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Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

Twenty-eight current seniors are vying to serve on the University’s Board of Trustees.

The Young Alumni Trustee (YAT) retains the same rights, powers, and duties as all other University trustees, according to the University website. Each spring, a member of the graduating senior class is elected to the position on a four-year term. Currently, Sarah Varghese ’19, Myesha Jemison ’18, Achille Tenkiang ’17, and Azza Cohen ’16 serve in the position, with Cohen’s term expiring this year.

The position was created in 1969.

According to Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, the average number of candidates since YAT began keeping statistics is 25. Last year, 30 students ran for the position, which Varghese eventually attained.

The 28 seniors running are, in alphabetical order, Chelsie Alexandre, Jackson Artis, Grace Baylis, Sarah Deneher, Erin Endres, Juston Forte, Alaa Ghoneim, Erin Gray, Sirad Hassan, Jonathan Haynes, Taylor Jean-Jacques, Manasseh James Matossian, Jamie Mercurio, Ben Musoke-Lubega, Danielle Newton, Olivia Ott, Henry Parkhurst, June Philippe, Nathan Poland, Ben Press, Adhitya Raghavan, Rohan Shah, Ayushi Sinha, Meghan Slattery, Bobo Stankovikj, Mayisha Sultana, Katya Vera, and Zarnab Virk.

Online voting for the primary election, in which only members of the class of 2020 may vote, will take place from Feb. 25 to March 5. Three finalists will advance to the general election, beginning in late April. Members of the classes of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 will be eligible to vote in the general election.

Alexandre, a politics concentrator, is a member of the BodyHype Dance Company and Triple 8 Dance Company and has been involved on campus in the Asian American Students Association and Princeton for North Korean Human Rights. As a YAT, she believes she would be able to bring a diverse set of perspectives to the table and broaden her own understanding of how the University functions.

“As someone who has managed to enter into spaces where I don't look like everyone and completely immerse myself in the relationships, I have been able to start building a comprehensive understanding of the different experiences of Princeton students on campus,” she wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.

Artis, a mechanical and aerospace engineering concentrator, is a member of the Fuzzy Dice Improv comedy group, the Co-Host of All Nighter, and a Rocky College Residential College Advisor (RCA). He is also a member of the club Powerlifting Team, the Princeton Christian Fellowship, and the Meal Plan Music Collective.

“I decided to run because, while I’ve enjoyed my Princeton experience, I’ve had many close friends in my time here that didn’t have as positive or even a net positive experience,” he wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “It would be selfish of me to simply take from this school knowing that it doesn’t give the same positives to everyone.”

Baylis is a Wilson School concentrator, an international student, and a member of the varsity women’s field hockey team. In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ she described herself as “an active participant in student wellness programming” who understands how important it is for the University’s allotment of resources to be aligned with the needs and values held by the student body.

“I would approach the position of Young Alumni Trustee with an open mind, willingness to listen, and the drive to fight for progress at the university to the benefit of the whole campus community,” Baylis wrote.

Forte, a Wilson School concentrator, has been involved in Undergraduate Student Government for three years, currently serving as the Senior Class President. He is also an RCA in Wilson, a Wilson Ceramics Studio manager, a former Alcohol Initiative chair, and a member of the club ultimate frisbee team.

“I’m interested in the position so I can represent our class and stay involved in the University after graduation,” he wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “My involvement in campus life makes me well suited to the position because it allows for me to accurately read the opinions of recent students and use it to inform my decisions as a Trustee.”

Gray is concentrating in civil and environmental engineering. In a statement, she noted that she is proud to be a part of this slate of seniors who share the same passion of service to the University community.

“I have made some amazing memories here over these four years and I want to be a part of the legacy work that allows Princeton to grow in diversity of thought, culture, courses and opportunities,” she wrote. “I am excited to stay involved with the University.”

Hassan, a Wilson School concentrator, recently participated in the soon-to-be-televised Jeopardy! college tournament. She has also served as President of the Muslim Students Association, a co-leader for Breakout Princeton, as a SHARE Peer, and as a Whitman College Peer Academic Advisor. She sees her hardworking mindset, desire to impact the University, and the diverse set of convernations she has had on campus as qualifying her for the position.

