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College presidents share priorities, interests

By Elizabeth Myong     3/9/16 9:47am

Chris Sabbagh

Jones College

David Doucet

Duncan College

Kenny Groszman

Hanszen College

Ly Nguyen

Martel College

Ankush Agrawal

Will Rice College

Yasmin Khalfe

Wiess College

Santiago Avila

Brown College

Bissy Michael

Sid Richardson College

Rahul Kothari

Lovett College

Paul Dingus

Baker College

Madhuri Venkateswar

McMurtry College

The incoming residential college presidents responded to a variety of the Thresher's questions ranging from their goals for the year to come to some of their favorite memories and facts about their colleges. More information to come for some of the presidents.

Paul Dingus, Baker College President

What motivated you to run for president?

Baker has been the central part of my Rice experience since day one: I have always loved the community and the people at Baker. Having served as Chief Justice the previous year, I was experienced at dealing with the administration and the inner workings of Baker. I thought this put me in a position and at a level of experience to do a lot of good for Baker as President.

What are the main goals you wish to accomplish during your presidency?

The Residential College community is one of the greatest things about Rice, in my opinion. Baker has an amazing community, but I hope to work together with my cabinet, Masters, and peers this next year to cultivate that community and make it the best we can. Over the next year, I hope to see more connectedness between the classes and different demographic groups at Baker, and more engagement in Baker events and projects. I hope to push Baker culture to place even more value on involvement and community events. Also I would like to get the outer commons in good shape because they are derelicte #brewlander2

What are the most important issues facing the student body given your role as a voting member of the SA?

As you can probably tell from what I’ve said so far, Baker College is the main focus of my presidency. I don’t foresee myself being the most active president with respect to the SA and college-wide issues. However, having served as a CJ, I would love to work towards shifting the role of SJP away from “hovering parent”. They were formed to serve as a judicial system, and that is the purpose that they should serve. I hope to work towards renovations of the public party system to put more of the process accountability on the colleges themselves, and allow for a more comprehensive range of public events. I don’t know if this is the most important issue facing campus, but it certainly deserves our attention.

Ankush Agrawal, Will Rice College President

What is your vision for WRC next year? What are your main goals for your presidency?

I understand some Will Ricers will choose to be more involved in the college than others, but I hope that everyone can still view Will Rice as their home. I want it so that any Will Ricer feels capable of making a college-specific or campus-wide change that they believe in, knowing that they will at least have the support of their residential college. With an ever greater appreciation for Will Rice will come a greater respect for our own facilities, a stronger culture of care, and a even more tight-knit community.

What do you feel other colleges or Rice should know about WRC?

Our RA Emeritus Gilbert Cuthbertson, also known as “Doc C” or “Doc” has been actively involved with Will Rice for over 50 years. You can catch him racking up points on the Foosball table in the Will Rice game room, telling stories from back then, or buying antiques off of Ebay in the Will Rice computer lab. It seems to me that many of our peers believe that Will Rice’s passion stems from our 5 “friendly” Sweeps and enjoyment of dominating other colleges on this one day since the beginning of time. However, the true source of our passion are from many individuals, such as Doc, whose unconditional and undying love for their home is felt by the entire community. Doc C embodies the heart and soul of this college.

What do you hope to accomplish campus-wide?

Especially in this past year, I think Rice has become increasingly better at engaging students in difficult conversations that many students are afraid to have. Next year, I hope this continues campus-wide through the efforts of each residential college, the SA, the Wellbeing Center, and other campus-wide groups. The level of intelligence and respect within the Rice community gives us a strong foundation to challenge each other’s beliefs in effort to increase our intellectual capacity.

Kenny Groszman, Hanszen College President

What are your main goals for your presidency?

My biggest goals for Hanszen are to to increase engagement and Hanszen spirit and to spend our budget more effectively. I especially want to Hanszenites to feel empowered to take their crazy and quirky ideas and turn them to reality.

What do you feel other colleges or Rice should know about Hanszen?

Back in the day, Hanszen was known as the Gentlemen's College because every Hanszenite was required to wear a tie to dinner. This rule was revoked when, in protest, some Hanszenites showed up to dinner wearing only their ties. We've since changed our label to the Family College.

What do you hope to accomplish campus-wide?

I hope mainly to serve as a voice for Hanszenites' opinions at campus-wide forums, to help revitalize the CJ role, and to fight for the Rice traditions that are the reason why so many of us are here.

Yasmin Khalfe, Wiess College President

What is your vision for Wiess next year? What are your main goals for your presidency?

