SGA Leaders See Opportunity as Georgia Tech Reaches ‘Inflection Point’
Georgia Tech Undergraduate Student Government Association VP Harrison Baro and President Aanjan Sikal. Submitted photo.
With enrollment numbers reaching record highs and campus infrastructure changing rapidly, the new leaders of the undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA) see an opportunity to amplify the voice of their fellow students entering the Institute's next generation.
President Aanjan Sikal and Executive Vice President Harrison Baro take their respective offices at an "inflection point" in Georgia Tech's history as transformative projects are completed and a growing student body creates the need for additional resources.
"It truly does feel like there is something brewing," Sikal said. "Especially with Scheller Tower and the George Tower coming up in Tech Square, with Art Square and Science Square now as well; it definitely feels like we are preparing ourselves, and with this enrollment growth we want to make access expandable to everyone."
Sikal, a fourth-year industrial engineering student, previously served as the vice president of academic affairs under Rohan Sohani, who he credits with igniting conversations with Tech leadership regarding the stress that growth has placed on campus services such as housing, dining, registration, and infrastructure. Deciding to run for president, Sikal aimed to keep that conversation going and secure students' place at the table as critical decisions are made.
"We want to make sure that for every decision that Georgia Tech makes, there are students on those decision boards and committees who are making those decisions along with the administration. We want student involvement in every level of Georgia Tech," he said.
Sikal also notes that while some solutions take time to come to fruition, finding and executing short-term solutions will be a key part of their administration. Both Sikal and Baro see SGA as an organization that exists to embody the opinion of the collective student body, and Baro emphasized the importance of creating an open forum for students to participate in an ongoing dialogue where ideas can be shared with SGA leaders.
"At the end of the day, this is an institution, and our goal as student government is always looking at how we can improve the student experience on campus and not only help everyone be a successful student, but also a successful member of the community. We want to make sure they understand that Georgia Tech is not just a place to get a degree, it's a place to call home, and it's a place that you should feel safe, welcome, and accepted," Baro, a third-year environmental engineering student, said.
SGA plays a vital role in the support of student organizations on campus, and continuing that support became a pillar of Sikal and Baro's platform.
"Whether it's funding organizations that can share pieces of their personality with other students or funding an organization to go and compete and represent Georgia Tech, I just want people to leave Georgia Tech having this love for their alma mater, and I think student government fits perfectly into that puzzle," Sikal said.
The pair praised Institute leadership for their willingness to engage with SGA and value students’ voice. To ensure the strong relationship continues, they have prioritized setting up meetings with faculty members and administrators early in their tenure to continue building bridges.
When he arrived on campus, Baro was intrigued by the inner workings of a college campus. His various roles within SGA have given him new insight into the "city within a city" that is Georgia Tech.
"We get to see the student side as students ourselves and talking to our fellow classmates about things that we would like to see happen. From the administrative side, we get a more nuanced approach to the complexities of each situation and understand that cost-benefit analysis from both sides,” he said.
The newly renovated John Lewis Student Center was the vision of past SGA leaders, and to Sikal and Baro, the space represents the impact that their administration will have during this period in Tech's history.
"We're a moment in time, but what we do now can be carried from year to year and should be carried on because, if you move on and forget about what happened the year before, everything that we work toward and advocate for is lost,” Sikal said. “The continuation of ideas is extremely important to make Georgia Tech what it is."
Sikal and Baro continue to gather feedback from the campus community, and while there are challenges that come with the position, they feel a renewed excitement on campus that has them eager to see what the future holds.