A Conversation With: Maansi Surve, ASG Vice Presidential Candidate

Quick Facts:

  • Maansi Surve is ASG’s Visualizations Director, and has two years of experience with ASG, helping with projects like the Help the Homeless and Mask Drives.
  • Increasing school spirit is the main focus of her campaign, and she wants to amplify underrepresented organizations and clubs in the school, as well as amplifying all aspects, including spirit, in order to get more students involved.
  • As a transfer student herself, she wants to help out incoming freshmen and people who are new to the district transition into Irvington. 
  • Instead of using forms after events, Surve wants to get students’ opinions and other clubs’ opinions on events at the beginning of the school year so ASG can plan events based on students’ interests, rather than creating events beforehand and getting their opinions afterward. 
  • “We can work on making sure that everyone has an equal presence on our campus so that when we think about spirit, it’s also about the people and not just the bandanas, the face paint, and the loud music. There’s so much more to it than that” – Surve

As part of our coverage of the upcoming ASG elections, the Irvington Voice interviewed Maansi Surve, one of two candidates running for Vice President. Below is our conversation with her.

Editors’ Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.

How has running for president been different than running for other positions you’ve campaigned for?

I’m running for vice president, which is different this year, because the last time I led a campaign was in my freshman year for the sophomore class officer election. I was new to Irvington, and since I didn’t really know anybody, I wasn’t really worried about what the results would be. I didn’t really know much about the leadership style at our school, anything about ASG, or the opportunities I had ahead of me. I was running because I was passionate about leadership. I took it very lightly versus now—I’ve been in ASG for two years. I know what I would be capable of doing, with a higher level in the class. I’m taking it a lot more seriously this year, because in freshman year, I didn’t really know much. Before I was just running for passion, but now I have very concrete goals that I’ve created with experience this year.

How do you outreach to some of the other classes with people you don’t have an audience with yet?

With distance learning, since we can’t really have in person connections with new people, I’ve noticed that it’s really effective on social media platforms like Facebook, where you can friend people from different classes, even if you don’t know them personally. On Instagram, you can follow people from different classes. That’s what I’ve been doing this past year, so that you can have a lot of people in the loop of the message that you’re trying to spread across. In hopes of going back to school very soon, taking the initiative to speak to new people helps a lot. Keeping that habit, just being comfortable with talking to new people and making connections, and not waiting for other people to come to you is how I do a lot of my outreach, and also through social media this year.

You mentioned that you’re passionate about leadership. What are some leadership experiences that you have?

Around May of the last school year until now, I think I’ve seen a lot of my growth as a leader because of the learning experience I had as a first year ASG member. I was able to use everything I learned, put it into action, and lead things more on my own. 

Some of the passion projects in ASG, like the Help the Homeless Drive and Mask Drive, are service events, and it’s really helpful, especially now during COVID, getting to help the community with the platform. Experiences like these, not only are they led by passion and your interest, but you can see how you can use this platform to impact the community. 

As an executive council member, I get to work a lot with the rest of the committees in ASG. Outside of my own, I’m in the visualizations committee. I also get to work with clubs, admin, and different people on campus, with the passion of wanting to help with outreach, because that’s what my position is in charge of. With passion and hard work, we get to keep learning and have a really nice experience. 

This question is more about you personally. So what makes you best suitable for being VP?

What makes me really well suited for this position is that I had one year to experience Irvington without any strong leadership roles or positions. I spent a year seeing and learning about all the different leadership opportunities at Irvington, and I was really interested in them, because I thought I’d be able to learn and grow a lot. 

During freshman year, I spent a year observing. I was in a really small group of friends as well, and I learned about what people’s views are on leadership, what they want to see happen, and what they don’t really participate in as much as others do. 

Next year, in sophomore year, when I was a part of ASG, I learned about all of the opportunities, and I had to reach out to all of the other groups that weren’t already reached out to yet. I learned about the different privileges we have as members, and what we can make happen with our resources. After a year of learning about all of that as a general ASG member, as an executive council member this year, I put a lot of that into action. With the ASG class, I get to oversee a lot of the work that our class is doing as a whole. 

