Gaurav Ganguli, Jacalin Emanuel and Lucas Rizzo

New student council allows Stuckeman School students to thrive in leadership roles

By Katherine Dietrich

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —  A group of self-motivated College of Arts and Architecture students, including several Stuckeman School students, took the initiative to establish a new student council to represent the college’s interests in the larger University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) setting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The college hadn’t had its own council for years, until January 2020 when a few students decided to create one to guarantee representation among UPUA and foster collaboration within the college.

The council began with less than 10 students but quickly grew to more than 40 members. Council members represent all of disciplines within the college, but a majority of the officers are Stuckeman School students.

Gaurav Ganguli, an architecture student and the president of the Arts and Architecture Student Council, says he was motivated to find a leadership position that would help him in his future career as an architect. Ganguli aspires to start his own design firm one day and is using his skills as a student council president to do so.

“This is going to really help me build my leadership skills,” Ganguli said. “This is definitely going to help me learn the process of becoming a leader.”

With one year on the council under their belts, the student council officers have already used their experience to help them grow academically and professionally. Fellow architecture student Jacalin Emanuel is the council’s student engagement officer.

“Our industry, especially architecture, is very collaborative … The student council board is a very collaborative environment, we are always helping each other out. I’m always trying to get people involved,” Emanuel said.

It’s remarkable that they were able to form [the council] in the midst of the pandemic. They had to be extremely innovative and really motivated to keep going.” – Kendall Mainzer

Secretary of the council Hamza Jamjoom has also learned valuable communication skills from his time as an officer and hopes to apply them to his future career as an architect.

“I’m always trying to ensure that the goals that are discussed in officer meetings are shared with the whole community and if there’s anything the community is discussing, I bring that back to the officers,” he said.

While fostering collaboration within the College of Arts and Architecture, the officers were able to implement positions that students in the college care deeply about. They chose to elect an equity and inclusion officer and a sustainability officer to allow all student interests to be represented.

“My goal for my position is to make sure we have an avenue for students to come and talk to the council for any inclusion problems and I want to make sure there are avenues for us to change curricula,” said Lucas Rizzo, a landscape architecture student and the equity and inclusion officer.

Implementing a new student council was one of the many challenges the officers have had to face. In the very beginning of their establishment, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Even though the council has more than 40 active members, they have never met in person.

It’s remarkable that they were able to form [the council] in the midst of the pandemic,” said Kendall Mainzer, the college’s arts ambassador director and the advisor of the Arts and Architecture Student Council. “They’ve been under the additional stress of having to demonstrate to the Arts and Architecture student community the value of having a student government when everybody’s scattered … They had to be extremely innovative and really motivated to keep going.”

While Mainzer was able to provide guidance where needed, the students took the initiative to organize the meetings and ensure they were creating an interactive environment. Even in a pandemic, the students were able to maintain involvement and allow the college to be represented at the University level.

“The power is in the numbers of artists, designers, performers, historians coming together and sharing what they face but also collaborating,” said Mainzer. “I always saw that as being a powerful opportunity and I didn’t want them to miss out on the chance to be represented at the level of the UPUA.”

Without proper documentation or a legacy left from a previous council, the small group of students were able to create their own legacy with their passion for their community.

“One of the goals we have is connecting the different majors within the college together and we could bring the creative side when we join together. That was something that motivated me to start all of this,” said Jamjoom.

The inspiration behind starting a new council came from Alex Wu, the college’s 2019-2020 UPUA representative and now treasurer of the Arts and Architecture student council. With a double major in cello performance and political science, Wu was able to connect his passion to the School of Music and use his political science background to allow College of Arts and Architecture students to gain the representation they needed.

Wu approached Mainzer for guidance and then met with B. Stephen Carpenter II, the dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, before he began recruiting interested students.

“The Arts and Architecture Student Council represents the perseverance in pursuit of artistic and academic excellence shared by all students within the college, regardless of discipline,” said Wu. “To me, the council is a launching point, allowing Arts and Architecture students and the University to better understand each other’s fields and academic challenges.”

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