Interview with Cardona/Wharton

As some of you may have seen, Fiat Lux has posted interviews with almost all of the executive slates. You can find Thom Scher, Stephanie Werner, Ryan Peacock, the No Rain Campaign!, and even Two Dope Boys in a Caddylack, the Chappie slate, at their respective links. Today, we extend this series with an interview with Angelina Cardona and Kelsei Wharton. I sat down with Cardona and Wharton several weeks ago and have since edited down the interview from a mammoth 11 pages to a moderately more manageable 8 pages. Cardona and Wharton approved my cuts, so it is posted below. I felt that I couldn’t cut much more without losing context and information.

As a brief editorial note, some may wonder why the Cardona and Wharton interview is so much longer than the other interviews. I believe that the other interviews were done over email rather than in person as this one was and this is the only interview that I have done for the Review, so that explains the differences. If the other candidates would like to submit additional statements, I think that it would be possible to publish addenda so as to avoid any perceived advantage for Cardona/Wharton. Without further ado, here’s the interview:

Review: So first just to start off, just give a little background, so why are you guys running for Executive and what basic qualifications make you ready for the job?

Cardona: Alright, so I am running because I got some good nudges in the right direction from some people who have been Execs in the past: Jonny Dorsey and Fagan Harris. They–two weeks ago from tomorrow actually–gave me some phone calls on Thursday night and they were just like “Look Angelina…” They told me that basically they really believed in me, in my abilities and they thought it [running for Exec] was something that I should highly consider. And so then at that point, after they put the bug in my ear, I was like, alright, there are some issues on the table that I really care about. I’m passionate about the position itself. Now, I just kind of have to find that third component and that would be finding someone who was passionate and who I’m excited to work with and so that’s when Kelsei came in. I gave him a call the next night and asked him if he was interested at all and said, you know, no pressure, but just think about it and let me know.

Wharton: Yeah, so basically my entire winter quarter has been… I’ve received calls from people interested in running for Exec and I said no, to everybody. And so basically, I’d say that my Senate experience kind of prompted that. This year, I’ve had a long, a long year, you know. And so…

Cardona: I think the whole Senate has.

Wharton: Yeah, yeah, most definitely. Yeah, Zack Warma’s…

Cardona: Farewell speech.

Wharton:…speech from last night, at different points he’s like, man this was a long and tough year. You know, so with that sentiment in mind I kind of thought that maybe I needed time away from the ASSU, but having Angelina call me, you know, we talked a little bit and I really, I really tried to distance myself, just so I can get some time to think and to consult other people around me, people who I knew had my best interests at heart, family, close friends that sort of thing…

Cardona:…and I did that exact same thing when I was mulling it over.

Wharton: But yeah, to make a long story short, the reason why I wanted to run is just because I feel like the ASSU, we can get it to a place where it’s about leadership development. All of us here at Stanford, we have the potential to be leaders in one way or another, you know, so in our future careers, whether that’s public sector, private, it doesn’t matter. We can all make that impact, right? So I believe that, you know, if Angelina and I are elected, we’ll definitely make steps in the right direction to focusing on that leadership development, as well as other issues that are very important to the student body. I mean as deputy chair this year I’ve tried to revive the Senate Associates program, which is the mentorship program between 15 freshmen and the 15 Senators. There’ve been ups and downs–I’m going to be the first person to tell you that–but there’s something special about coming into the meetings and you not having to send out that email anymore that says “Hey, seven o’clock Tuesday night, be at the Senate meeting.” They’re showing up because they’re interested and they want to understand a little bit more about the way that our student government is run. It’s really cool to kind of see that spark happen, right? And I believe that, hell, the class of ’14, the class of ’15, the class of ’16…

Cardona: So crazy to think about.

Wharton: …I believe that those are going to be the classes that, you know, they pick up on this culture and they take the ASSU from where it is right now…

Cardona: To a whole new level.

