break down the barriers for resources and knowledge on this campus,” she said. “I want to make sure that every student has the opportunity to know about different resources that GW offers.”
Underwood said she also wants to increase multicultural programming on the Mount Vernon Campus so students do not need to travel to the Foggy Bottom Campus for student organization and University-sponsored events. She said she will speak with Colette Coleman, the interim associate dean of students, about adding more community events to engage Vern residents.
She said she will work with resident advisers on the Vern to send out surveys to residents and determine programming that could be offered on the campus, like discussions about mental health or food insecurity.
“I’ve seen students leave Foggy super, super late, take a super late Vex and then arrive late to the Vern,” she said. “It’s a priority for me because I want students to feel included on this campus without having to travel to a different campus.”
Underwood said she also plans to ease the process of declaring a major in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Students are currently required to physically submit a form declaring their major after they meet with a faculty member in the department, which she said can be time-consuming and waste paper.
She said she will work with Ellie Hansen, the assistant director of POD 2 advising, to create an online form for students to declare their major. She said students could complete the form through the GWeb Information System, which would notify the school for approval.
“That process is really long for students, and if we could shorten that so students won’t have to go back and forth, it would make the process for figuring out your student schedule and also picking out classes easier,” she said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that GW takes a 6 percent cut of all GWorld sales. The University does not disclose how much money it takes from those sales, but vendors previously told The Hatchet that officials took between 8 and 10 percent.