New student government leaders look to empower and connect

Seniors (left to right) Jason Kaplan, Millie Chokshi, and Emily Gossett will serve as the 2019-2020 Student Government Executive Officers. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Seniors (left to right) Jason Kaplan, Millie Chokshi, and Emily Gossett will serve as the 2019-2020 Student Government Executive Officers. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

New student government leaders look to empower and connect

By Ashley A. Williams
Seniors Emily Gossett, Millie Chokshi, and Jason Kaplan are eager to implement their platform throughout the academic year.

University of Miami Student Government executive officers Emily Gossett, Millie Chokshi, and Jason Kaplan are on a mission to connect the campus more than it ever has been.

Their “Empower U” campaign – which included initiatives like increased pay for student employees, a call to publish course evaluation data, implementing veteran student discounts, and more accessible food on campus – was a winning strategy focused on empowering the student body, being transparent, and making life easier for all students.

“When we were making our initiatives, we really broke down all the different ideas we had amongst the three of us and said if someone picked up this palm card, would they be able to identify with at least one thing on here as something that will benefit them,” said Gossett, Student Government president and a communications studies and sociology double major.

Since their inauguration on April 9, Gossett and her team have hit the ground running. The officers are currently working with Information Technology to implement a mobile version of the ’Cane Card. The mobile identification card would replace the physical version and also eliminate paying a $25 fee in the event of a student losing their ’Cane Card.

During the campaign, Gossett collected information from more than 120 students in an effort to understand what issues are affecting them most. In her new role as president, she has met with the Counseling Center to create an online appointment system similar to what the Student Health Service at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center uses. Gossett has also met with Facilities Operations and Planning to improve parking through an innovative mobile app.

“Over time what we set out to do has evolved,” said Gossett, who was born in Chicago but spent the majority of her childhood in London, England. “What we all have discovered was that though we have accomplished some really great things, one of the things we really lacked was reaching out to people who aren’t student government and including them in what we want to do. The three of us said we really want this to be a year where we are integrating leaders outside of student government to collaborate more.”

Chokshi, Student Government vice president and a proud Indian-American who moved to Coral Gables from Orlando, said one thing she is most looking forward to in her new role is engaging with students from all backgrounds through what she calls “listening tours.”

“We plan to go into meetings of different student organizations to listen in and to hear what their issues are,” said Chokshi, who double majors in Spanish and public relations. “They don’t have to come to us, we will come to them. We want to know so that we can use our resources to help them.”

Chokshi and Gossett met their freshman year when they were members of the Freshman Leadership Council. The two instantly became friends and rose up the ranks of Student Government. When Gossett was faced with the decision of who she would like to run alongside, she said her now-roommate was a “no-brainer.”

“I knew that there was no person but Millie to be the VP,” Gossett said. “She’s a great mentor and she has a really great grasp on how to delegate projects to get things accomplished, which is a great skill to have.”

Kaplan, Student Government treasurer and a native of Canton, Massachusetts, is described by Gossett as a “perfect fitting puzzle piece.”

“We wanted someone to come and balance out our bubbliness and we knew that Jason was not only great at managing funds, but he’s also someone who could reach a constituency that we couldn’t reach,” Gossett said about Kaplan, an accounting major. 

This academic year, the trio said students can expect announcements about new, engaging programming on the horizon. Plans are in the works to host a campus-wide barbecue to honor student-athletes and an Alumni Career Exploration Fair during Homecoming. 

Students can also expect past programming from former student government administrations to continue, including the popular “What Matters To U” speaker series. Kaplan added that some projects may take longer than others to be implemented.

“I think some of our initiatives are definitely going to be long-term projects, but even if we just get the ball rolling it goes to show that we are a forward-thinking university,” Kaplan said.

This year’s executive officers are proud to be advocates and representatives of the diverse and growing student population. In addition, Gossett is inspired by past Student Government presidents and is hopeful, as she has already accomplished several tasks with the new cabinet.

“We don’t want to just be academic, or just for the dining halls, or for the library, or the dorms,” she said. “We want to be for everything.”