Presidential candidate: Naji Saker

Major: Chemistry Minor: Athletic Coaching

Year: Junior

 

Why are you running for this ASWU position?

I’ve been an RA for the past two years, and I was looking at next year and asking myself what kind of student leadership I wanted to do. I didn’t think my time to serve our community was done. I was thinking over the options, because I didn’t want to be RA for a third year, it takes a special person to do that. I was ready to get off campus. I’ll be living with a couple buddies next year off campus. At the beginning of the year, Jolyn Dalvig, who was the associate dean of student life, and I would share coffee every once in a while; I’d share a book with her, she’d share quotes with me. One morning she recommended that I run for this position. When I got a mentor like that to tell me that this would fit my strengths, it really opened my eyes to it. And comparing the position with EVP and president, I decided I wanted to run for president, because my leadership skills and experience does fit for the position better. It was a combination of my mentors supporting me and having a lot of support from my friends and family that made me want to do it. I think that I could serve the Whitworth community really well and I feel like it’s time for me to give back since I’ve grown so much from being here.

Being in Student Life for two years, I think I’ve reached the max capacity for how much I can grow in that position. Going to ASWU and being president, I think I can fit that position well. From a the “five strengths test,” I know I’m an achiever, have responsibility, am a relater, restorative and strategic. Each of this is a different piece of what the position of president needs. Being an achiever, I get things done. I need to be relatable; it’s the whole student body that you speak for [as president]. Responsibility speaks for itself. Strategic—having a strategic mind and always thinking of something new to be doing. And restorative: if there’s ever an issue, with my RA training even, I’m able to take care of it.

A difference in the RA and ASWU positions is in Student Life, we’re really just working with our hall and our dorms getting together. Being in a second year RA position, I’ve got to expand that more and branch out and talk to more administrators, like Jolyn and Dick Mandeville (he and I meet about once a month). Being able to build those bridges with our administration and other parts of campus is preparing me for that part of the position. I’m really looking forward to working with the administration.

 

What is your class load like for next year and what will your other responsibilities be?

I don’t plan on quitting on the track team. I wouldn’t be at Whitworth if it weren’t for track; it keeps me grounded and motivated. I’ll be done with my chemistry major at the end of this semester. So next year I’ll just have a couple gen eds. I just need my coaching internship credits (for my athletic coaching minor) which I’ll get over the summer. So it’s Core 350, my biblical literature and my american diversity. I’ll only have one class Monday, Wednesday and Friday and two or three on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m looking really open to be able to commit to the position as well as the track team.

 

What do you think is the greatest need of the student body? How do you propose to meet that need?

I think each year is different. I can’t speak for the future and what the student body needs for next year, but from experiences in Student Life this year, I don’t know if our student body really knows how much our campus is affected by sexual assault. I really want to press on that and for our campus to be more aware and a safer place for those who have been sexually assaulted to be able to speak up and come to people for help and feel like they are worth something. They tend to shy away. I think it would help our campus rejuvenate as well as support one another. Going about that, I’d like to revamp Green Dot and for everyone to have their training or some sort of seminar.

Going off of that, statistics from Green Dot show that the least trained in Green Dot are male athletes. Being a male athlete, I can help in getting more of them trained through Green Dot and be able to set into situations. The sad fact is that athletes are going to be at parties more often than others. That’s where you’ll see where sexual assault happens. If I can help my peers be more aware of situations, we can help each other out and stop it from happening.

 

How would you assess your performance in other positions of leadership that you’ve had?

RA is definitely my most dominant leadership experience at Whitworth. I’m also president and founder of the CHAOS club and have been a leader on the track team. I’m confident in my job as RA. I know that it’s a tough job, but I’m confident in how I’ve done, and I think it speaks for itself that I got hired again. I also know all the RDs at a personal level and have built relationships and excelled in it. Halls do evaluations right before winter break. This year, I had 100 percent completion and scored around a 4.4 out of 5 on everything. I know I’m above average there.

 

Why should we vote for you rather than your opponent?

The biggest thing my opponent’s been saying is that he’s more experienced than me. I beg to differ. He’s had ASWU experience being a senator, but I haven’t had those opportunities to be in ASWU because I’ve been an RA. My relatability skills speak for themselves. He’s an awesome guy, but I know that I can connect with anyone. Throw me in a room with anyone on campus, and I could talk to them for an hour or all day long. The position of president at Whitworth isn’t one of a politician. I don’t need a political science background. I need to be able to connect to the student body and see what they need, and take it to the administration.