Wharton: …and we can iron out the kinks and we can take it to that next level.

Cardona: And there are kinks and I’m sure that’s something that we’ll talk about in a little bit. But just to touch on the last point that you asked there, back to qualifications, I guess, just to give you a background of what I’ve been up to for the last two and a half years. I came in as a freshman obviously and I immediately was really involved with the Obama campaign–I was involved before coming to Stanford, but then was very involved when I got here and met some great people through that and traveled to a lot of states for the campaign and also ran for dorm government–you know, the whole freshman thing. I was dorm president, so was Kelsei, really into, you know, just being involved with our communities in general. Well, then sophomore year, well, at the end of freshman year, after working a little bit on the Dorsey/Harris campaign, Fagan, who was one of the RAs in Branner when I was a freshman, asked me to–well, suggested that I–fill out an application for their Cabinet and I did. And I went into the interview and Jonny was very skeptical of a freshman who proposed being the chair of mental health. He didn’t understand how I was so interested, especially after just losing a sophomore class president slate with Max Haas, and Michael Terrell, and Arsani Williams, but he couldn’t understand how I was transitioning from a social aspect to a very serious campus issue. And somehow I conveyed to them in that meeting that it was something that I wanted to do some serious work on and so long story short, I joined their cabinet and midway through was offered the position of Chief of Staff when some internal things were shifting on the Cabinet and I told them that I was unwilling to give up my chair as Mental Health, so we came to a compromise, so I became co-Chief of Staff in addition to the Chair of Mental Health. And that’s how that all worked out.

So worked with them, then I went abroad last spring and traveled a ton and came back as an RA, a freshman RA this year and loved that.

Review: Chose a good dorm. So, let’s say that you guys are elected, what are the three issues that you would prioritize most?

Cardona: I would say right off the bat, at least the one thing–and this is the first thing that I mentioned to Kelsei when I gave him that call on that Friday night–was sexual assault.

Wharton: Yeah, so number one, sexual assault. She knows a little more about that than I do, right? With me, just coming off of Senate, I’m really thinking about just making the ASSU a lot more cohesive, right? So we could present it as a package to the student body as opposed to them looking at it and laughing. Or, you know, as opposed to them looking at it, thinking about that one time they walked into some meeting and were kind of met with opposition, you know? So yeah, basically…

Cardona: So we’d say we want a lot of cohesion between the different bodies…

Wharton: …the legislative bodies, as well as the…

Cardona: …the GSC, the Senate, the Exec, the Constitutional Council, all of it.

Wharton:…the Exec, bringing it all together. And obviously, that’s something that you’d work on alongside with other platform issues.

Cardona: So, yeah, I’d say that’s sort of a side issue. It’s part of a bigger issue of transparency and credibility, which top three sexual assault, public service, and diversity. And amongst these reconciling the balance between focusing on the big issues that affect us all and working on the situations that are having a high impact on student groups and student life, particularly with the system of special fees.

Wharton: Yeah, so the way we’ve been thinking about it, this issue of faculty and grad diversity. People have been talking about it on a yearly basis, and there’s been no real progress. What we want to do, well, what we’ve been thinking about is, can we put the onus back on the student body about what does it mean to go and look for a diverse set of faculty? It starts with us. I mean, are we interested in going into academia? If not, then, you know, how are we expecting to bring those people in? So, kind of reversing it and just having a conversation about what it would mean for our university and what it would mean for us, as the future leaders of this world. So, that’s not something that you’re going to knock out in one, in a few town halls, in a few meetings, it’s gonna be like a culture shift. So, these are like some of the ideas that we have going on. We’ve be meeting with…Like we’re going to be meeting with Laura Selsnick, who works very closely with undergrads who are thinking about going into grad school programs. We’re meeting with a lot of people.

Cardona: We’re meeting with faculty that are being brought on board to understand better the process to get them here.

Wharton: The hiring process.

