Getting to know this year’s 5C student government presidents

A composite image of 5 college age students.
Meet this year’s student government presidents. Clockwise from top left: Payal Kachru PO ’21, Becca Zimmerman PZ ’21, Mariesa Teo HM ’22, Johnson Lin CM ’21 and Safia Hassan SC ’21. (Courtesy: Portraits courtesy of respective persons.)

With classes online and campuses closed, 5C students aren’t getting to meet their student government presidents in person this semester. Despite the virtual setbacks, the leaders are still pressing on — all have goals they hope to accomplish this semester. Get to know the 5C student government presidents here.

Becca Zimmerman PZ ’21, Pitzer Student Senate

Becca Zimmerman PZ ’21 is excited to start the school year strong by strengthening the bonds within the Pitzer College community. 

“Student Senate seemed like a great way to not only get involved with Pitzer students, but also administrators and faculty,” she said. “I was looking for something that would bring a sense of community into my experience at Pitzer.”

Her dedication to the Pitzer community shows in what she wishes to accomplish this year. At the start of the pandemic, Zimmerman attended COVID-19 Task Force meetings, and she continues to use her free time for COVID-19 planning. Recognizing the unprecedented nature of the virtual semester, Zimmerman is attempting to provide an accessible and supportive student experience to the best of her ability.

“I want to make sure that no one is left in the dust in both the pandemic and resurgence of the civil rights movement,” she said. “There’s the practical component of making sure no one is left behind by prioritizing access to technology and making sure that we have proper support for students who are learning in different environments. We also want to make sure that Senate and Pitzer are moving forward in terms of supporting Black students and low-income students on campus.”

Overall, Zimmerman looks forward to working with the other 5C student governments to help students through unprecedented circumstances.

“As we navigate through the fall semester together, I want to make sure that it’s not an ‘every school for themselves’ attitude and [it stays] supportive consortium-wide to keep that community strong, even when we’re at home,” she said. 

Mariesa Teo HM ’22, ASHMC

Since her first year in Claremont, Mariesa Teo HM ’22 knew she wanted to make a difference in the Harvey Mudd College community.  

“I always knew I wanted to get involved in student government and felt that I could take on more. I wanted to make a difference,” Teo said.

Teo wants to help HMC students, especially first-years, transition to the new school year, she said. Teo is dedicated to creating a Mudd experience as indicative of a normal semester as possible. With the recognition that online schooling can be difficult for many, she hopes to help foster relationships between first-years and others they would normally meet on campus. 

“I want to make sure that the Harvey Mudd community is as tightly knit as before, especially for the frosh who didn’t get to meet all their peers on campus, as well as the professors and faculty,” she said.

Despite not being able to see them in person, Teo is still excited about the prospect of meeting others. 

“The best part about being president is being able to interact with members of the Mudd community, like the administration, the faculty, staff and students, and working with them to create an online learning experience,” she said. 

Primarily, Teo is placing emphasis this year on helping the HMC student body adjust to the new learning environment to the best of her abilities. 

“Although I’m not able to solve every problem that comes to me, I want to make life easier for students, especially now, because education can be so gruelling. I want to make this year and the next as not terrible as possible. I would like to be part of making sure that Mudders are taken care of,” she said.

Payal Kachru PO ’21, ASPC

Payal Kachru PO ’21 is not new to the student government scene. She’s been first-year class president, sophomore campus representative and was executive vice president her junior year. 

“It’s been quite the progression, but now, here I am,” Kachru said. 

The experience that she’s accumulated over the past three years plays a role in what she wishes to accomplish as ASPC president. 

“Since I’ve been in ASPC since my first year, I’ve realized that it’s hard for a lot of senators to get things done. You never know who to talk to or connect with to get work done,” she said. “I think I’ve finally amassed a good amount of knowledge where I can say ‘If you want this done, go to this person’ or ‘Let me introduce you to this person.’”

