Spring Elections: Nikki Kathuria, Academic Affairs VP Candidate Profile

Nikki Kathuria, a third-year human biology major and Campus- Wide Honors student, has explored many venues in academic involvement both on and off campus. Immersed in ASUCI’s Academic Affairs Office since her second year, Kathuria’s natural next step was to run for academic affairs vice president.

Drawn to the academic network made possible by the Academic Affairs Office, Kathuria applied for the academic engagement intern program in her second year and was voted intern of the year for her work in academic engagement.

She initially joined to advocate for biology students within ASUCI. When she began scientific research in her freshman year, she knew that this medical experience was helping her professionally but that something was missing.

“As a biology student, I was interested in the opportunity to meet with faculty members both within and outside of my major,” Kathuria said.

As academic commissioner this year, Kathuria has hosted programs like ICS video game night. She planned and hosted the video game night for students to play the games that computer science majors created, as well as developing games to play with faculty members.

“Our programs for academic engagement are created for students to network with faculty outside the classroom,” Kathuria said.

She is impressed with the impact of lectures such as those given by LGBTQ advocate Zach Wahls,  the Obamacare debate, and a lecture by Kal Penn.

“It is important to facilitate dialogues between organizations that are not as culturally aware,” Kathuria said. She plans to host more speakers who can address larger on-campus issues that reach a larger scope of student organizations.

According to Kathuria, the Academic Affairs Office has changed their leadership style, reversing the hierarchical style into an upside-down pyramid in which the vice president is at the bottom, serving as a resource rather than a kind of commanding officer.

“This makes the interns more invested in the program because they have an active role in planning, which in turn makes them more dedicated to the cause,” Kathuria said.

By promoting student feedback through technological and on-campus avenues, Kathuria hopes to expand the decision-making process for academic events to the entire student body, rather than securing events solely within the office itself.

She also hopes to break the barrier of intimidation between ASUCI leaders and UC Irvine students by holding open office hours for anyone to ask questions.

She believes a key way to reach the students on a more proactive front is through surveys and a variety of other media in order to make the decision-making process not only more transparent to the students, but also available to the students to be involved in the voting process itself.

“After receiving ideas from the various outlets, I will make sure they are implemented and that this process is transparent. I want to put the student representation back into the associated students of UC Irvine,” Kathuria said.

On the slate with Kathuria are three third-years: Reza Zomorrodian, John Delshadi and Joshua Nguyen, who are also promoting more student involvement in administrative decisions.

“We are all taking a pledge, making a pact, to act on something,” Kathuria said.

As stated in their platform, the Action Pact slate wants to facilitate the resources needed to promote leadership that will serve a diverse campus.

“We all have something different to bring to the table, and yet our views align well. We are hoping to join forces so once elected we can work together closely to promote more student involvement and student leadership in academic programs,” Kathuria said.

With only 24 hours in a day, Kathuria is a researcher and volunteer at the UCI Medical Center, clinical care extender and recruitment coordinator at HOAG hospital and high school math and science tutor.

As an orientation staffer for SPOP this summer, she hopes to help incoming students become excited about getting involved at UCI the way she has.

As President of UCI’s branch of Project RISHI, Kathuria will be working in India this summer to make medical solutions available to rural India. RISHI is a national nonprofit organization for the development and implementation of sustainable projects in rural communities in India. Students survey their problems and then work with nongovernmental organizations and other medical students to find solutions, which the students travel back to implement.

“Personally, in the future, I hope to go to medical school, and while pursing that profession is service based, I believe so much service can be done outside of healthcare as well,” Kathuria said.

Kathuria’s greatest challenge will be opening the line of communication between academic administration and the students that will be affected by their decisions. At the Academic Senate, faculty members and administration discuss policies that affect student programs, but the student representatives in attendance cannot vote in the meetings and cannot discuss topics outside the meetings.

“Our first step is to form an online or on-campus space where academic senators can educate their peers on the topics, before we request the ability for the student representatives to vote,” she said.

“The faculty might allow us to vote if we show an interest in the issues discussed.”