Cardona: We also–so back to this whole transparency and credibility thing–we from day one have started a trend. It’s kind of our basic principle between us as a team to get as much student input as we can on everything. And we’re running off of the belief that, you know, we’re two students, we have our perspectives and our experiences, but what it really comes down to is the big collective increase in ideas and we feel like by gaining more input from students, from administrators and everyone across the board, we will come up with the best ideas possible.

Review: You said that you [Cardona] were approached by Dorsey and Harris and they also endorsed Gobaud and De La Torre last year. How do you feel about the fact that basically if you were elected, this would be the third Dorsey/Dorsey-endorsed administration in a row?

Cardona: I think…I think the common thread that weaves between their slate, Gobaud’s slate, and our slate is…It all comes back to the fact that we’re all very public service-minded people. We are big picture people as well. You know, the issues that we mentioned to you that are most important to us are definitely ones that…You know, they’re not bite-size, they’re huge. And, so I’d say the fact that there are these commonalities between us is the reason that we are all continuing on this, what would you call it? [to Kelsei]

Wharton: The train…?

Cardona: [laughs] That’s actually a great idea to call it a train because their [Dorsey and Harris] theme was “All Aboard!” But it’s not like we’re a coalition or anything, I don’t want students to be wary of that. It’s just that, you know, it’s kind of a flow over of like-minded people, who care a lot about the university and our community and want to give back to it.

Review: Let’s turn to more specific things that you guys have done. First, you probably knew this was coming, but I’m interested in hearing more about the Wellness Room; I read your Formspring earlier today, so I’ve got some idea of your thoughts on that, but if you could just sort of clarify: do you view the Wellness Room as a success so far? If so, how are you going to build on that? If it’s been less successful than you’d like, what’s your plan to turn it around?

Cardona: Absolutely. I think the evaluation process of the Wellness Room needs to continue, as it has now. I mean, the current Wellness Room coordinator, released a few numbers on the YES+ workshop, but that’s just one component of the room. There’s also this residential education, programming, outreach that they’ve done. Like I mentioned on Formspring, I think largely the debate around the Wellness Room is the aesthetics and I do realize fully that, you know, bright colors are not appealing to everyone and are not what embody wellness to some people. I think on one side of the coin, I’ve heard from some people that they are so thankful this service is available to them, but these aren’t the students that are writing articles, generally, in the newspapers.

Review: Let’s say that I feel like I need a break: why shouldn’t I go to CAPS?

Cardona: Ok, that’s actually a really great question. So basically, 20 percent of students deal with more serious mental health issues, such as depression and those are the students who do need to go to CAPS, and who are hopefully going to CAPS. The Wellness Room is targeted towards the 80 percent who deal with day-to-day stresses. It is not a place–we weren’t opening it with the hopes of creating a zero depression campus or combating any other of these really serious issues. We think those structures are already in place. You know, the Bridge is a good starting place for that. CAPS is another step for those people who need those services. But like I said, the Wellness Room is just supposed to be a place that basically adds a little positivity into someone’s life, hopefully. Whether it’s to go there and paint a canvas, or to go there and play a game with a friend, or to go there and read a book, whatever.

Wharton: Before the stress actually turns into a deeper issue.

Cardona: Yes, so basically it’s working off this idea of positive psychology that Carol Pertofsky introduced to me when I was the Chair of Mental Health. It’s a more proactive approach to wellness that, like Kelsei mentioned, that prevents things, hopefully, before they turn into something greater. And I do believe that if Stanford students had the resources—and this is not just the Wellness Room, the Wellness Room is just a component of this—to manage their time better and to balance their lives more then a lot of these things that happen on down the road wouldn’t happen.

Review: So, returning to the original question, so where do you go, as Executive, what’s your move with the Wellness Room?

Cardona: I think the move is to further evaluate if this is a service that is valuable for the amount of funds going into it for the student body, point blank. And that’s the way that we’re going to look at every component that we’re dealing with.