“We are all students from vastly different backgrounds, and in my time here I have gotten to experience this diversity through many long conversations with those around me — even if as acquaintances or close friends,” she wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “This helps because it provides a lot of perspective to what changes and policies might be important for our campus community moving forward.”

Haynes, a politics concentrator, has served as a co-chair on a Pace Center board, a Peer Academic Advisor for Butler College, a member of the steering team for Vote100, and a board member for the Black Student Union. In a statement, Haynes wrote that he has already worked extensively with a variety of writing groups and offices on campus, including the University Trustees, something he hopes to continue as a YAT.

“The Young Alumni Trustee position offers the chance to continue a deep and reflective engagement with the University after we graduate and I am excited to have the opportunity to run for the position,” he wrote.

Jean-Jaques, a psychology concentrator, is a member of the Varsity Lightweight Rowing team and has served as a Co-Chair of the Rockefeller College Council and of the 2020 Annual Giving Committee. She has also served on the Trustee Board of the University Store and served as Business Manager of the 143rd Managing Board of the ‘Prince.’

“I am running because I want to give back to the University,” she wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince,’ “and because my breadth and depth of experiences and leadership at Princeton would allow me to make a unique and meaningful contribution as a Trustee.”

Mercurio, a computer science major, is the only candidate with Trustee committee experience, as a member of the Trustee Committee on Honorary Degrees — the only Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) committee that meets with the Trustees.

“No friend I’ve asked has known what the Trustees actually do, and that’s a problem,” he wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “As the only candidate with Trustee Committee experience, I’ve personally convinced them to listen to us already — but with $25 billion at their disposal, they can positively impact students at every level, and that’s exactly why I’m running."

Newton is a chemistry concentrator and pre-med student who plans to take a gap year before entering medical school. She is also the president and founder of the Princeton Irish Dance Company, an Orange Key tour guide, a member of the Princeton Debate Panel, and a co-chair of the Outdoor Action leader training committee. Additionally, she said, her experiences as a QuestBridge student and member of the Scholars Institute Fellows Program (SIFP) heavily influenced her decision to run for YAT.

“Being YAT means having incredible access to a level of decision-making about Princeton even when you cannot achieve financial or social access,” she wrote. “As president of three student organizations, as a pre-med student, and as someone who has worked with University officials during my time here, I pride myself in being competent, professional, organized, and prepared for the role of YAT.”

Ott is a Wilson School concentrator who served as Academics Chair of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) in 2018 and 2019 and has been involved with E-Club, club tennis, Model UN, Whig-Clio, the William Trego Singers, and the Woodrow Wilson School Student Advisory Board throughout her time at Princeton. 

“Over the past four years, I’ve served as a student representative on seven University committees, and have led initiatives related to calendar reform, Honor Code reform, credit for internships (e.g. CPT vs. OPT), the decoupling of credit for 101 and 102 foreign language courses, and the recent addition of a new culture and difference requirement,” wrote Ott. “I believe that my experience advocating for students and working with the University’s administration has well prepared me to continue representing student interests and to serve as the Young Alumni Trustee.”

Parkhurst, a politics concentrator and captain of the men’s varsity squash team, wrote that he has spent a lot of time “both appeciating [sic] and complaining about almost every aspect of Princeton,” thinking long and hard about curricular pedagogy, academic-athletic balance, and various other issues of importance.

“The YATs get to be in the room for very big decisions about the University, so it pays to have thought a lot about the mission of the school and its relationship to student’s experiences,” he added.

Press, a History concentrator, has served as a U-Councilor over the past three years, advocating for improved mental health services, increased financial aid, and a more transparent Honor System. As YAT, Press wrote in a statement, he wants to continue making the University “a more equitable and accessible place.” 

“I’ve served on committees ranging from the budget to the curricular program and have learned the ins-and-out of how this place works,“ he wrote in a statement. “As YAT, I’d leverage that knowledge while making the Board more accessible and transparent through regularly engaging with students on campus.”

Poland, an African American studies concentrator, is involved in Princeton Mock Trial, the Petey Greene In-Prison Tutoring System, Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), and the Undergraduate Board of the African American Studies Department. He is also an RCA in Rockefeller College and a Fields Fellow at the Carl A. Fields Center. Poland cited his advocacy background as an asset for becoming a YAT.

