McKenzie Skrastins, a sophomore majoring in mathematical sciences, is one of three candidates on the ballot for Student Association (SA) president — an office that chairs the organization’s E-Board and serves as its primary representative. Her responses to Pipe Dream’s questionnaire have been edited for clarity.

1. Why did you decide to run for this SA E-Board position? 

I decided to run for SA President because I am passionate about bettering the Binghamton [University] community. For the past [eight] months, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside the current SA president in her advocacy work as her chief of staff. Last semester, I successfully helped the Black Student Union in their initiative to get students the day off on Black Solidarity Day. I’ve also worked on the cabinet’s “Initiagive” or our successful efforts to restart Fireside Chats. More recently, I’ve been working with [the Glenn G. Bartle Library] to create a space for clubs to archive their materials.

I have learned firsthand all the good the SA President can do and all the resources the SA president has to offer the [University] community — being able to enact change on [campus] this year has been inspiring, and I’d love the opportunity to continue my work in making [BU] a better place!

2. Tell us a bit about yourself — any clubs, hobbies or career plans for the future? 

I’m a sophomore, and I’ve lived in Queens, Long Island, Syracuse and the Bronx. As I already mentioned, I am a member of the SA President’s cabinet, where I serve as chief of staff. I’m also a researcher in Dr. William Hayes’s DReaM lab, where we mimic and model human thinking patterns, specifically decision making, with large language models. Additionally, I am a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar (LSAMP) and a Collegiate Sciences and Technology Entry Program Scholar (CSTEP). I hope to one day have a career as a statistical researcher, biostatistician or bioinformatician. In my free time, I enjoy reading, playing the Sims 4 and building LEGOs.

3. Describe your platform in a succinct way. 

My platform:

I will break the barrier between the [SA] and the students. How can I expect students and organizations to come to me with their problems if no one knows what the [SA] is, let alone that the SA president exists? I will do this through monthly fireside chats, an increase in social media outreach and student organization collaboration.

I will increase the accessibility of mental health resources around campus. I would like to work with the [University Counseling Center] and different research departments around the University to create paid mental health screenings for students, with the intent that the data collected could be used in studies. I believe that students would be more likely to seek help for their mental health issues if there was an incentive, and although these screenings might not result in a diagnosis or a form of treatment, participating in these studies would at least begin the mental health discussion in these students’ lives. I’ve seen this program at three other colleges, and it’s been a resounding success.

As SA president, I will strengthen and redefine the relationships between student groups and the administration. As important as the SA’s role is in acting as a liaison between campus organizations and the administration, I believe it’s equally important that these groups of students are able to effectively and efficiently communicate their wants and concerns directly to the administration. I will accomplish this by organizing and facilitating meetings between these organizations and the administration, and by continuing our town hall series.

I will work toward a more diverse campus. I think that it’s important that incoming and potential students are able to ask questions and hear the voices of diverse students when coming to [BU], so I’d like to create [diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)] panels during admitted students day and freshman orientation. It has also come to my attention during my time as chief of staff that many students celebrate and observe holidays that are not recognized by the University. I plan on creating a form that students can fill out to get the day off without the repercussions of missing school-related work.

4. How does your background influence what you are able to offer the campus community?

I possess [three] unique attributes that allow me to bring a unique perspective to the [SA]. First, I am a female person of color, so I, firsthand, have experienced the prejudices and inequalities present on [campus]. I’ve had to learn to advocate for myself, and this means I can advocate for anyone who feels that their voice isn’t being heard on the [BU] campus, no matter who they are. Second, unlike many people in the [SA], I was not involved in the organization my freshman year. Because of this, I know just how unaware the student body is of the SA. I understand what actions the SA could have taken my freshman year to make me more aware of them, and I plan [to put] those actions into motion as president. Finally, I have served as the president’s right-hand man, so I fully understand the position and its responsibilities. I know how to best utilize the president’s position to enact positive change, and I know that I’m up to the challenge.

5. What is your favorite restaurant in Binghamton? 

My favorite restaurant in Binghamton is Parlor City Vegan! As a vegetarian that doesn’t eat cheese, I love to go there because there isn’t a single item on the menu that I can’t eat!