Student Body President Sophia Nguyen reflects on her administration, her travels to Japan and what the future holds for her.
BY BRAD BYRNE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Editors Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Why don’t you talk about the success of this year’s Mason Lobbies?
I’m so happy to be talking about it! I would say that out of all the events Student Government has hosted, this has been the most popular, but also the most necessary event we’ve had so far. We took a total of over 60 students down to Richmond to lobby for more funding for the university, which I think is very needed considering we have low wages for our teachers and for our janitorial staff. Overall, we just need more competitiveness towards our staff and faculty members, in my opinion. I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of higher pay, but I think this is necessary. Funding will be able to allow Mason more opportunities for more accessibility and more factors towards expanding the university as well.
How’s the status of Student Government and your administration? I know one of your big initiatives was a lot of outreach and making sure that students know what Student Government does for them. Do you think you’ve been successful in that?
We’ve been really successful with partnering with student organizations. With this upcoming farmer’s market, it be a huge event, where we will be partnering with sustainable organizations, cultural organizations, and just all of that. So, I’m really excited for that partnership.
We also had our women’s history panel today, which we partnered with CCE and the Center for Wellbeing, but also women-based organizations on campus.
I think in general this year we were happy to receive a lot of interest in Student Government, especially students who were involved in student organizations. I think that really did bridge the gap between the disconnect that we had in previous years, it’s been really successful.
Do you think that the Student Senate has been successful with the bills they’ve been passing?
I would say that we have been more proactive. Most recently, we passed a resolution to support Turkish and Syrian students impacted by the earthquake. We partnered with the Brazilian Student Association and they had created a fundraiser. And, we supported them by stating in this resolution that we would help promote the fundraiser, but also help the Brazilian Student Association’s initiatives to bring support to the students as well.
We have definitely been more proactive in the international conflicts that are affecting our international students, but also students who resonate from those countries. I really like that we’re being active in that and not just solely focusing on domestic issues that are happening. I think all issues impact our students.
So let’s talk about what you were doing in Japan?
I could talk about it for hours! I visited Japan to study US-Japan diplomatic relations. It was hosted by the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Students (APAICS) and the Japanese International Cooperation Center. I was invited to attend, along with 18 other Asian-American students. It was a really great time and we were able to visit Tokyo, where we were met by the Deputy Chief to the Prime Minister, but also a Foreign Service Officer, where we visited the Foreign Ministry. It was really great, despite the language barriers of course, but obviously, the translator helped both sides and we were able to grasp a sense of knowledge on specific issues that Japan has been facing.
What has been your situation with harassment by this “Joey” individual?
One day I was approached by this white male who had started the conversation by flirting with me and ended the conversation by saying extremely inappropriate and racist things towards me. Basically saying that all Asians eat cats and dogs. I’ve been working with Mason PD to identify the person. However, to identify the person, I needed to get his name. I heard that he was spotted around campus near Horizon Hall approaching women, especially women of color, with inappropriate questions. So I finally have gotten his name, and his name is “Joey P”. I would just like to urge everyone to be wary of him and if you do become approached by him to call Mason PD immediately and take a picture of him. I was told that today, he was wearing a green flannel and a black jacket, the same jacket he was wearing when he harassed me.
What do you want the lasting legacy of the Nguyen-Apenteng administration to be at Mason?
For my lasting impression of our administration, I would like people to know that we rebuilt it from the bottom up. I think we came into this position not really knowing what we should do and we weren’t really given too much direction.
We have attracted students who are genuinely interested in making a change on campus. I think when a lot of people think of Student Government, they think, “Oh, they’re doing it for the resume, they don’t really care.” But I think for the students that we’ve had in our administration, I’ve seen a lot of growth in our leadership, I’ve seen a lot of passion and involvement toward our other student groups on campus and just a passion for making GMU better. But also, having students who have an amplified voice when it comes to Mason’s administration and they’re not afraid to tell them what’s up, I really love that.
Where can we expect to find you in the future?
I’m starting my graduate studies this fall at Mason, so I will be here. I’m hoping to be more involved in my AAPI advocacy. You will also find me in Fenwick Library, studying and trying to finish my graduate studies.