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As the United States endures unprecedented times — from a global pandemic to racial conflict and a volatile political climate — the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) are planning to step up and support students in new ways. 

Leading that effort is sophomore Sneh Chachra, newly elected president of ASWC for 2020-2021.

As classes resume online this fall, Chachra wants to use all of ASWC’s agency to support students’ needs. While the rest of the world changes, what hasn’t changed is ASWC’s commitment to supporting and empowering students. 

“The focus of our role just shifts to what students are doing at home,” Chachra said. “ASWC will still be emailing students and posting on the @goaswc Instagram regularly to provide updates on opportunities for students to get involved or engage.”

ASWC encourages student clubs that are typically held together on campus to continue gathering virtually, as a club budget will still be available for groups to access online resources that may cost money. ASWC is also working with the Whitman Events Board and the Whitman Wire to expand the online Virtual Campus to create opportunities to build community, highlight what students are doing at home and provide resources to support those efforts.  

With the expectation of student needs changing and expanding, Chachra aspires to provide resources to assist students that will complement existing services, such as the Counseling Center. This summer, she already began working on collaborative projects, such as bi-weekly mental health newsletters, forming a wellness project among ASWC committees, and a new collaboration with the Counseling Center. 

Wanting to Make an Impact

Chachra, an undecided major from Los Angeles, California, chose Whitman because of the small class sizes, room for personal connection, and an abundance of resources available for its students. She was also looking forward to joining the college’s debate team and getting to travel and debate all over the country. 

Chachra knew that she wanted to make the most of her four years in college, and leave a lasting legacy on the campus. As a first-year student, she served on the ASWC sustainability committee. She found she wanted to expand her role in student government even more, and decided to run for president.  

“I wanted to take up a position that would empower me to create the biggest impact in the realm of every student’s sense of belonging at Whitman and the resources we have access to,” Chachra said. “I also wanted to present myself with challenges that allow for my growth not just as a leader, but as a member of the first-generation/working-class community, a thoughtful member of society and a student at Whitman.”

As ASWC president, Chachra looks forward to collaborating with her fellow members of the ASWC Executive Council, which comprises the chairs of each committee and the president. More than anything, Chachra and the ASWC staff want to assure students that ASWC is working to adapt its resources in order to better enhance the student experience during uncertain times.

“While both the pandemic and the racial injustice movement will present difficulties in navigating and balancing the work with maintaining physical and mental wellness, it will also draw our energy in changing our systems for the better, together,” she said.

Chachra herself often found online learning to be challenging during the spring semester because she didn’t know when to put her work down without the time constraints of regular classes and activities.

“I think engagement is always a challenge,” she said. “It just felt like I had all these things I had to do, but no structure to guide my time. This made engaging in opportunities that weren’t school work significantly harder and that really impacted my wellbeing. I hope ASWC can bring all of us opportunities to find ways to step away from our work and explore what else is meaningful to us.”

Meet the 2020-2021 ASWC Leadership Team

Sam Kinzel“ASWC is changing and adapting to address the current moment — notably with regards to COVID-19 and the resurgence of civil rights activism and anti-racist thinking. While our student government is flawed, the detailing of this year’s academic plans has required us to reorient our own understanding of student government so that we can meet the needs and aims of students in a more intentional, direct manner.” — Sam Kinzel ‘22, co-chair of the Sustainability Committee 

Anna Kilo“Students should feel comfortable communicating with ASWC for any questions, comments or concerns that they may have.” — Anna Kilo ‘21, chair of the Communications Committee

Nicole Song“I would like students to know about the resources we provide. For example: the emergency fund and how to apply. I think it’s helpful for students to be informed so they have some peace of mind that ASWC is prepared to help handle any situation that may arise.” — Nicole Song ‘22, chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

Cade Schott“ASWC is a resource organized to help and support students. In my time as a member of ASWC I have learned that the organization is comprised of some of the most passionate people I have ever worked with. I am confident, that despite the unprecedented circumstances, ASWC will continue to do everything it can to serve the student body” — Cade Schott ‘21, chair of the Oversight Committee 

Allie McCann“ASWC is committed to helping students through the difficulties of these uncertain times and supporting students in any way we can. We ask students to engage with ASWC and communicate any support the student body needs so that we can help make Whitman a safe and accessible community.” — Allie McCann ‘22, chair of the Nominations and Appointments Committee

Annie Means“I would like students to know that ASWC really should function like a support network. The only reason we exist is to solely advocate for the student body so I would tell students that they can come to ANYONE on ASWC with their concerns.” — Annie Means ‘22, co-chair of the Sustainability Committee

Jeff Mutethia“The key point I would like the general student body to know is that their student government is ready to hear their concerns, and act on them to the extent possible. Additionally, we will meet present challenges by adopting fluid methods of collecting student input.” — Jeff Mutethia ‘23, chair of the Student Outreach Committee

Olivia Lipson“I want students to know that ASWC is there to support them. If that means to financially support them, support them with advertisement, or support them by helping them find the right resources, I want students to know that ASWC’s purpose is to support students.” — Olivia Lipson ’22, chair of the Finance Committee 

Sneh Chachra“I would like students to know that while my participation in ASWC has served to keep me from feeling alone in pursuing what I am passionate about, like me, (and I am sure you can tell with the responses above) you too are not alone.” — Sneh Chachra ‘23, president