Besides helping senators at Pomona College implement their campaigns and agendas, Kachru is currently working on changing Pomona’s point system to that of a warning-based system, similar to the other 5Cs. This way, students won’t receive penalties based on points accrued, such as being penalized in the college’s room draw — meeting with the alcohol and other drugs counselor or speaking with a dean would be the sole action taken. In addition, she is working on including students in the conversation surrounding whether they will be returning to campus in the spring. 

“My priority is figuring out what’s happening in the spring semester and giving students a full and robust image of what to expect, as well as the tools they need to make the best decision for themselves,” she said. “At the end of the day, student safety and livelihood is more important than a budget.” 

To accomplish her goals, Kachru said she spends an average of eight to 10 hours a day on ASPC work alone. However, she finds this work very rewarding because of how it can help others. 

“[I love] those moments when you talk to underclassmen or any one of your peers and they’re very thankful for something you did. Or when they’re in a moment where they are very lost or hurt by something and you have the ability to change it or make it better for them,” she said. 

Safia Hassan SC ’21, Scripps Associated Students

Safia Hassan SC ’21 is driven by the tangible, positive changes she’s made to Scripps College through her roles as secretary, diversity and inclusion chair and co-treasurer. Now, as SAS president, she hopes to continue this trend and make life easier for Scripps students. 

“When we were asked to leave campus pretty unexpectedly due to COVID, my co-treasurer and I created the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund,” Hassan said. “That was an initiative spearheaded by staff entirely to financially support students with expenses such as groceries, hygiene products, prescriptions, etc. We were able to meet 100 percent of all student requests.” 

Following the success of the COVID-19 student relief fund, Hassan is now working on a Scripps resource map. She hopes to have space on the SAS website to compile resources into categories so students can easily get connected with the right resources. 

“It’s challenging when you’re in a more time-pressing scenario to do this research on your own. I think this is a resource that’s been needed for a long time,” she said. 

Hassan also hopes to divide the board into working groups to address areas of inequity and discrimination within the Scripps community.

“One of the working groups is to create a bias incident reporting mechanism for students to report instances anonymously, whether it was a faculty member said something that was inappropriate or made them feel uncomfortable or whether it was another student,” she said. “Just being able to have a log of these instances [would be helpful].”

Hassan said she is motivated to implement these changes because of the students at Scripps.  

“Scripps students and the community at large, including our alum, are very energized and determined to create change. It’s really incredible [to be] able to work with these types of people on issues we all find important,” she said.

Johnson Lin CM ’21, ASCMC 

Johnson Lin CM ’21 holds the title of being the longest serving member of ASCMC. Before running for president, Lin served as class president for three consecutive yearlong terms. 

Through his experience on ASCMC’s Executive Board, he was able to “observe and learn from several different administrations and styles of leadership,” he said via email. 

After learning from others on Executive Board, Lin has a clear vision of what he wishes to accomplish this year: promoting transparency between CMC students and faculty. 

“I’m working towards establishing a more formal relationship between students and faculty in terms of academic affairs. Fortunately, this has already somewhat come to fruition in my establishing of an Academic Working Group, but there’s definitely more progress to be made,” he said. 

Besides student-faculty relationships, Lin also hopes to promote diversity and inclusion within ASCMC itself. 

“We’re working on things like empowering affinity groups, reimagining our election process, setting community guidelines for our events, and so much more,” he said. “I think ASCMC has a tremendous capacity to make CMC a more welcoming place for all members of our community.” 

With all of these goals to accomplish, Lin acknowledges that he has a lot of work to do as ASCMC president. However, he finds the work meaningful due to the impact it has on his fellow students.

“Knowing that my hard work enables and empowers my peers is extremely motivating,” he said. “Even though the work sometimes feels endless, knowing that I’m providing my peers with the resources to succeed puts a smile on my face.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that Payal Kachru is a part of the class of 2020. She is part of the class of 2021. A photo caption also misstated that Mariesa Teo is a part of the class of 2021. She is part of the class of 2022. TSL regrets this error.

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