Step into Traci Ishigo’s office, and you’ll find a clutter of items that signify the various campaigns, events and policies that she has taken part in over the past year. An administration hierarchy board, busy calendar, ART Lab materials and shirts from the “Language is Powerful” campaign are — among many others — remnants of her term as ASUCI president, which comes to an end after this quarter.
Aware that there are about eight weeks left until her successor steps into her position, Ishigo, a fourth-year sociology major, noted that it would be “interesting” to do a second term if she had the opportunity. That’s not possible though, since she isn’t staying for a fifth year.
“It’s too expensive, unfortunately,” she smiled.
However, the thought of going for a second term has certainly crossed her mind, mainly due to the desire to continue her work.
“I definitely like [the position] so much that I would probably feel that there was a responsibility to carry it on if I was to stay a fifth year because I think I still have a lot to give,” she said.
She also admitted that being president wasn’t exactly what she expected it to be. Her confession doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that she had no aspirations of becoming ASUCI president until well into her third year.
Even then, she was rather reluctant to run for the post, despite encouragements from her friends and peers. She felt that there was a lack of meaningful work from the Office of the President and didn’t understand what it stood for, leading to her being initially violently opposed to the idea of running. But eventually, she decided that it was an opportunity to define what the Office was for and what the students needed out of their president.
Thus began her step onto the road that led to where she currently stands now, and she certainly believes like a difference has been made.
“I hope that people notice that the culture within ASUCI has changed,” she said. “Something that is impressionable to me is how the different executive offices are able to work together. I hope that people know that ASUCI can be a student government for change […] I hope they know that it’s more of a space that is really for the students and is going to be listening [to] and [be] accountable for the students.”
For Ishigo and ASUCI, it’s been an eventful journey so far. They mobilized students to vote for Proposition 30 during the November elections, which she described as very successful. The issue of custodial fees came out of left field and they subsequently had to react quickly by engaging the students on that very topic since they would directly affect the quality of student life at UCI.
One of the two biggest obstacles that they faced was engaging the larger student body, which they attempted to do through redesigning the ASUCI website, producing weekly wrap-up videos and forming liaison groups. In spite of their efforts, Ishigo conceded that it wasn’t enough to build a critical mass of students who were really engaged.
The other obstacle lay in understanding the campus administration’s perspective.
“For me, it’s about understanding [their viewpoint] so that you can help them better understand ours,” Ishigo said, indicating the dichotomy between the two. She mentioned this was something that the president learns on the job.
Indeed, it was quite the busy year, one that reaped some successes but also left some goals that have yet to be completely fulfilled to Ishigo’s liking.
“I think that this year was about laying the foundations for future years,” she said. “I felt that we needed to reboot [the idea] that ASUCI was an actual advocacy body … that administration would be accountable to. I hope that by meeting with so many different administrators and by asking so many questions, we were able to set that expectation again for administration and also for the students.”
One particular objective that she had in mind when coming into the position was to have the executive offices keep the students informed, and she pointed to the weekly wrap-up videos in addition to further activity and development on ASUCI social media.
Currently, she is using the rest of this quarter to focus on goals and matters that need to be resolved.
She seeks transparency on Transportation and Distribution Services’ sustainability budget, stating, “What they have online isn’t transparent. It’s a breakdown of different categories; the categories don’t talk about spending.”
She is also looking into building stronger relations with the Cross-Cultural Center and the LGBT Resource Center, as there are campus climate issues that need to be addressed. Moreover, her Office is planning to hold summer financial aid conversation hours, which may take place within the coming weeks.
Through it all, Ishigo had some memorable experiences that proved to be enriching. Relationships were particularly key in making this year work, as the executive cabinet developed strong bonds that transcended their political stances, and Ishigo pointed out the helpfulness of professional and administrative staff as well. She is specifically proud of the leadership of the younger generations in the executive offices, stating how rewarding it was to work with those students directly and witness their development.
With graduation looming on the horizon, Ishigo plans to go out and continue developing her education. “Next year, I’m planning to go abroad and teach English, to take a year off for myself and be able to go into a lot of the different intellectual curiosities I have,” she said. “I’m hoping to document or research the LGBT activism that’s happening in Japan or in other areas in Asia, and eventually I hope to go to the next level of higher education.”
As Ishigo prepares to graduate, she leaves behind a message that characterizes her term as ASUCI president.
“[I encourage everyone] to really focus on not the obstacles of matriculating into UCI and being here at UCI, but thinking about the people around them who want to create opportunities together. The more students that are involved on making a change, it can definitely happen … Learn how to strategically come together. I know that a lot of students feel that they don’t share the same interests around things, but we have a lot more shared interests than people think.”