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College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

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Title Art by ADHL
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SLC Forum Highlights the Leadership and Initiatives of Its Candidates

Eleven out of twelve student candidates gathered to discuss how they would serve the COD community if they were elected to the Student Leadership Council.
Photo+by+Rachel+Wagner
Photo by Rachel Wagner

Dressed in business casual with opening statements in hand, eleven Student Leadership Council candidates appealed to their fellow peers and potential voters at the Candidate Forum last Thursday, presenting their plans to strengthen resources and community at COD. On March 13 through 14, students will have the ability to vote for SLC student representatives online. The council works similarly to a student body government and representatives act as advocates for the general student population.

As stated on their website, “The Student Leadership Council will aid in the individual and collective development of College of DuPage students by collaborating with the college community and by providing educated representation, service, and leadership to the Student Body.”

The council is elected democratically and any COD student who takes at least one credit can vote. SLC consists of a flexible number of officers, student representatives who are appointed within the council and one student trustee, who works directly with COD’s Board of Trustees and has a non-binding vote for board decisions.

In ballot order, the officer candidates are Angel Lim, Aahil Syed, Ishil Chaudhary, Luv Vithani, Divine Nkanga, Shahid Khatib, Anam Sultana, Sadaf Khan, Christopher Barrientos, Mahamadou Ndiaye, Ash Khandker and Carson Fenne. In addition to the officer role, Chaudhary and Sultana are running for the student trustee position. A link to all candidate statements can be found here.

During the forum, candidates described what they felt needed to be changed on the COD campus, certain initiatives they wanted to enact, and what leadership skills and qualities they would bring to the council.

The forum was organized by sitting SLC members, with Vice President Carlos Muñoz and President Ayesha Shafiuddin moderating and officer Zohaib Quadri timing candidate responses.

SLC Vice President Carlos Muñoz (left) and President Ayesha Shafiuddin (right)(Rachel Wagner)

The event was structured into three parts – an opening statement, questions from the moderators and the audience, and a closing statement, asked in ballot order. Sadaf Khan, who is running as an officer, was unable to make the event.

 

For the question portion of the forum, all students were asked how they would uphold the SLC mission statement. Then, candidates were asked either about their leadership style or what initiatives that they wanted to start, based on their candidate statements. Lastly, the floor was opened up to audience questions. The trustee candidates, Chaudhary and Sultana, began first, followed by the remaining officers in ballot order.

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Ishil Chaudhary

Candidacy: Officer and Student Trustee
Major: Computer and Information Technology
Involvement: President of Computer Science Club, member of SLC, Asian Student Association, Engineering and Technology

Chaudhary emphasized his existing leadership experience at COD.

“I have already experienced addressing the Board of Trustees and President Caputo as the president of the Computer Science Club multiple times about student involvement,” said Chaudhary. “And, speaking to everyday students, traditional and non-traditional alike, busy with their lives, about how the quality of being on campus can be improved.”

He also addressed an important initiative to him, transfer outcomes.

“As of now, there is an inadequate amount of transfer resources at COD as students often have to do their own research, especially for those looking to transfer to out-of-state institutions, such as Harvard University,” said Chaudhary.

And while highly selective universities are increasingly looking toward matriculating community college students, Harvard University’s transfer program has historically only accepted 1% of applicants, making this a tall order.

When Munoz asked about how candidates would contribute to the SLC mission, Chaudhary responded candidly.

“Bringing more people is what is going to attract people to want to bring change to campus,” he said.

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Anam Sultana

Candidacy: Officer and Student Trustee
Major: Biology
Involvement: President of UNICEF Club, member of Living Leadership Program, Peer Support Group, Student Leadership Council.

 

Sultana followed by focusing on her leadership philosophy and experience.

“I appreciate COD’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment.  I value the sense of community and belonging I feel here and the opportunities it provides for personal growth,” said Sultana. “I am excited about the prospect of contributing to the continued improvement of our college in ensuring that all students have a voice in shaping their educational experience.”

Sultana has performed in many leadership positions and club involvement, experience, including SLC itself, the Living Leadership program, and as president of the UNICEF club.

She outlined the importance of shared expectations.

“The way I would work with a team is first establishing a social contract. I think it’s very important to know and respect each other’s boundaries and what they value,” Sultana said. “Relationship building is a really important aspect, especially if you are going to work with [someone] as long as a whole term.”

Within the Q&A session, Sultana acknowledges the lack of involvement on campus.

“I think the main issue is student engagement. When I was getting signatures and even talking to my classmates about SLC, nobody knew what SLC was; nobody knew what student life was, even,” Sultana said. “I would really like to bring awareness to student engagement and bring awareness to SLC, because it is a very important resource.”

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

 Angelica Lim
Candidacy: Officer
Major: Marketing
Involvement: SLC student representative, women’s lacrosse player, social media assistant for the Financial Aid Office, planning manager for Oxfam Banquet

As for the officers, Angel Lim began with her opening statement featuring her networking abilities across campus.

She referenced her large amount of experience with peer mentoring, playing on the lacrosse team, and her role as social media manager for the Financial Aid office.

