Hitting the books

Elaine Helm

Creating new minority studies programs, improving the online registration process and promoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day events have been the major focus of the Associated Student Government academic vice president for years. But this year’s candidates, Mike Fong and Tamara Kagel, hope to further expand the role if elected.

Although the position is not glamorous, it does impact all of the students on campus, Academic Vice President Ebo Dawson-Andoh said.

“One of the things that I’ve learned and enjoyed most about being AVP is that I’ve been able to do so much for students in academics at Northwestern,” said Dawson-Andoh, a Weinberg junior. “It’s not about making a name for yourself and having something to put on your resume, but about giving something back to your peers.”

Fong: ‘Business-minded’

When he was 17, Fong started selling collectibles at a flea market stand, a business that later blossomed into an international venture.

“That was fun while the economy was good,” said Fong, a Weinberg sophomore majoring in economics and English.

Last quarter, Fong participated in a field study program with financial giant Goldman Sachs. He said his business experience translates directly to his work with ASG as Kemper Hall senator and Academic Committee member.

“The financial world is intriguing and a lot of that stuff relates to politics,” he said.

Dawson-Andoh, who beat out Fong in last year’s academic vice presidential race, said Fong’s strength is being “business-minded and realistic.”

“You have to be able to think realistically and propose ideas in a way that administrators can understand and see on the same level,” Dawson-Andoh said.

Fong’s platform includes plans for a peer mentoring program, a Web site for undergraduate research opportunities and the creation of an ethnic studies minor.

Senate passed a bill supporting the peer mentoring program at last week’s meeting. Fong said the plan should be easy to implement because it does not require funding.

The idea for increasing the visibility of undergraduate research opportunities came from ASG President Jordan Heinz, Fong said. Interested students would be able to view open research positions online and apply to work during certain times of the year or days of the week. The site already has been designed by members of an Engineering Design and Communication class.

Fong’s campaign generated the idea for a general ethnic studies program that would allow students to take advantage of the best of the African-American and Asian-American studies programs, as well as a new U.S. Latino studies concentration.

“We feel it would be better if people could take a concentration or a minor and learn more about different cultural groups,” he said.

Fong said he learned the importance of teamwork from his unsuccessful bid for academic vice president last year.

“Campaigning is just a learning process,” he said.

Fong also said he has enjoyed working with current Dawson-Andoh and hopes to follow in his footsteps through leading by example.

“You foster a better environment and the committee consequently becomes more productive,” he said.

Kagel: Academic accessibility

Kagel, a Speech sophomore, said the most important role for an academic vice president is to listen to students’ grievances and to represent their interests.

“As academic vice president you are a spokesman for every student on campus,” said Kagel, a senator for Allison Hall. “You have to be visible and go out there to find out what people’s academic complaints are.”

Working on the Academic Committee for the past two years, she said she has been absorbed in the principles of her platform.

“I live and breathe these issues,” she said. “I can’t get away from them, nor do I want to.”

Kagel’s platform includes a number of ongoing projects including degree auditing and a Latino studies program.

She said her biggest focus will be increasing flexibility for students who want to take classes in multiple schools at the university.

“One of my main platform tenets is cross-school initiatives,” she said. “I believe that academics at Northwestern are fragmented.”

Kagel said she is willing to listen to even the smallest suggestions for improvements, such as the addition of a weekly schedule view on CAESAR, which the Academic Committee implemented during her tenure.

“Little things like that I think really come out of the bigger idea of reaching all the students you can with their academic complaints,” she said.

Other platform issues include a subsidized tutoring program for large Weinberg classes, like Introduction to Sociology and General Chemistry, and increased financial aid for Summer Sessions at NU.

At Wednesday night’s Senate meeting, Kagel and Arts Alliance Senator Joel Richlin will present a bill for the free tutoring program, modeled after one run by the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“(Professors’) office hours are limited, and the student-to-faculty ratio isn’t low enough,” Kagel said. “I think it’s Northwestern’s job to provide the education we say we’re going to.”

Kagel said her work on the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee gave her the opportunity to develop relationships with administrators and “understand the intricacies of how the Northwestern administration works.”

Dawson-Andoh said Kagel’s strength is that she takes initiative to write legislation and research issues, calling her a motivated member of the committee.