Q&A With Shamina Merchant, Ohio State USG Presidential Candidate

Her Campus OSU had the chance to get to know Shamina Merchant, Ohio State's undergraduate student government's only female presidential candidate this election season, a little better. We love her visions of change, inclusiveness and empowerment of all students, especially those who often struggle to have their voices heard on a college campus, such as women. 

Shamina is a third-year in business administration, with a specialization in information systems, and she is from the Cleveland area. Last year, she served as the director of student affairs in USG and this year she serves as the deputy chief of staff and liaison to the Association of Big Ten Students. She's also a member of the Buckeye Undergraduate Consulting Club. Her vice presidential campaign partner is Shawn Semmler, a third-year in finance. 

Photo creds to Shamina Merchant 

We'll let her take it from here: 

Question: Why are you running for student president of Ohio State? 

Shamina: I am running because, over the past 3 years, I have seen the potential and the power that USG has to impact change at Ohio State. I recognize the flaws that exist within the organization, but I believe it is possible for students to truly believe in USG as a resource for them. Many of the issues on Shawn & I’s platform reflect real experiences that we have had as students, and we wanted to expand that to include the experiences of students from all across campus - regardless of their background or identity. This is why our message is to #ShareYourStory. 

Q: If you were elected, how would you use your platform to help women and other groups at OSU that face discrimination?

Our vision is about empowerment - that is the core reason as to why we are running. Firstly, we want to elevate each student’s voice and enable them to share their stories - even throughout the campaign. By hosting monthly diversity discussions, promoting resources available to students of all backgrounds, including specifically the OSU Women’s Center, and refocusing how the university approaches sexual assault and awareness, we hope to emulate an environment of respect. We are one Buckeye Community, and it is deeply important that every student feels that they are an active part of it, especially women and groups who feel as though their story is not being heard.

Q: How would you use your platform to help student organizations?

Since the start of our campaign, Shawn and I have focused on reaching out to and hearing a full spectrum of organizations and communities around campus with the intention of those stories shaping our policy. This way, if elected, we don’t have to reach out and introduce ourselves, we will already have a relationship with them, and will be able to get to work. This way we can empower organizations and communities that haven’t always worked closely with USG and advocate alongside these change-makers in conversations with faculty and administrators.

Q: Why do you think it is important for women to be involved in politics?

This campaign is centered around the idea of engaging with others and truly incorporating their ideas into the policy that USG initiates each year. It is absolutely imperative that we hear all voices in this discussion, and a voice that is so often left out is that of women. We provide a unique perspective and diverse angle to many discussions that can only facilitate more inclusive discussions and policies at Ohio State.

Q: Have you faced any struggles in your campaign so far and how have you dealt if so?

It’s very easy to get caught up in the present when you’re on a campaign- what members are dealing with on the Oval, who is engaging with your policy, what organizations you need to reach out to… sometimes you get so wrapped up in daily activities that you lose sight of the end goal. One struggle that I have faced while campaigning is finding the right balance between being in the present and looking towards the future. A lot can be done right now to successfully set up what the next year will hopefully look like, but those goals can also inspire the work that we do everyday.

Q: Favorite aspect of OSU? 

Sense of community. It’s impossible to walk across the Oval and not see at least one student wearing OSU gear. We are all incredibly proud to not only be a Buckeye, but be part of the larger Buckeye community that supports and encourages every one of its members.

Q: Favorite restaurant near campus?

Condado

Q: Dream job?  

Growing up, I’ve floated from everything from astronaut to teacher to CEO. I’ve come to realize recently that although I don’t have a clear picture on exactly what I want to do one day, I know what kind of impact I hope to have. Three of my core values are pluralism, education, and empowerment, and I hope these values will guide me to my dream career.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to other female students at OSU, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, to take on a leadership role, to speak your mind on ideas that you think can transform this university. You never know when you will have the opportunity to impact an an audience much larger than yourself and hopefully inspire future generations of women to lead.

OSU USG elections will be open for voting to Ohio State students online at usg.osu.edu/vote from March 5 at 12 p.m. to March 7 at 11:59 p.m. Shamina and Shawn are running against Reese and Reagan Brooks, who told The Lantern they are focused on decreasing USG funding and increasing funding for other student organizations, as well as "emphasizing free speech on campus." 

So, when you're procrastinating homework March 5-7, go vote!!! It's your university. Have your voice heard.