I have a lot of basic knowledge about the other committees, which helps a lot with knowing more about the opportunities and the impact we have. Having all this knowledge and experience communicating and working with clubs, admin, different ASG committees is really important for a vice president. Being well aware of what you can do with the platform that every single ASG member has, and then implementing it into the class the following year is also really important. 

Along with this experience, it’s a passion for making change from what you came into this school with. For me, I didn’t really know much going into Irvington. I moved here from Cupertino, and I didn’t really know anybody. Learning on your own for an entire year, makes you wonder, “Don’t you wish you could help other people so that they don’t have to miss out on a year of opportunities that you did?” That’s one of my main goals next year, knowing my experiences and helping out everyone else. I think with my experience, from freshman year until now, I would be able to have a big impact on a lot of people at our school.

What’s the defining moment, in your experience that shapes who you are now in your campaign?

For the Mask Drive, we had a committee of people working on that event, and it was our first event since COVID. It was really interesting to see how we could work with what we have to lead this event, even though there was so much taken away from us. There’s so many people that we could help right now with ASG’s platform. A specific instance when I realized that we can do so much with this platform was the night before drop offs for the masks. I was packing the boxes, and I wrote a donation letter saying, “This is our donation to you, and we hope it helps.” That’s when I realized there’s a lot more I want to help with through this role. 

I also want to keep spreading the message that you can really do anything you want to do if you make the most of your position, because being in a leadership role doesn’t do anything unless you make the most of all of the privileges that you have. It’s the message I’m trying to get across with my campaign as well, explaining that I want to make sure that everyone next year realizes that they can also make the most with what they have. Instead of believing that you have to have certain goals in order to help out, it’s just passion and a drive. Even if you’re not in the ASG class, you can always work with people in the class to make your ideas happen.

So that’s the message that you want to get across. But another part of the campaign is what you want to change or issues that you want to focus on. What would be your main focus?

My main focus on changes to implement next year would be the way we promote spirit because I feel like the word is thrown around a lot and we think about it only during times such as homecoming week, or other spirit days we have throughout the year. That’s really not true, I would say. In reality, spirit is when we all come together, have a good time, and appreciate everybody. When we think about spirit events, we want to change the view that we have only certain student groups being spotlighted during these events and underrepresented groups don’t have a platform. What I want to change is the way we go about these things, even if it takes another several years to change. What I want to do is personally reach out to these groups and let them know that we care about their presence on campus. 

We can work on making sure that everyone has an equal presence on our campus so that when we think about spirit, it’s also about the people and not just the bandanas, the face paint, and the loud music. There’s so much more to it than that. When spirit only comes from the outside, it’s like dress up. But when spirit is coming from within, it’s much more impactful, and everyone can have a much better time together.

If you could describe your campaign in one word, what would that be?

Amplify. I think the word amplify is applicable to a lot of the messages I’m trying to convey through my campaign, whether it’s through amplifying the presence of like a lot of student groups on the Irvington campus. Amplifying their presence is what helps new students, like I once was, learn about the different opportunities that Irvington has. For spirit, we normally see the dress-up and the performance. But amplifying all of the aspects so that we have more people involved is why I would say amplify defines it really well. It’s like the bow on top of the present.

What’s the most urgent change that you’d like to implement?

The number one change that I’d want to make is the way we view spirit and the way we hold spirit events. Like I said before, it’s all about bringing everyone together. I think treating this urgently would be the way we go about planning our year, because Class Officers are chosen the year before they actually serve. From around March to May, when they’re elected, we can use that time to plan ahead, and change the way we go about spirit weeks, representation, and keeping spirit consistent throughout the year. Once class councils are chosen in that next school year, you can start putting it into action. It’s really good to use the time that we have ahead of the next school year to think about all these things because it’s going to require research and outreach. 

