CSU Voices and Views

A Conversation with CSSA Leadership

2015-16 CSSA Executive Officers
Pictured from left to right: Alfredo Barcenas, Lauren Lombardo, Agatha Gucyski, Taylor Herren, and Edgar Garcia 

Since 1958, the California State Student Association (CSSA) has been at the forefront of providing student advocacy at the university and legislative levels. The CSSA consists of two student leaders from each of the system’s 23 campuses – the Associated Students president and a designated CSSA representative. As the collective voice of the CSU student body, the CSSA works with both the university administration and state legislatures to advocate for or against university policy.

In fall 2015, the Student Involvement and Representation Fee (SIRF) will go into effect – a $2 per-term voluntary fee assessed to each CSU student – a proposal adopted by the CSU Board of Trustees on January 28, 2014. As the CSSA was previously funded by Associated Students membership dues, fundraising, and Chancellor’s Office grants, SIRF will allow each CSU student to financially support the association advocating on its behalf. The implementation of SIRF will aim to create a more stable, independent, and expanded statewide student association.

With SIRF in place and preparation for the upcoming school year underway, the newly elected 2015-16 CSSA Executive Officers discuss their roles and vision for the next year:

Describe your role and responsibilities as a CSSA Executive Officer.
Taylor Herren (President): I serve as the public representative of CSSA. I, along with my fellow officers, report at CSU Board of Trustees meetings at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach and attend systemwide events. I also travel to the capitol in Sacramento to meet with policymakers and speak at legislative committee hearings. I coordinate with Lauren Lombardo to set the agendas for monthly board meetings and work on initiatives and policies that reflect the priorities of students on each of the campuses.
Lauren Lombardo (Chair of the Board): As a liaison between the board of directors, CSSA and CSU staff and administration, I’m responsible for supporting the board‘s vision and implementation of their ideas. I also assist with setting the agenda for our plenary meetings, work on internal policy, oversee the search process for the Student Trustee, and represent students systemwide.
Edgar Garcia (Vice President, Legislative Affairs): I am the point of contact for campuses to have their questions answered regarding legislation and advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal level. I also develop the policy agenda as it pertains to legislative affairs.
Alfredo Barcenas (Vice President, University Affairs): I address issues relating to student conduct, representation and well-being. On issues such as safety and diversity, I’m responsible for creating awareness and developing a plan that can be implemented at all CSU campuses. I am also tasked with creating the agenda for the University Affairs committee.
Agatha Gucyski (Vice President, Finance): I’m responsible for communicating the organization’s financial status to the Board of Directors, developing the budget for the next fiscal year, and proposing adjustments to the current fiscal year’s budget to satisfy the organization’s objectives and our commitment to students.

What made you want to be a part of the CSSA’s executive team?
Taylor: As Associated Students president at Chico State for the past two years, I found that having a platform to speak on behalf of students was a privilege and it inspired and shaped me as an advocate for my peers and all those impacted by higher education. I strongly believe in the power of students as change agents who will shape the future of the CSU, and being CSSA President allows me to champion the student voice and affect change.
Lauren: I had the opportunity to serve as a CSSA board member for the past year and I grew passionate about the work that CSSA was doing for students across the CSU system. While last year’s board accomplished a lot, I knew there was still more to accomplish. There are plenty of other good work to be done this year in regards to implementing SIRF, increasing advocacy, and reshaping the organization and I want to be part of that.

What goals do you have for the CSSA this year?
Edgar: This year, I want to create more advocacy days at the state capitol, explore the conversation of stable funding for the CSU, and conduct outreach initiatives specifically to advocate for affordability and accessibility to the CSU.
Alfredo: A few goals I have in mind are sustainability across the CSU, addressing mental health and sexual assault issues across the state, addressing the needs of the CSSA Board of Directors and creating close collaborations with their campuses, and creating a network for students to identify needs and provide valuable resources.
Agatha: CSSA is currently remodeling its funding structure to increase stability and productivity – this year will be our first year implementing these changes which will lead to a larger budget. With SIRF, students have a direct stake in CSSA, and we need to do our best to communicate who we are, what we do, and how we can further be of service to them. My biggest priority is to ensure that our spending matches what’s best for our students while fulfilling the vision and mission of CSSA.

What are some issues you personally wish the CSSA would prioritize?
Taylor: In some of my previous leadership roles, I have focused on initiatives that advance sustainability, civic engagement, and diversity and inclusion on my own campus. I believe all CSU campuses should provide a learning environment where students can develop an understanding and commitment to these values while also earning their respective degree. I want to do my part to ensure that the CSU cultivates graduates to be engaged members of society.
Alfredo: Each student has a different story and comes from a different background; we must, as student advocates, address the various needs of our diverse students so that they may have a fruitful college experience. We can do this by creating resolutions in support of diversity centers on campuses or talking to our legislators to create statewide issues affecting race, culture, religion, or gender.
Agatha: Of the many issues CSSA will prioritize, one of the most important ones will be clearly communicating what CSSA is to our students. This will take a collective effort from each campus representative and their student body presidents. I want students to feel proud of our work and to feel as if CSSA is here to protect them and their education because that’s exactly why we are here.

What changes, if any, would you make to improve the organization?
Lauren: I think the organization has a lot of room for growth, rightly so and mostly due to our recent success with SIRF. As CSSA Chair, I am looking forward to ensuring that our board makes the most of our growth period and doesn’t pass up an opportunity to become better or stronger.
Edgar: I think it is important for CSSA to expand its prioritization of its presence on individual campuses. Now that SIRF is in place, we can certainly make this expansion possible.
Agatha: I think CSSA is in a great place. We do a great job talking about and taking actions on issues facing our students, and it’s very exciting to see how we can expand our services to and for students. Moving forward, as more students become familiar with CSSA as a result of SIRF, I hope to see more students empowered into advocacy and involvement with us.

For more information on CSSA, visit http://www.csustudents.org/.

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