“These allow me to touch different bases along the school and meet different people,” Lim said. “As a well-known talker, I have met many people who don’t really know what is offered at this school.

“I will continue to share my voice to make sure we as a community can maximize these opportunities and foster these connections. I believe that student input is extremely important, but it cannot be made without the knowledge of the tools offered here, which is why I feel like I could help fill in that gap,” Lim said.

Lim will use her knowledge of social media management, campus marketing, and event planning to assist her outreach goals.

“It is not about [students] coming to SLC, it’s bringing SLC to them.”

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Aahil Syed
Candidacy: Officer
Major: Computer Science
Involvement: SLC student representative, project manager for Computer Science Club, Hackathon co-lead

Aahil Syed was next, focusing his opening statement with his own experiences implementing tangible change within multiple leadership positions.

“In my time as a representative, I have advocated for student needs, particularly as a member of the college-wide Completion Committee. There, I have raised critical issues pertaining to student attrition, striving to implement changes that allow students to enhance their overall experiences in our institution,” said Syed.

“One of my notable contributions was in the management of [Oxfam] hunger banquet, an event that taught me invaluable lessons in teamwork and leadership. This experience underscored the importance of clear communication and effective delegation to ensure the success of our collective endeavors,” said Syed. “At SLC, we have the opportunity to create opportunities for our students to help polish their leadership abilities.

“Together, we can foster an environment of inclusivity, innovation, and inspiration,” said Syed.

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Luv Vithani
Candidacy: Officer
Major: Business and Finance
Involvement: Vice President of Peer Mental Health Project, officer of Chapparal Activities Board, VITA Free Tax Prep program assistant

Luv Vithani followed, drawing on his initiatives to make campus more accessible.

“Today, I want to share with you my goal to tackle the financial and mental health challenges facing our community. Armed with expertise in finance and a profound understanding of the complexion of student life, I aim to address the pressing issues of tuition hikes and the cost of study materials head on. Additionally, the urgency of mental health cannot be overstated,” says Vithani.

Vithani is the vice president of the Peer Support Group at COD, which aims at improving mental health for students across campus. They have completed their first phase, and are now in the design process.

“We have already scheduled visits with Waubonsee College, and we are planning to go to U of I and UChicago to look at those programs, analyze the design… and design a project that best fits our community college,” he explained.

He also believes we should highlight athletics for increased community engagement.

“I see myself going to games, watching games, supporting. When we watch sports, we come together.

“I am committed to leading with transparency, empathy, and innovation. My vision is not only to overcome those objectives, but to transform our campus into a place where every student can thrive academically, financially, and emotionally,” said Vithani.

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Divine Nkanga
Candidacy: Officer
Major: Software Development
Involvement: President of Open Studio Art Club, member of Computer Science Club, Black Student Alliance, Latinos Unidos.

Divine Nkanga followed, emphasizing the need for student engagement at COD within her statement.

Drawing on her involvement on campus, Nkanga is an active member of Black Student Alliance, Computer Science Club, and Latinos Unidos, as well as President of the Open Studio Art Club. Nkanga says joining these clubs was a pivotal moment in her time at COD.

“I realized that there’s so many people here who have great talents, interests, and great ideas,” said Nkanga. “As students, we should be more open to finding those connections, the community should be more revitalized, and I believe that as Student Leadership Council officer, it would be my duty to make sure that the students know where their community is and the proper channels to find out how to contribute.”

As president of Open Studio Art Club, Nkanga hopes to apply creativity and innovation to opportunities at COD.

“I also want to expand on more artistic careers and personal duties that people may have interest in, and I just find that to be a very passionate subject of mine,” Nkanga concluded.

“It’s not that we have a lack of [talented students], it’s just we don’t have enough outreach because they don’t know what opportunities SLC could help foster.”

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Shahid Khatib

Candidacy: Officer

Major: Software Engineering

Involvement: COD Votes, New Student Orientation leader, member of Computer Science Club, Esports, SLC.

 

Shahid Khatib was the only student to stand while he spoke. He has experience within bureaucratic positions.

“Throughout my time here, I have actively engaged in numerous clubs, organizations, and events, each contributing to the foundation of my leadership philosophy,” said Khatib. “I work on campus as a COD Votes coordinator, and doing so has given me the opportunity to foster civic learning within our campus community, while also representing the voices of community college students before state legislators.

“It’s this fervor that propels me to help every student I come across on campus, whether it’s making sure they are heard or actively working to better the environment they learn in,” said Khatib.

“My main goal would be to advertise [SLC] events, because we have a lot of them,” said Khatib. “We can ensure that leadership opportunities are offered to everybody and people know that this is an opportunity for everyone”

His final remarks referenced a true desire to lead.

“I said this for my last student rep. position when I was running, but I hope that you guys elect me because I am really enthusiastic about this position and can’t wait to make change, but in the event that I am not, I am still going to go out and do the work to ensure that every student is heard and has an advocate to listen to them,” Khatib concluded.