My vision for Wiess comes down to two concepts: building community and increasing engagement. By facilitating interactions between Wiessmen through events, I hope to revitalize the culture and values that the residential college system promises, such as connection and belonging. I want to encourage engagement within the college through meaningful discussion on topics ranging from inclusion and integration of international students and athletes to issues surrounding race, gender, mental health, and sexual assault. By utilizing the connections I’ve built, working with Wiessmen, and acting as a facilitator, I have this goal: cut down the small talk, encourage the big talk. And with this, create meaningful discussion and authentic relationships to build a community with an appreciation for Wiess’s rich history and quirky culture.

What do you feel other colleges or Rice should know about Wiess?

First of all: it’s goldenrod, not yellow. We have objectively the most difficult to learn college cheer. The “F” in “TFW” can be interchanged for whatever your heart desires (Team Family Wiess for O-Week, Team Fun Friday Wiess to celebrate the weekend, Team Flapjack Wiess for those days you’re just craving pancakes…). Every time someone spells Wiess as “Wiess”, we get a dollar. It’s why we’re so rich. The Ubangee is an expression of love. Our advisors are called fellows and our fellows are called mentors…as you can probably tell, we take pride in being different. YEAH WIESS.

What do you hope to accomplish campus-wide?

In the same way that I want to build community and increase engagement at Wiess, I hope to translate these ideas on a campus-wide level. Building community means working towards the integration of all students, with special attention to those who often feel marginalized and left out of the Rice community - athletes, international students, underrepresented and minority groups. With all of the work this year that has been put into starting discussions surrounding sexual assault, mental health, and wellbeing, we can’t stop the conversation, and as President I want to continue pushing towards increasing engagement on a campus-wide level. Additionally, I want to increase communication and interaction between the colleges. I believe the President is a vital link between campus-wide leadership, the residential college, and administration, and I want to share the voice of the individuals I represent at Wiess to build the overarching Rice community.

Chris Sabbagh, Jones College President

What inspired you to run for president?

Through my time at Jones I discovered a passion for serving others. Above all I want to accommodate the needs of my peers and put them in a position to make an impact at the college and campus levels.

Favorite memory at your college?

Nothing will beat my freshman year O-Week experience. When we were washing off in the Fairy Fountain after the annual shaving cream fight, I distinctly remember thinking, "this is where I'm meant to be."

Top priority to achieve during your presidency?

Furthering Jones' culture of respect and care. I want to foster an environment in which students feel encouraged, maybe even obligated, to take action when they see something they don't like. From creating programs that meet student needs to overcoming the bystander effect and taking action when necessary, I believe this is an important value that should be instilled in every college's culture.

Biggest challenge you expect to face?

Addressing the issue of sexual misconduct. We're at a point where awareness is at an all time high, and we need to harness that energy into an effective solution.

What makes your college the most legendary?

It's pretty obvious...the fact that we've never lost in our 50+ year history. When you think of all-time great dynasties -- the '27 Yankees, the '96 Bulls, the '72 Dolphins -- Jones should come to mind immediately.

Favorite shower song?

Survivor by Destiny's Child. Not ashamed to say they were one of the first concerts I went to.

Predicted beer bike outcome for your college?

Yet another sweep for the winningest college.

Deepest darkest secret?

I was eliminated from the Spelling Bee in 4th grade on the word "captain." Apparently it's not spelled "capitan," who knew?

Santiago Avila, Brown College President

What inspired you to run for president?

Running for president had always been on my mind, but had it not been for the persistent encouragement of two close friends and the support of countless others, I would not have run as a rising junior. I’m incredibly thankful for them.

Favorite memory at your college?

Brown Night Bike!

Top priority to achieve during your presidency?

Streamline communication between the administration and the college and the college leadership and students.

Biggest challenge you expect to face?

Reaching the individuals that are traditionally underrepresented and encouraging voices that often go unheard.

What makes your college the most legendary?

Nancy Henry, Bacchanalia, and our savage traditions

Favorite shower song?

“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton

Predicted beer bike outcome for your college?


Deepest darkest secret?

I was told not to answer this.

Rahul Kothari, Lovett College President

What is your vision for Lovett next year?

Every single member of Lovett College should take pride in calling Lovett their home. I want to continue to push for more involvement from Lovetteers, especially from those who are not directly involved with the Central Committee, and make sure that no voice goes unheard. We are in a unique position to shape our college experiences through our student-governed residential colleges and I plan to take every opportunity I can to make sure that every student’s experience is a positive one.