Review: So you’re willing to take a step back and crunch the numbers…

Cardona: Oh, absolutely. Just because I was the founder of the Wellness Room does not mean in any way that I have a bias towards the Wellness Room.

Wharton: She’s not lying to you at all. The very first time I talked to her about it, she said, “Yes, I understand that I did think of it, but at the same time, if it’s not working, it’s not working.” She’s being 100 percent honest.

Cardona: I have an absolutely open mind to whatever the student body sees best fit for it.

Wharton: That’s our responsibility, right? It may be my idea, but if my idea is not that good or somebody would like to add a little something to it…

Cardona: Or change it here or there, or whatever.

Review: So, turning to you [Kelsei], what do you view as your most successful effort as part of the Senate, as deputy chair of the Senate? Or what’s one of the things that’s been most important to you?

Wharton: Alright, so what I’d say is—going back to the Senate Associates thing—seeing that the ASSU does have the potential to pull in freshmen, to pull in sophomores, juniors, seniors, whatever into the realm of the ASSU and get them working. Just the fact that I had 15 people—well, I had plenty more applicants for the Senate Associates program—come in and really try to engage with the legislative body, try to meet the other Senators and just kind of figure out what they were working on. People that really wanted to tackle the Appropriations reform during the year…that’s something special, because as opposed to the way that I got into the Senate—I spoke to some seniors, I spoke to juniors, I was in a four class dorm, so it was a different approach to it. I saw the Senate Associates program last year and I knew I was on Frosh Council, I knew I was president of the dorm, so I thought I was doing enough, so I didn’t even go for the Senate Associates program. So basically, I had to learn about the Senate throughout the year as opposed to knowing how the ASSU functions on campus. So I’d say just kind of seeing the kind of impact that you can have one person and what they would be able to do. And also it really has been a growing experience for me. I’ve really developed over the year in just kind of understanding the politics of the ASSU, as well as how to work with other people that are coming from completely different backgrounds with different opinions. Zack Warma—going back to Warma—he says all the time…You know, there are plenty of times when we disagree in a Senate meeting and at the end I go over to him and I always have this way of making sure that somebody’s good and I’m like “Zack, we cool?” and he’s like “Kelsei, that’s not even an issue.” So kind of getting to understand, yeah, there’s that professional kind of relationship that you need to have with somebody and then the personal relationship. So I’ve done a lot of individual, personal growth. And yeah, I’ve been learning from my peers. Somebody that comes up with legislation on a weekly basis: Alex Katz. I pick up things from him and I definitely respect a lot of my colleagues on there.

Cardona: He’s a smart guy.

Wharton: One of my most coveted accomplishments for the year has been the Senate Associates program, really feeling like the freshmen are ready to take on…

Cardona: I mean if you look at the number of Senate Associates who are running for Senate this year then I think that speaks to the success of this program.

Wharton: People feel actually prepared. People are prepared to take on the role, they know what the Appropriations committee does, how much money you’re messing around with, the kind of budgets that you need to see, and what is expected of each budget. The Senate—I highly doubt that their transition process will—well, I mean it’s going to be a thorough transition process—but they’re going to meet us half way. So, just kind of seeing that progress throughout the year.

Review: Is there any legislation of which you’re particularly proud?

Wharton: So, I haven’t been the most active participant in the legislative role. So with the Associates program, I’ve just done a lot of that and then I’ve also been in the behind the scenes kind of meetings: wherever I’m called, that’s where I go. I admit I haven’t been the one writing legislation on a weekly basis. I am an active participant in the discussions, more so than some people, but I can’t say that I’ve written legislation. But, I make sure that my voice is heard and that people can take friendly amendments or can take my perspective into consideration when they are trying to get a bill passed.

The Review: Great. Thanks for talking with me.

Cardona: Thanks for having us.

If you want to ask more questions of the candidates, their Formspring is here, although it seems inactive of late.

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