“Advocating for inclusivity and justice through activism at Princeton has given me a unique perspective on our university’s history, a practical knowledge on where we stand now, and profound hope for where we can go,” he wrote in a statement.

Raghavan, a mechanical and aerospace engineering concentrator and member of the varsity men’s squash team, is involved in E-Club and Business Today on Campus. He also serves as a U-Councilor in USG, focused on sustainability issues and mental health.

“As an international student from India, student-athlete and Mechanical engineer, I believe that I would bring a fresh and different perspective to the Board,” he wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “I think I have developed a holistic view of the working of our campus which would assist me in taking on the responsibility.”

Shah, a Molecular Biology concentrator, dances for the Princeton Bhangra team and has launched an entrepreneurship organization called Alimtas Bioventures while on campus. He hopes to give back to a community that has “inspired,” “challenged,” and “energized” him to be the best version of himself.

“From launching an entirely new entrepreneurship organization to dancing for the Princeton Bhangra team, I have had the opportunity to live many different lives here and better understand what we, as students, want now and into the future,” he wrote in a statement. “It would be an honor to represent our class among the generations of Princetonians who call this place home."

Sinha, a computer science Major, has mentored students as an Assistant RCA and Peer Academic Advisor, and has represented the student voice to alumni in the past through the participation in the President’s Advisory Council and as Co-President of the Entrepreneurship Club. She is running to further promote the student voice in strategic University decisions.

“Through my work with expanding awareness and access to entrepreneurship on campus, I strive to embody Princeton’s unofficial motto, “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity” and show that social entrepreneurship can effectively bring about impactful change,” she wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’

Stankovikj, a Wilson School concentrator, works as a barista at the Coffee Club and as an Orange Key tour guide. He also serves as an attorney on the Mock Trial team, a Davis International Center Leader, and is the Chair of the Peer Representatives, a group that defends students accused of Honor Code violations. A Macedonia native, Stankovikj noted that “Princeton's endowment is twice the GDP of my country, and I wouldn't be here without the robust financial aid package that only Princeton could offer.”

“I’m the result of thoughtful decision-making by the Trustees — their decision to eliminate loans from financial aid packages has been crucial in enabling students like myself to attend Princeton,” he continued in a statement. “I’d love to be part of future change like this!”

Sultana, a molecular biology concentrator from Bangladesh, has served as a mentor with SIFP, as Communications Chair for the Princeton Bengal Tigers, and as a Board Member for the Scully Co-op. She has also been involved in the McGraw Center’s committee for transitioning to Canvas, in a Firestone Library focus group attempting to improve undergraduate research, and has volunteered for Annual Giving. To Sultana, her reason for running is “simple.”

“As a first-gen international student from Bangladesh, coming to Princeton has changed my life,” she wrote. “I have an immense sense of gratitude towards this place, and I’d like to pay it forward by dedicating my time to Princeton’s long and short-term decision making.”

Vera, an anthropology concentrator, is a first-generation college student, the founder of the Latino Medical Student Association, and the Academic Liaison of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students. Last year, Vera served as a U-Councilor, and she said her time in USG pushed her to run for YAT.

“While USG is a powerful force on campus, I always felt utterly helpless after attending the town hall meetings with our schools' administrators, discovering how little power we students actually have over the decisions that affect us most drastically. Additionally, I was often the only student on the Senate with unique perspectives on several issues and thus, made sure my voice and the voices of the students I was representing was heard,“ Vera wrote in a statement. “As YAT, I will listen to the needs of my fellow classmates and be the voice many need to speak up for them when large decisions are being decided that affect them and affect the future of our beloved university.”

Virk, a psychology concentrator, feels her past role as USG president qualifies her to be a YAT. Through that experience, Virk wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince,’ she has gained insight into the behind-the-scenes processes that lead to change within the University — effective knowledge for the YAT role.

“I hope to continue my work on policies that improve the holistic Princeton student experience — there is still more work to be done and more change to be made within the university, and I would be honored to be the student voice that brings about these changes,” she wrote.

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