Raj Bhandari, a graduate student in management science and engineering, will officially take his position as the new Financial Manager of the ASSU and CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) this July. Bhandari, who worked as a consultant for American Express in New York City, will become the overseer of several hundred employees and over $13 million in total assets, as reported by the SSE website.
As Financial Manager of the ASSU, Bhandari is primarily responsible, according to the SSE website, for the “financial component of the ASSU,” such as General and Special Fees for student groups. Stepping into this position following a difficult fiscal year provides Bhandari with a unique set of challenges. He acknowledges that ASSU dollars are in high demand, but wants student groups to know that they are being held accountable.
“If the refund rate goes up, there are two actions we can take,” Bhandari said. “First, we can justify fees to the student body, or we can rein in our budget.” He also said that Stanford could not have a system like the California government, which he described as one “relying on future miracles.”
“We want to make sure we get the right budget for next year and make sure our clients get their money’s worth,” he added.
Bhandari has also outlined the main areas he plans to tackle over the coming year.
“People need to know that we are providing services and financial support to the student community at Stanford,” he said. “Students, hopefully this year and next year, will see that the SSE employees are doing them a service.”
Bhandari hopes to see biggest changes at the Stanford Student Store, currently located at the back of Tressider Union. He stated that the store will move to the front of Tressider by next year, predicting this will attract almost five times the number of visitors the store currently receives.
He also envisions the store as a “fun land” for tourists, and encourages any students with ideas or opinions on how to make the store more fun to contact him or any store staff. He promises the student with the best idea will receive a prize from the store.
Bhandari also hopes to see SSE Labs, a startup accelerator for Stanford students formerly known as SSE Ventures, continue to grow and support student projects. The program provides funds to Stanford students to allow them to pursue their ideas over the summer. The program also helps student get support from the broader Stanford community.
“We think the model will be one of the best for students to get involved in,” said Bhandari. “Our thoughts on that are justified because we are getting interest from some really good groups on campus.”
As the Stanford community welcomes a new member, SSE says goodbye to Matt McLaughlin, its current CEO, who has worked for SSE for the past two years.
Though he does not know where he will be next year, McLaughlin looks fondly back at his time at SSE and sees it as a great learning experience. He said the highlight of his time leading SSE has been running an organization and trying to adjust it to the economic predicament. He added that a lot of work was done trying to create alternatives for advertising and relocating the Stanford Student Store to a better location.
Looking back on his time at CEO has given McLaughlin a unique perspective on the student experience.
“I think working here for an extra two years has given me a perspective on our generation, what they want and how they want it,” he said. “We don’t like the answer ‘no,’ we have this great idea, and we negotiate on the how, not whether or not it should happen.”
Working at SSE has also helped McLaughlin understand some of the challenges that face student leaders working in the academic world.
“Sometimes, in the collegiate environment, there is a clash between our generation, that hasn’t known life without the internet, and interacting with an older generation that’s not as accustomed to the power we’re used to.”
McLaughlin and Bhandari will be working together over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition this July.