She’s an athletic, 6-foot-tall fourth-year with the stride of a New Yorker, but don’t let the blonde hair and blue eyes fool you. Megan Braun has a lot of work cut out for her as the new ASUCI President, but then again, idle time has never been part of her routine.
New University: Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you come from, how you decided to run for president, et cetera?
Megan Braun: I went to high school in San Diego, Coronado to be specific. I am one of five kids, and family has always been a big part of my life. I decided to go to UC Irvine because I wanted to play college water polo while still being moderately close to home. I got involved with student government my sophomore year as the Humanities Representative on Legislative Council. After two years in this position and a stint as the chair for both the Rules Committee and the Housing & Dining Committee I decided to run for ASUCI President. This decision was based on my sense that UCI needed a dedicated leader who had the courage and the discipline to tackle the major issues that are facing today’s student body.
New U: What is it that you would like to accomplish this year?
Braun: I tend to be very ambitious and there are a myriad of things that I want to accomplish this year. I hope to increase school spirit, improve the quality of dining services, collaborate with the Alumni Association, strengthen ASUCI’s relationship with the New University and improve communication across the campus. I also plan to improve the structure of the Student Funding Programming Board and I hope to increase student control over the University by reforming the Student Fee Advisory Committee. I want to increase student involvement through quarterly club fairs and improve student attendance at sporting events. The needs of the students come first and I am always open to finding out what students want and looking for ways to achieve their goals.
New U: What are the biggest challenges ASUCI faces this year? What is your strategy in tackling those challenges?
Braun: This year ASUCI will be challenged by the budget cuts that are facing the entire campus.
While ASUCI’s funding will not be affected, budget cuts decrease the amount of disposable funds that other campus departments have to collaborate on projects with us. As a result, we will have to look for creative financial strategies and try to seek additional partnerships with off-campus sponsors.
We will also be challenged by the sheer number and magnitude of projects that we are working on. Every year ASUCI seeks out innovative new ways to improve the campus, and with such an ambitious group of executives, ASUCI will have its hands full. But I think our leaders are capable and experienced. With collaboration and efficient work habits we can achieve a tremendous amount.
New U: What are your involvements on campus and off campus?
Braun: Over the past several years I have been very involved on and off campus, but this year I am scaling back most of my activities so that I can devote a majority of time to being an effective president. In the past I have worked as a tutor, an intern at a law firm and a research assistant at a historical association. In addition to double majoring in History and Philosophy, I am a member of the Campuswide Honors Program and the Humanities Honors Program and I will be writing my senior honors thesis this year. Last year I was president and vice president of the History Undergraduate Student Association and Habitat for Humanity, respectively. This year I will not be an officer in either organization, but I plan on being an active member in both. I also play water polo for UCI and am very active in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
New U: Do you think that you being a UCI athlete will influence the policies you make and how you lead this year as President?
Braun: Being an athlete makes me very aware of the power that school spirit has to transform a university. Students are more likely to enjoy their college experience if they take pride in where they go to school. This pride is based on academics, cultural experiences, Greek life and social activities. Athletics is a major source of school pride and the success of sports teams helps facilitate a passion for the university as a whole. Attending sporting events is a great way to socialize, enjoy a competitive atmosphere and develop a connection with your school. Because I feel so strongly about the importance of school spirit, I am devoted to increasing publicity for athletic events and encouraging students to look holistically at the school to identify what makes them proud to be an Anteater.
New U: How is the office shaping up to be this year?
Braun: This is going to be a great year for ASUCI. Last year we hired Sandy Winslow as our new Executive Director. Her leadership is already transforming the office and she is full of fabulous new ideas such as “The ‘Vine” magazine that ASUCI writes to tell students about different ways to get involved on campus. We also have a really strong set of executives. Both Kyle Olney and Kyle Holmes already have a year of experience under their belt and the knowledge they acquired last year will help them to advocate for new improvements. Oracio Sanchez, our new Vice President of Academic Affairs has big plans for improving existing programs and continuing a tradition of excellence in the Speakers and Debate program by bringing more lecturers like Bill Nye to campus. The Vice President of Student Services, Tiffany Go is committed to expanding all of our major concerts and Shocktoberfest promises to be the most exciting Fall concert yet; we have a great headliner and are partnering with athletics to combine the event with Midnight Magic, the kickoff for basketball season. There are lots of exciting developments taking place this year so students should definitely be paying attention to ASUCI.
New U: What is your leadership style?
Braun: My style is one of participative leadership. Group members offer input and decide how to attack challenges, but the leader is responsible for overseeing work and has the final say in the decision-making process. I like to delegate most projects to my team members and let them run their own programs while I serve as a source of guidance and support. But at the end of the day the success of the group is my responsibility so my staff reports to me and we work together to achieve our goals. At the same time, I believe that a leader has to put the group before themselves and understand that getting their way is not as important as doing things well.
New U: What is it that you’d like the students to know about you?
Braun: I want students to know that ASUCI is here to serve them. It’s our job to advocate for students’ interests and host programs that benefit undergraduates. I truly believe that it is my job to put the best interest of the students first so I am always interested in finding out what students want. My office door is always open and I try to respond to all e-mails and phone calls within 24 hours so I encourage students to talk to me. I want to know what your opinions are and what ideas you have for improving UCI. The President advocates for student issues so the more I know about what you want, the better job I can do making our dreams a reality.