You made it pretty clear that your main focus is going to be on school spirit. But we also want to know your view on other issues, like the budget. Are you familiar with ASG’s budget? How is money currently allocated? Do you plan on changing it, and if yes, how so?

I don’t know any specific numbers. We have a finance committee that handles the ASG budget, but as of now, the money is allocated towards paying for supplies that we need for events. We haven’t been spending that much this year, since a lot of the events you’ve probably seen involve supplies you can use from home, or items that you can buy from our Viking Vendor. I’m sure there’s a lot of places where the money is going where I’m not aware of myself. I think the budget is very wise right now, the way the money’s being used, because ASG isn’t spending too much itself. It’s clubs using their funds for their events. I don’t think there are places where money is being used unwisely, because I don’t have much knowledge about the budget, and I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint anything that I could change. The area I work in is not involved with the budget at all and the events I’ve worked in, we haven’t spent any money either.

We want to get your views on ICC and as SIA. Are you familiar with these and opinions on them? And would you advocate for any changes in their processes?

I’ve worked with SIA’s service clubs and also ICC’s general clubs, for outreach with my committee for publicity things and for the club’s brochure. They’re very hardworking and distinct about their personal club goals. Everyone has a way they want to go about the year and I think that’s really great. A lot of clubs have been doing service events. The other clubs are still keeping at it with distance learning to keep up what they traditionally do throughout the year, which is really commendable. It’s really difficult to keep your club members active, so it’s really great that a lot of our clubs are still doing that.

For changes, I don’t think I have any changes to advocate for. Right now, the people that we have directing the clubs are really experienced, and are really good at working with the clubs. Everything that’s going on is really productive and really good. I haven’t worked too closely with SIA and ICC to know everything about what goes on with all their clubs. Overall, the impact they have on Irvington is really great, and there’s nothing we need to change about that.

You mentioned earlier that you want to actively reach out to the student body. What would be one way that you would want to gain input from the student body? 

One thing I’ve noticed, as an ASG member, I get to see the feedback, oftentimes, that we get from feedback forms. Sometimes forms really aren’t the way to go about things, because people see them but it’s not always the most appealing way to give your feedback. The way forums are normally formatted, it’s usually feedback about events we’ve already held, so that feedback will be used for the following school year.

For feedback forms after events are held, there’s usually a question or two about what you want to see us implement into the rest of the school year. Leaving open ended questions might be helpful for some people. But oftentimes, we need ways to get viewers’ thoughts running. I think what’s more effective is to, in the beginning of the year, we can learn about what students are interested in, versus trying to get event ideas. 

For example, we could have a live brainstorming session whether it’s through a forum or something online. We could have a Google form along with that, for people that don’t want to speak out loud. 

We have different sources of outreach, which helps with reaching out to different people. I think mainly, the way to go about it would be to work with several groups on campus and get feedback in the beginning of the year, learn about the students’ interests, and based off of those interests, we can plan out events for the year.

Do you think ASG has enough power in terms of decisions made? For example, for Minga, the general consensus is that the student body doesn’t prefer it, but it sounds like ASG, which is supposed to represent the student body, didn’t have much of a say?

I would say that ASG has a really strong voice in matters that are completely student run, such as things happening in ICC, or general school events. But when it comes to things where it requires an administrative member, such as Minga, ASG can’t have all of Irvington download this app onto their phones, that requires an administrator’s permission. Things like that, where it’s not completely us leading it, it requires a higher level of approval, then we can’t completely say yes or no to certain things. Oftentimes, we are asked for our opinions on things, which can sort of sway decisions.

Any closing messages for the voters?

When thinking about making your vote in this election, you should consider the impact it’ll have on you personally and on all of the students that you may or may not know at our school. Be aware that the vote you cast can make an impact this year, but also the years after, because each year, it leaves a template for the following year. Naturally, it’s something that happens on its own. Be aware of all the different things that are impacted when you’re making your vote, and also being aware of the president and vice president roles and responsibilities, and learn all you can before casting your vote so that you can be an educated voter. 

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