College students are often encouraged to draw out detailed roadmaps for how to reach their career goals. Those without distinct plans often garner looks of confusion or sympathy from the general public. David Pileski, a UI junior majoring in Urban and Regional Planning, is one example of how students can be successful and make a difference by pursuing their different interests and taking life as it comes. Not only is Pileski the University student body president, but he is also a member of the Student Organization Resource Fee (SORF) board, the Diversity Administrative Coordinating Committee, the Campus Transportation Committee as well as a number of other ventures. With these different University positions Pileski hopes to be an accessible resource and give students a real voice in the campus community.
HC: Can you tell me some of your primary responsibilities as Student Body President?
DP:There are two main responsibilities; the first revolves around the Illinois Student Senate. I have to preside over the meetings and make sure that we are following procedure and that everything is moving smoothly. It is very important that we have 54 senators from every college both graduate and undergraduate, and that everyone is working together as a team. The other responsibility is engagement with the student body. I try to attend two different RSO group meetings every week so that I can get introduced to what’s going on around campus. I want students to feel like I’m accessible and that I’m there to listen to them. This is the most fun for me because a lot of people rarely go outside of their own bubbles, so being able to see all the different communities on campus has been awesome.
HC: What were some of your goals going into this presidency?
DP: We are just getting over this massive internal restructuring that took place last year and so there was a lot of diverse opinions in regards to the way things were being done. I want to make sure the Senate is being an active body and that senators are engaging with the people who elected them. One of the big initiatives that I’m trying to take on is to have a town hall meeting for every college. I decided to split this project up since it’s a big undertaking, so this semester I’m working with ACES, AHS, Business and DGS. I wanted to do this so students could come, voice their opinions and get to know their senators.
HC: How much power does the student Senate actually have?
DP: Well, we serve as the official voice of the student body. Whenever there is a proposal to change something with academics or anything to do with student life, we can step in and make an official statement for the students saying that we agree or we disagree; we have a lot of leveraging power with that. Beyond that though we can really only fund smaller engagement projects. I would like to see us move back to the Senate being student funded, maybe like a dollar fee, so that we would be able to do some infrastructure projects around campus. We are currently operating on a $39,000 a year budget so it is difficult for us to do a lot of building projects for students.
HC: What made you want to get involved in student government?
DP: I have always been involved with advocating for students. In high school I was involved with the Illinois Association of Student Councils, which attempts to coordinate activities between student councils and high schools across the state. I was also involved in the YMCA Youth and Government, a mock government program that allows students to “pass” bills and go through the government process. With these experiences, I felt that it is important for students to be really involved in the process of what happens in their communities. Something that really attracted me to U of I is that there is a strong student government tradition.
HC: How much of your time does student government take up and how do you balance it all?
DP: Everything I do is really based on how much I want to be engaged. On a good week I probably spend about 25-30 hours a week working on things and meeting with people as President. I like that there is some flexibility with the job. I don’t get paid or anything so it’s really a civil service job at its finest.
I love and worship my Google calendar; I schedule everything through there, but every once in a while on the weekends I’ll leave my cell phone off for the day and just get some personal things done and be in touch with who I am.
HC: How does student government fit in with your ultimate career goals?
DP: Honestly, I feel like I’m in my mid-college life crisis because I don’t really know where I want to go for my next step. The one thing that I liked about urban planning was that I am interested in business, political science and social work so urban planning allowed me to explore all those possibilities in a practical way. I would like to go to graduate school; but, whether that’s to pursue my masters in urban planning or law, I’m not sure. I had a great opportunity to work at for the Roosevelt Summer Fellowship through the Chicago Department of Environment. Being there really opened my eyes and I found a real passion for the environment. I know with whatever I do, I want to be doing something that is community focused. The good thing about that is you can really do that with anything.