I have a lot of connections on campus. I know our athletic director really well and actually helped him move in to his house. Our assistant athletic director is my coach, and I know him really well. Dick Mandeville, Jolyn Dalvig, the new associate dean of students, Josh Cleveland—I’ve met with them a few times and know them at a personal level. With several professors like Dr. Kamesh, Toby Schwarz being my coach as well. As president of CHAOS, we work closely with chemistry faculty to host events. Even though I’m not a Christian, I have very good ties in the chapel, with Kent McDonald, Mindy Smith and Mama Beans (she’s awesome). President Beck Taylor. Another professor Raja Tenas, I’ve been to his house a few times, being one of the only Arabic students on campus. I’ve had ties with Sodexo and Dan King hosting dorm events. Right before the position, I’ve been building relationships with Dayna and Ian [Robins, current president] to see what the position will be like and what I would do with it.

I’ve built ties around the area, especially with doctors. I have connections with the Spokane country club. Even last night, I met up with one of our Board of Trustee members, Bill Curry if I’m not mistaken, and one of his friends. Both of them are huge donors to Whitworth. In the future I’ll be getting lunch with them and seeing how they can help me and how I can represent our student body well. I was one of five to selected to get lunch with them out of all our pre-med students.

 

How do you plan on working with the rest of ASWU?

I heard that it’s going to be a majority girls. That’ll be sweet. I’d say that I come from football team experience, RA experience, track experience, and obviously track and football is predominantly males, but having the RA experience and working with females all the time, that will be fine. Being a second year RA, you’re almost the leader of the RAs. It’s not stated,  but you do have more responsibilities. I thought this year, I would do my job as well as try to take some of the burdens off the first year RAs, because they’re still walking through the position and learning how it is. I’ve worked with CDAs and SGCs and HAs when we had them has prepared me well to work with different positions across ASWU and I’m confident I’d be able to do that. I have a lot of friends hired in the coordinator positions—for instance Bailey Kasler, who is my really good friend—so I’ll definitely have some strong ties in ASWU already.

 

What are your weaknesses in terms of the position you’re running for?

I’m a big people person and people-pleaser. That can sometimes hinder my performance, since I want to make sure everyone’s happy. But being in an RA position and knowing that not everyone on my team is going to think the way I do, I’ve definitely learned to cater to both sides of a topic. It’s remembering what the greater good wants and be able to mend both sides and find middle ground where both sides will be happy. With a campus of 2,300 students, you’re not going to make everyone happy, but as long as you can get the majority. You have to make some sacrifices so almost everyone can come together.

 

You touched on that you have an ability to connect with people. However, you’re not a Christian and there have been those racist YikYak comments; with those things in mind, do you ever worry about your ability to connect with people at Whitworth?

Not at all. I was asked this question last night: of not being a Christian and how can I work to meet the mission statement at Whitworth. I think our mission statement to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity is huge. That’s who Whitworth is. It has made me grow so much through that mission statement, and I respect it so much. Obviously my religion [Islam] is not going to change anytime soon and I’m going to be the president of a predominantly Christian school as a non-Christian, but that gives me the opportunity to speak for the non-Christian population at Whitworth. I’ve tried to educate myself as much as possible so I could connect with my peers about the Christian religion. There are, in my opinion, so many similarities between the Christian religion and my religion, to where I don’t think there will be a disconnect whatsoever. ASWU is going to be full of Christian leaders as well; it’s not just my voice that will dictate what happens. I sat on the student luncheon committee for the hiring of the dean of spiritual life, and that just shows that I can speak of the majority of the campus in hiring a spiritual leader on campus.

To go off the YikYak comments: granted, several have been said, but it’s probably just one person. At least I’d like to think it’s just one person. They have not affected me. Yes, reading a comment like that burns a little bit, and I’ll always remember it, but that doesn’t speak for the entire student population. I know the entire student body doesn’t think of me that way, so I’m just shrugging it off and hoping for the best. And if I win, it speaks for itself, and they can shut up.

 

Is there anything else we need to know about you to make this decision?

My combination of Student Life and administrative work will fit the position really well. The ASWU president position isn’t like a normal president at another university or the president of our country. I think that my skills fit the position really well and that I’m qualified enough for the position. I don’t necessarily have as many hours as my opponent in ASWU, but I definitely know the basics of how it’s done. I’ve sat through a few ASWU meetings as well as chartering a club and requisitioning money from ASWU. I’m confident in my abilities.

 

Interview conducted by two members of The Whitworthian's editorial board, editor-in-chief Katie Shaw and sports editor Connor Soudani.

Whitworthian Endorsements ASWU 2015

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