Campus sophomore Megan Yao is running for the ASUC Senate with Student Action on a platform of improving the international student experience and strengthening the East Asian community.
Yao, a comparative literature, sociology and Japanese triple major, said she believes that many campus issues are rooted in the disconnection among student groups, namely the international and East Asian student communities.
“As a person who has been working for the ASUC for two years now, I can’t help but see all these disconnections that exist not only between individual students but also between different student orgs,” Yao said.
According to Yao, she began working in the ASUC in her freshman year when she served as a community relations associate in the office of senator Samuel Peng. In spring 2020, she worked as a manager on Jerry Xu’s Senate campaign. Upon Xu’s election, Yao joined his team as internal chief of staff in her sophomore year.
As an international East Asian student, Yao noted that her personal experiences within her communities have shaped her platforms. According to Yao, many issues that international students face are related to inadequate anti-xenophobia training among faculty members.
“When I was a freshman, I experienced a lot of xenophobic attitudes from people around me,” Yao said. “But for the most part, I felt like these xenophobic attitudes were not from peers, but sometimes from my instructors and professors within the classroom.”
Yao noted that her first platform focuses on strengthening the presence of the East Asian communities on campus. She intends to focus on unity by facilitating collaboration between East Asian student clubs and promoting resources for East Asian students to get involved with the larger Berkeley community.
If elected, Yao said that she hopes to consolidate academic, career and mental health resources for international students. According to Yao, international students face hurdles that often go unaddressed, such as a lack of services offered in their first language.
“We are going to create a peer-to-peer counseling group that’s targeted towards international students so that students can seek counseling services and mental health aid through their native language,” Yao said. “Right now there’s already a well-functioning peer-to-peer advice group on campus but it’s targeted more towards local students.”
Yao’s other platforms focus on strengthening resources within both the humanities and social science departments and pre-graduate programs. She added that she hopes to provide more opportunities for such students to get involved with research and pre-graduate school advising.
Having served on the ASUC for two years, Yao also hopes to broadly address the organization’s bureaucracy that prevents efficient action.
“I wanted to reform the system I saw and also to become one of the few senators who actually wanted to do pragmatic things,” Yao said.