Op-Ed: Intentional Impact, Valentina Fernandez for SG President
BY: SHYHEIM SNEAD
The first time I met Valentina, I was working behind the front desk in Leonard Hall. She set up time with me to ask about what it was like to be student trustee. Initially, our conversation was different than others of the same type I'd had; Valentina listened deeply, questioned sincerely, but most true to her character, focused on whether the role could help improve the culture of inclusion on our campus.
What was supposed to be a 30-minute informational meeting blossomed into a three-hour conversation about what it meant to be a person of color on our campus, in society and in the most elite spaces.
After hearing her story and the obstacles she faced to get to AU, I knew she was exactly the voice that the boardroom was missing. As soon as Valentina told me she decided to apply to be student trustee, I knew she would transform the way person in this role interacted with students. Very shortly after, she did.
Since then, Valentina has spent countless hours studying and learning more about AU, how policies work and how to include student voices in any change the university undertakes. Valentina shadowed as student trustee-elect in the most active way possible. She took her role seriously and went above and beyond to serve as a sounding board and thought partner.
What continues to impress me most about Valentina is her ability to see things from a strategic, visionary perspective, while also being extremely reflective about where she comes from and the space she occupies. I think one word captures how she approaches her work: critically. Critical in the sense that there is always a way to be better, always more time that she can put in, and always more questions she can ask of herself and of people in power to reach the most equitable result for all AU students.
This critical lens made her question why only some student leaders were able to interact with our Board of Trustees. She not only questioned, she also took action. She asked that same question to the board and other university leaders. She introduced herself to the campus community and made herself available. She invited more than 80 student leaders to engagements with the board. Everyone from transfer students to Black students and international students had the same access she and I had for two years: The ears of the most powerful people at our university.
What Valentina did as student trustee was not in the job description. In fact, no one before her--myself included--went to the lengths she did. But the board and the students invited, alike, began the work of bringing our campus together. I truly believe, for reasons such as this, that representation is vital to moving our campus and society forward. We need people who look like and come from similar backgrounds as we do to inform decisions that impact us.
I can fully attest that for the past three years, the student body has had an advocate behind closed doors even when it was uncomfortable for her. Valentina is truly someone who has hustled in silence at a place where people are very outspoken about what they have contributed. The reality is that Valentina spends much of her time actually grappling with the issues everyone only talks about during Student Government season because they are real for her every day of the year.
I have no doubt that if elected, Valentina would spend every minute of her term working for every single student. Simply put, we would be lucky to have Valentina as our next SG President.