Helen Yuan hopes to reach students across campus as ASUC executive vice president

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Update 04/06/17: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from Carolyn Nguyen, executive director of bridges Multicultural Resource Center. 

Helen Yuan may be running unopposed for the position of ASUC executive vice president, but she still feels the weight of being a candidate.

With the EVP position comes the responsibility of supporting students with financial, networking and leadership resources. Despite facing no opponents, Yuan said she’s spending as much time as she can campaigning on Sproul Plaza in the days leading up to the election, working to make sure she’s accessible to students.

“Ironically, I feel a lot of pressure,” Yuan said. “I’m not just running for the wrong reasons. I’m not just there for the title. … I internally am doing this because I believe in adequate representation.”

Making herself available and talking to students from all different communities on campus is a central part of Yuan’s platforms — a trait she said is partly rooted in her exposure to other students from across the globe as a teenager.

After growing up in Burlingame, California, Yuan — a child of Chinese immigrants — moved to attend an international high school in Shanghai. Through studying with students from all over the world, Yuan said, she broke away from being “caught up” in California and gained a more global perspective.

“Before I entered high school in China, I believed and internalized the categories that I was stereotyped in — always an academic, always a nerd,” Yuan said. “(In high school) I didn’t necessarily have to attach my identity to certain stereotypes. … Now I can be the person that I imagine myself to be.”

For Yuan, that has meant being a sister in Alpha Chi Omega and studying at the Haas School of Business, in addition to holding several positions in the ASUC, including as a senator and business development intern in the office of the EVP. She was also the chief of staff for former ASUC senator Alicia Lau. Lau, who is now the ASUC EVP, said that when Yuan worked for her, she noticed that she always made every person in the office feel important , no matter their roles.

Yuan stressed that she wants to connect with students, even when it means putting herself into uncomfortable situations.

“Helen is someone who has the ability to make anyone smile because of her consistent commitment to listening to all students from all walks of life,” said André Luu, who is running for ASUC president alongside Yuan on the Student Action executive slate.

The EVP position — which includes the responsibility of approving space allocation for student organizations — has faced controversy in recent months. Last semester, the bridges Multicultural Resource Center and the Queer Alliance Resource Center held a series of demonstrations protesting their space allocation in the basement of Eshleman Hall, demanding a larger and more visible location. In November 2016, they were offered a new temporary space on the fourth floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

Making sure that all student organizations have access to resources is among Yuan’s top priorities if elected to the position — a goal she hopes to achieve through maximizing the amount of available space on campus through identifying underutilized locations.

For bridges and QARC, she hopes to work to make their temporary space permanent during her time as EVP if they like the location, or work to find them a different location on campus if they find the temporary spaces inadequate.

Carolyn Nguyen,  executive director of the bridges Multicultural Resource Center, said that prioritizing student organizations in allocation of space is a “generic duty” of EVP and that Yuan has not yet reached out to bridges about their recent concerns.

Yuan stressed that she understands that not all campus groups receive representation in the campus’s student government, and she wants to continue trying  to bridge the gap, whether through making herself available on Sproul Plaza or campaigning on Facebook.

“I think it’s really important to have the motivation to want to connect with students on campus,” Yuan said. “Being able to … learn about students’ perspectives is something that makes me very well suited to be EVP.”

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.