Travis Romero-Boeck, new president of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Student Association, and Angela Lang, new vice president, are reflections of the diverse UWM student body. Both were born and raised in the Milwaukee area. Romero-Boeck’s family background is Colombian on his father’s side; Lang identifies herself as biracial.
However, more important than their racial or ethnic background, they both agree, is that they are students – reflecting the views of students to the campus administration and local officials.
While everyone’s background is certainly part of who they are, says Romero-Boeck, a senior in political science, “our main perspective is a student perspective. That’s what we have in common with all the students here.”
Lang, a senior in international relations, agrees. Most UWM students are concerned about similar issues – paying for college, dealing with landlords, transportation and parking, academic success, future career opportunities, and the quality of campus life. “We want to be the voice of the students.”
One key goal both new student leaders have is to get more students involved in student government. “Most of the activists are in student organizations,” says Lang, and students tend to gravitate to organizations that reflect their interests. “We really want to get people involved in student government and let them know what we’re doing so they come to us with their concerns.”
To do that, the leadership team is looking to become a more active presence at campus events, to market and promote the work of student government, and to organize their own events. One of the first projects may be a “Get Out the Vote” campaign this fall to help those 31,000 students harness their political power. “We want local leaders to understand that students want to get involved,” says Lang.
Another major project the new student government would like to accomplish is to develop a document that spells out the role of students in campus decision-making. In one of his first acts as president, Romero-Boeck established a commission to create such a shared governance document.
Over the years, student government has worked with the campus administration without a formal document. While that has generally worked well with current and previous administrations, Romero-Boeck says it’s important to develop a more formal way to implement a 30-year-old state law that gives students responsibility in the formulation and review of university policies affecting them.
To accomplish those goals, both Romero-Boeck and Lang say they think it’s important to avoid the pitfalls of partisan squabbling. “You get partisan disagreement and before you know it, the year is over and you haven’t accomplished anything,” Romero-Boeck told the UWM Post, a student newspaper.
Romero-Boeck and Lang became interested in student government in different ways. In his first year, says Romero-Boeck, he had little interest, but became involved in the second semester of his sophomore year. He felt student government wasn’t very transparent or open to students and wanted to see, he says, what he could do to make things better.
Lang was active in a student organization, so “I saw student government from a student organization perspective. I saw some of the things that were going on and wanted to be part of it.” Those interactions led to her decision to run on a ticket with Romero-Boeck for the Achieving Student Access Through Progress (ASAP) party last spring. They combined their views as a student government insider and outsider in their campaign, running with the slogan “Bringing Us Together.”
Neither student leader is currently planning a career in politics – Romero-Boeck would like to work in civil service and Lang would like to become a nurse and work in international health care, possibly in an organization like Nurses Without Borders. However, they feel being involved in student government has helped them prepare for their futures.
“We meet a lot of people from different backgrounds and get a lot of different perspectives on problems,” says Romero-Boeck. Lang adds: “I think that makes you more mindful of others and improves your leadership skills.”
UWM Open House Oct. 29 & 30 If you’d like to connect with UWM, please join us at the 2010 Open House, Friday, Oct. 29, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 30, 9 a.m.–2 p.m., at the UWM Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd. You can enjoy interactive displays, speak with advisers and staff from each school and college, and take tours of buildings, departments, the campus and the neighborhood. No advance registration needed. If you’d like to schedule your own visit, call 414-229-1122.