ASUWB committed to student experience

Djelli Berisha. Marc Studer

Djelli Berisha said running for student body president last spring was stressful, for sure. First, there was the normal stress of an election for the Associated Students of the University of Washington Bothell. Then, there was the added stress of doing it remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Berisha won and now leads a team of 10 other ASUWB officers, serving and representing all students. A challenging responsibility any year, but now, as with the election, doing it remotely.

“I get to advocate for the same resources and student success initiatives for other students that I found,” said Berisha, a junior majoring in Biology with three minors: Chemistry, Diversity and Computer Science & Software Engineering. A pre-med student interested in global health, he plans to become a physician or medical researcher.

Last year, Berisha was ASUWB director of student advocacy. In the spring he will decide if he wants to run for a second term as president next year. In an interview in early September, Berisha answered questions about how the ASUWB will function this year.


Q: How has the ASUWB been preparing for 2020-21?

A: I started planning in mid-August and the rest of the team in early September. They have two weeks to research and plan their projects before training, which goes for two weeks before the school year starts, so we can hit the ground running.

Q: What challenges do you foresee?

A: We’re still gripped in coronavirus. There’s a presidential election. There are social injustice issues. We knew we were stepping into a lot, and there are big roles to fill this year. So, this fall has less position-based training and more leadership-style training.

Q: How do you get student feedback when you can’t meet face-to-face?

A: That’s the question we’ve all been trying to answer this September. I tasked other members of the team with how we can engage students virtually. Welcome Week is a really big time traditionally for ASUWB feedback. Last year we did big posters with sticky notes. We have three directors holding feedback sessions and gathering data throughout the quarter. It’s a lot of telling students who we are and what we do — and getting them to tell us what we can improve on. We’re especially interested in how the coronavirus is affecting students.

Q: What do you sense students are feeling?

A: With COVID-19 and especially what’s happening in politics now, I think there’s a lot of anxiety and depression. I’m speaking on behalf of myself. I’m confident other students might be feeling the same way. I think more than anything, students are missing social interactions. It’s really different from when we were on campus. If I had a meeting and walked outside on the Promenade, I’d see 10 people I know. But here, inside my own house, inside my room, it’s kind of boring. I get exhausted. Zoom fatigue is real. I think a lot of students are feeling that as well.

Q: What have courses been like since the coronavirus pandemic hit?

A: It hasn’t been that bad for me personally. It became very clear that the staff and faculty did a great job of trying to engage students in classes virtually, which I understand from the ASUWB perspective can be really hard. They also did a great job of shifting all their content online really fast. I really admired the efforts of staff and faculty at that time.

Q: How is the ASUWB team functioning?

A: During the election season, Michael [Abellar, vice president] and I instilled teamwork into everything we did and established those connections early. That has proven to be efficient in Zoom meetings. I have to make use of all the time when I do see them on Zoom.

Q: How will the ASUWB function within the University?

A: I’m having directors reach out to campus partners and stakeholders who are relevant to their positions and establishing collaborations early. Last year, I did events with the Health and Wellness Resource Center, Campus Safety and Student Diversity Center. That was a great way to get a lot of feedback from students. Now we’re trying to mimic that interaction over Zoom.

Q: What would you like the ASUWB to accomplish this year?

A: No. 1 is a really large get-out-the-vote effort. Getting students at universities and colleges to vote is really essential. Something that remains to be a priority is student success and primarily during the coronavirus pandemic because it disproportionately affects Blacks and other people of color. The University has committed a ton of resources and needs to continue to advocate for resources that pertain to student academic performance as well as their mental health — really instilling the fact that every student has a place at UW Bothell and that they are valued.

Q: What do you want students to know about student government?

A: ASUWB is committed to the success and well-being of all students, while providing an exceptional experience at UW Bothell. We keep students up to date through social media — Instagram, Facebook, our website. We provide compensation for educational conferences, conference travel and things like that. There are a lot of opportunities through ASUWB, and we’re always looking for people. We have a mentorship program, a student advisory council, and job opportunities arise all the time.

Q: What’s new with the ASUWB this year?

A: This year we had a team restructure. We split outreach and marketing into two — a director for outreach and a director for marketing. We still have the director of student advocacy. But we changed director of community relations to director of campus partnerships. And we still have a director of government relations, who has an important job this year with voter turnout, lobbying and getting a really important legislative agenda out.

Q: What should students do to prepare for the start of classes?

A: I would recommend students become familiar with resources such as the Writing & Communication Center and the Quantitative Skills Center. First-year students have the opportunity for a closer mentorship through Orientation & Transition Programs.

Q: What should students focus on?

A: During this next year, it’s important that students are able to stay successful in their classes but also to make sure that we’re still forging these connections the UW Bothell community really cherishes. That’s really important for transfers and first-years who will be coming into UW Bothell without ever taking a class in person. That’s scary and overwhelming. They probably don’t know all the resources they can be pointed to. So, we’re doing the best we can to establish those connections and route them to valuable resources early on.

Q: What’s your advice for students this year?

A: A lot has happened, and a lot will happen. This is a time in history that no student government has experienced in more than 100 years — the last pandemic. There are a bunch of different factors — conflicts — that are influencing emotions all at the same time, and that can make this really stressful for a lot of people. But together, UW Bothell students, staff and faculty come out stronger because we’re resilient and empathetic in our tight-knit community that we cherish on campus.

The ASUWB leadership team:

  • President Djelli Berisha
  • Vice President Michael Albellar
  • Director of Outreach Jorge Azpeitia
  • Director of Marketing Bryanna Bui
  • Director of Student Advocacy Keita Shimizu
  • Senator of Student Advocacy Jessica Ambriz-Madrigal
  • Director of Campus Partnerships Marco Lizarraga
  • Senator of Campus Partnerships Nomin Ulziisaikhan
  • Director of Government Relations Mumina Ali
  • Parliamentarian Evelynn Michaud-Spangler
  • Treasurer Brian Kieffer

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