Photo by Sadaf Khan

 

Sadaf Khan
Candidacy: Officer
Major: Psychology
Involvement: Chaparral Activities Board, Asian Student Association, Muslim Student Association, and SLC member.

Sadaf Khan could not make the forum, but her goals include prioritizing mental health for students to have a safe and comfortable environment and utilizing involvement in clubs to promote inclusive campus life for diverse students.

 

Christopher Barrientos
Candidacy: Officer
Major: Computer Science and Economics

Photo by Rachel Wagner


Involvement: SLC member, Peer Mental Health Support Group, Oxfam Hunger Banquet volunteer, Latinos Unidos


Barrientos gave a speech about his leadership skills and successes.

“Drawing from my background as a treasurer of Tri-M, experience as a band officer and leader in high school, coupled with my recent success as a temporary supervisor overseeing a team of 15 workers, I am well prepared to bring leadership, organization, and innovation to this role,” Barrientos stated.

Barrientos also spoke about how he would interact with his fellow appointees if elected.

“I am well prepared not only to oversee a lot of the projects that students have brought here today, but I feel as though my leadership style will be most compatible with them as well. I am eager to contribute my skills and vision to continue a positive trajectory and unlock the full potential of our community.”

He is also a member of the Peer Mental Health Project.

“I have a lot of skills that are particularly good when it comes to designing things, organizing things, and setting goals to actually be able to achieve what we’re doing here,” said Barrientos. “What I would do in my role is ensure that these projects are getting done, in a timely manner, and so that it can reach and support as many students as possible

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Mahamadou Ndiaye
Candidacy: Officer
Major: Business
Involvement: member of Entrepreneurship Club, Business Club, Accounting Club, local soccer league

 

Mahamadou Ndiaye went afterward with his statements.

“There are two primary reasons why I am interested in this position,” Ndiaye began “Firstly, I ensure that every student is aware of the opportunities and support that is available to them by better communicating the services that College of DuPage offers to their students. The second is kind of personal, but I look to nurture my professional and personal skills and qualities.”

Ndiaye brings a perspective as an international student, having emigrated from Senegal in West Africa. He is also a first-generation college student, highly valuing the impact that an enriching education can have on an individual.

He also wants to encourage student involvement across campus. Ndiaye’s main initiative lies in helping the Food Security Initiative, which provides food items for COD community members.

“The issue that I found in most of the clubs is that it is not as engaging as I wanted it to be,” Ndiaye. “The best way to represent someone is to understand them, so I will spend more time with the students and better understand their problems. From there, we can find a solution.”

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Ash Khandkar
Candidacy: Officer

Major: Management & Software Development
Involvement: SLC member, student liaison of OER Committee, student liaison of Innovation DuPage, member of Accounting Club, Business Club, Asian Student Association

 

Ash Khandkar brings another outlook on implementing change on campus. He was previously a radio design engineer, but he returned to COD 20 years later as a Management student.

“I am running for Student Council officer because I believe I can help… as many students as possible as quickly as possible,” Khandkar said. “I want to help the single mother crying in the international hall running back and forth between the Financial Aid office and Student Life trying to figure out who can actually help her.”

For Khandker, it is a matter of efficiency and allocation, finding practical solutions to big problems.

“I want to bring the community together and make the resources that already exist, there are quite a lot of resources, as everybody has mentioned, that exist at COD. Everything is not up to the administration to solve; we can help each other,” said Khandker. “I could bring my experience and bring my practical sense of solving problems to create a better solution for all of us.”

He is also interested in the affordability of education, especially looking into the implementation of Open Educational Resources to reduce the costs of textbooks on campus.

“It is time for [SLC] to evolve… to meet the students where they are.”

 

Photo by Rachel Wagner

Carson Fenne
Candidacy: Officer
Involvement: Sci-Fi and Fantasy club, Improv Club, and the Percussion Ensemble

 

Carson Fenne was the final candidate to speak.

“I have been involved in several clubs including Sci-Fi and Fantasy club, Improv club, and the Percussion Ensemble at the college. The students in these groups are like me; welcoming, passionate and creative,” said Fenne.

“I am running for this position because I deeply care about COD and the success of its students,” said Fenne. “As a student officer, I will work hard to facilitate meaningful change between students and administration. I hope to bring new voices and ideas to the SLC.”

Fenne believes that he can use his club experiences to be an effective leader.

“The best steps [in conflict management] is to identify where the difference stems and try to have a dialogue to see if it can be resolved,” said Fenne. “[SLC needs] to have a culture of cooperation.

Fenne says that it is very difficult to schedule appointments with counselors, which is especially prevalent as COD decided to let go of all part-time counselors last May. Fenne believes that this should be a key issue among SLC.

“SLC can make a positive impact in specifically the issue of mental health,” he said.

Voting will take place on ChapLife.cod.edu on March 13 and 14. All currently enrolled COD students are engaged to place their vote. For more information about the issues the candidates plan to tackle and the steps they want to take, check out our other piece.

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  • Zohaib QuadriMar 12, 2024 at 5:42 pm

    Excellent synopsis! Looking forward to seeing the results!