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Monday, September 28, 2020

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‘Never thought it would have been me’: Khademakbari’s path to SGA presidency


Although she never thought she would be a student leader, mathematical biology junior Jasmine Khademakbari is now the Student Government Association president for the 57th administration. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Although she never thought she would be a student leader, mathematical biology junior Jasmine Khademakbari is now the Student Government Association president for the 57th administration. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Jasmine Khademakbari, a mathematical biology junior, never saw herself as the type of person who could become a student leader, but by her third year at UH, Khademakbari has been a College of Natural Science and Mathematics senator, a Student Life Committee chair and most recently the Student Government Association president.

Now leading the 57th SGA administration virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, Khademakbari aims to achieve her campaign platform of providing affordable housing, inclusive student support, a green campus, academic support and campus safety to all students.

“Everything on my platform is still something I’m going to work on,” Khademakbari said. “That’s something that isn’t going to change (whether classes are) in person or online.”

Khademakbari’s first experience with SGA was her freshman year during the original Students Unite campaign, led by former president Cameron Barrett.

After hearing a senate candidate speak to her biology class, Khademakbari felt inspired to join SGA. Two years later, she is representing Barrett’s namesake, as the third consecutive Students Unite president.

At the time, Khademakbari was involved on campus through the Chi Omega sorority, where she was the Frontier Fiesta production chair for two years. After becoming interested in SGA, Khademakbari reached out to Barrett to learn more about how to participate.

“I ended up meeting with Cameron right after he won, and I asked him how I could get involved in SGA,” Khademakbari said. “He told me I could join a university committee, or I could maybe run in the election next year.”

The following year, Khademakbari ran for a College of Natural Science and Mathematical senate seat under the Coogs Unite party. It was after she won her senate seat that Khademakbari reached out to Barrett once again for advice on how to be a good senator.

“He said, ‘Look, have a couple initiatives you want to work on, and then work on those initiatives and that’s it, you’ll be a good senator,’” Khademakbari said.

Keeping Barrett’s advice in mind, Khademakbari worked to achieve her ambitions of being an active and successful senator. During her first term, she worked on multiple pieces of legislation including the Student Transfer Helpful Tip Sheet bill, the Cougar Equipment Sharing Service bill, the Appointment Transparency act and more.

Barrett believes Khademakbari has the experience to be a good president, highlighting her programming skills as a student life chair.

She had more of a programming focus as student life chair, wanting to plan events,” Barrett said. “She planned the second iteration of SGA’s haunted house successfully.”

Khademakbari’s work did not go unnoticed. She was approached by one of her fellow senators who was planning to run for president who asked her to be his vice-presidential candidate. Although she never planned to pursue an executive position, Khademakbari agreed and began preparing for the upcoming election.

In December, Khademakbari was caught off guard when she learned her running mate was withdrawing from the University and would no longer be running for president.

Khademakbari then decided to continue the campaign and move forward, now leading the Students Unite party as the presidential candidate. 

Moving forward, Khademakbari contacted everyone she believed would be a good addition to the party. She compiled a group of students based on recommendations and her own experiences to create a 31-person party, the largest running in SGA history.

“The entire month of December I would spend on the phone reaching out to students,” Khademakbari said. “I probably reached out  to every single person I knew to try to find people who would be a good fit for the team.”  

After a successful campaign, Khademakbari won the presidency, earning 60 percent of the vote. The remainder of the Students Unite party won the majority of the senate seats.

“I was one of the students who would have never expected to become SGA president,” Khademakbari said. “I just never thought it would have been me.”

Khademakbari said she never grew up thinking that she would be the best person for any job. She believes running for SGA president and student leadership as a whole requires an amount of confidence that she used to not have.

“I didn’t have those values instilled in me,” Khademakbari said. “I didn’t necessarily have the self-confidence to do any of (this).”

For students with similar mindsets, Khademakbari recommends to work hard and strive to take on student leadership roles.

“I feel like a lot of students don’t see themselves as student leaders and really my message to them is to stop and see yourself as a student leader,” Khademakbari said. “See yourself as someone who can make a change.”

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