What do you feel other colleges or Rice should know about Lovett?

I have found that a lot of people from other colleges believe that we only have four or five floors, so let me set the record straight by confirming that we do, in fact, have six floors. Check out the view from sixth—it’s pretty rad.

What do you hope to accomplish campus-wide?

I am so grateful to be in a position where I get to regularly interact with fellow student leaders and administrators on campus. My hope is to do my best to be a representative voice of my peers and to help advocate for solutions to issues that are pressing to the student body.

Bissy Michael, Sid Richardson College President

What is your vision for Sid next year?

My vision for Sid is to make sure that Sidizens with creative ideas get the help and support they need to do cool stuff within and outside of the college. Additionally, I want to make Sid Councils run more efficiently and transparently.

What do you feel other colleges or Rice should know about Sid?

Widely considered the architectural gem of Rice campus, Sid Richardson is the only quad-less college, although all of the suites are quads.

What do you hope to accomplish campus-wide?

I want to represent the opinions of Sid in an informed and concise fashion during campus-wide discussions.

Ly Nguyen, Martel College President

What inspired you to run for president?

Being involved in this past year's Martel O-week, I was inspired by the incredible dynamic and support between the advisors and their new students and between the advisors themselves. It is this kind of camaraderie and support that I would like to encourage and see spread throughout the entire college, among and between classes, that can be sustained long past O-week and even my presidency. I also need to give a shout out to my friends who gave me the nudge that I needed to realize that I wanted to be the person to help lead and foster this family of a college and that I had what it takes to do it.

Favorite memory at your college?

During freshman year, there was a night when the power went out across campus during most of the math exams, so everyone was heading back to Martel. Somehow, everyone ended up on the sundeck, someone brought their guitar, and we all stood around in a circle singing along. It was such a spontaneous, kumbaya moment, but one that made Martel truly feel like a family.

Top priority to achieve during your presidency?

Honestly, I just want people to feel like they are heard, that they belong, and that they are happy at Martel. I realize that this is super vague, but I want the students at Martel to define what the best way is for them to be heard, what would make feel like they belong, and what would make them the happiest. My job would be to cater to those definitions as best that I can by providing the resources and support them happen.

Biggest challenge you expect to face?

Probably accepting the fact that I won't be able to make everyone happy and not letting that drag me down.

What makes your college the most legendary?

Beer Bike morning.

Favorite shower song?

Pillowtalk (duh)

Predicted beer bike outcome for your college?

Not last, not first.

Madhuri Venkateswar, McMurtry College President

What motivated you to run for president?

My main motivation for running for president was to drive structural change within McMurtry. We do a lot of great things - from our huge cultural McScottish night, to our Friday in the Quad events. However, I want to empower McMurtry to be phenomenal by engaging more Associates and Alumni effectively, systematizing the annual events that we do, streamling the way we work, and ultimately aligning our efforts so we’re best meeting the needs of Murts.

As President, I want to constantly empower Murts to think creatively and keep asking the question of how we can make things better for future years. I’m really excited to carry my ideas forward!

What are the main goals you wish to accomplish during your presidency?

First, I want to create a long-term strategic plan for McMurtry so that efforts are made within the context of a larger agenda rather than in a vacuum. Second, I want to solidify both our Alumni and Associates base. Because we are a new college, we have a lot of potential to engage Alumni and Associates creatively and effectively. Third, I want to solidify a fluid budgeting system so that money can be moved around during the semester to better initiatives we are doing.

Ultimately, my goal is for McMurtry student leadership to work with Murts to create the best experience for everyone.

What do you hope to accomplish as a voting member of the SA?

During this past year, I have served on the STRIVE (Students Transforming Rice Into a Violence-free Environment) Executive Council. We just launched our STRIVE College Liaison program so that there are two trained students at every college who can act as resources regarding sexual assault prevention. Using my platform as a voting member of the SA, I hope to solidify the legitimacy of this program at a residential college level.

Additionally, I hope to get more involved in campus-wide discussion about accessibility of Rice programming to low-income, minority, and first-generation students.

David Doucet, Duncan College President

What are your priorities and plans as president?

As Duncan president my priorities are to keep our government meetings running smoothly and efficiently, and to ensure that everyone at Duncan feels they have a voice in the decisions that are being made.

Why did you want to be president?

Wherever I go, my goal is to have a positive impact on my community. I've tried to meet this goal throughout my time here, and thought that serving as Duncan president would be a great way to make a difference during my senior year.

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