When Advocacy Meets Academics

By: Mark Borges on Jan 29, 2020 in ASI Student Government


In the past few weeks, I have been asked if I ever saw myself dedicating the amount of time and energy I have to our Student Government program at Cal Poly. I usually respond with “absolutely not.” Coming to Cal Poly after a rigorous high school experience filled with both intra- and extracurricular activities, I was ready to enjoy living 15 minutes from the beach and even half that time from some amazing hiking trails. However, one thing led to another, and now I am about halfway into my term as Cal Poly’s student body president. Here are just a few lessons I have learned since taking office:

  1. Change takes a tenacious attitude. My role has confirmed my belief that a fresh set of eyes can bring about sustainable, positive change. During one of my first projects in my role as student body president, I was determined to see that the university recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day. This concept was met with procedures, rules, and policies that would make this effort more difficult, but my mind was set. In working with our indigenous students, staff, and faculty and by working with the CSU Chancellor’s Office, a process was identified and the change was adopted. Experiences like these have encouraged me to see hesitation and opposition as a challenge to stay persistent in my efforts.
  2. People are your most valuable resource. Starting in this position, I was ready to tackle every single issue a student could face while living their Cal Poly experience. The possibilities are endless and the chance to make change is so enticing, but I came to the stark reality that time is a finite resource. However, I pushed myself to see the positive side of this challenge — that I have the rare opportunity to work with a diverse group of my peers in Student Government to leverage individual strengths and passions for a collective cause. I believe this is how we will make a better Cal Poly together. It starts with a good team, a great vision, and the best of intentions.
  3. Balance is key. One stark realization I have faced is the fact that the “to-do list” never ends. In our world of inequities and efficiency, there is always something to work on or improve. Unfortunately, self-care is not usually a priority in the workplace. Centered on the pillars of sustainability, diversity and inclusion, health and wellbeing, and empowering student voices, my platform includes four areas of campus life that will always have room for improvement. I have realized that I could start new initiatives or draft multiple policy changes, but there will always be more to do. It is in this lesson I have learned to not only take better care of myself but also set time aside to focus on building a stronger foundation that allows the work of student leaders to compound over time.

While many more lessons are evident, these three have remained consistent in my day-to-day responsibilities. To any student who is considering running for office, I would challenge you to think not about the limitations of adding an additional responsibility, but rather what opportunities you would be missing if you did not run for a position. It may just change the course of your career path as it did mine. Filing for positions on the ASI Board of Directors (the legislative body of Student Government) and ASI president opens on Feb. 3 on the ASI elections website. For questions, feel free to reach out to me at maborges@calpoly.edu.

Headshot of ASI President Mark Borges smiling


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