To be the Northwestern student president, you must do one thing first: throw out all your sweatpants.
Associate Student Government President Victor Shao (’13) claims not to own a single pair and is known for sporting a blazer or suit around campus. But, it is not his attire but rather his impact on the Northwestern community that sets him apart.
Shao is the face of the university and the spokesman for the students, particularly working on the broad vision of the student government and improving connections with student groups. He leads two executive meetings each week to review goals and give project updates, leads recruitment efforts for new ASG members and meets with student groups. In addition, Shao goes to weekly senate meetings, watching the legislative process at work. Shao is working towards an Economics major, Business Institutions Program minor and Leadership Certificate.
Choosing which of the hundreds of student groups on campus to get involved with is quite a feat, but Shao loves student government because of its ability to improve the Northwestern experience.
“We have the power to make the college experience better for our friends and peers,” Shao said. “It has been amazing to hear students’ concerns and then execute a plan to really help them. It doesn’t matter if it was a friend complaining to me at 2 am in the morning when we were blowing off steam or through a survey.”
Shao chose to get involved in ASG during his sophomore year. After breaking his leg over winter break and only taking one class winter quarter, Shao decided he needed to get involved. He became a senator in the Spring and tried to engage the Greek community in his capacity as the inter-fraternity council representative. In the fall of his junior year, Shao and his friend Brad Stewart decided to campaign as a president and vice presidential ticket.
“We were just sitting in our fraternity house and realized we wanted to do something big senior year,” Shao said. “We saw this as the next step and through the process of research, we decided that this is exactly what we wanted to do.”
After months of campaigning in the spring, including creating a website with their platform, Shao and Stewart won and became the student president and executive vice president. Stewart works more with internal and day-to-day operations, while Shao works on the larger vision of the government.
Shao has many goals for the future, but two main issues this year are activity fees and creating a new student center. There is a lot of pressure on student groups to operate on limited funds as a result of low activity fees, which are lower than fees at most other competitive universities, Shao said.
Northwestern also hired consultants this past year to evaluate Norris and after hearing their input, administrators recognized the need to take action. Options included renovating Norris, revamping the Kellogg building, and even building a new center along Sheridan road. The student government will work to make a decision on the student center before March, Shao said.
“It will be so powerful if we can create a new student center for generations to come,” Shao said. “That will be a legacy.”
While leading the presidential leadership initiative, a committee of freshman and sophomores who are recognized as rising leaders in the organization, Shao gives them a variety of tips and advice.
“My greatest advice would be that people are missing out on Northwestern experience if they don’t get involved outside the classroom,” Shao said. “I know everyone says it but I really do think the relationships you build outside the classroom are invaluable. Everyone has a passion — it’s about finding it.”