Student Profile: Meet Mari
Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star Reporter
June 8, 2011
Mari Freitag was elected president of the Associated Student of the University of Alaska – Fairbanks (ASUAF), the universities student government, during the spring semester of 2011. This past May also saw Mari chosen by Governor Parnell as the next student regent. She is set to serve a two-year term, ending in 2013. She is currently a junior and is pursuing a degree in Political Science with minors in Justice and Biological Sciences. She has been involved in the Residence Hall Association, New Student Orientation and the Nanook Traditions Board.
Sun Star: You’re president of ASUAF, the student regent, and a member of the Nanook Traditions board. Oh, and a full-time student. How do you plan to wear so many hats at once?
Mari Freitag: Really good time management. Even when I was just vice president and a full-time student and pretty much all of those things except president and student regent I had scheduled my entire semester out before the semester had started. I had a big desk calendar and everything’s written on there and I plan on doing that again. I’m also going to learn how to delegate really well, since I can’t obviously do it all myself.
SS: Do you look to anyone for leadership inspiration? If so, who?
MF: This is going to sound really corny, but Lisa Murkowski’s been the type of person I’ve aspired to be like for a long time. I interned with her in D.C. for a month (in the summer of 2008) and I just really respect the way she handles herself and how she deals with all the things that come with being a politician. There are a few different regents that I think are going to end up being people I aspire to be like, as well. Then I’ve got people on campus like Joe Hayes and a few other people that I know I can always go talk to and they’ve been through all this before. Joe Hayes was student regent and president at the same time too, so he knows what I’m going through. I’ll probably be talking to him a lot.
SS: How do you handle stressful situations?
MF: It depends on what kind of stress you’re talking about? If you’re talking about the stress that is something that’s very uncomfortable that’s going on I try and remove myself from the situation and do what I think is best. Stress as in being overwhelmed? I make a really big list because half the time when I’m overwhelmed with stuff and stress it’s because I think I’m going to forget something. So, if I just make a list I’m usually fine.
SS: According to poll results from the most recent ASUAF election, students seem to be either ignorant or apathetic when it comes to their student government. But, this is also nothing new. Any plans to try and fix that?
MF: Yeah, I do, that’s one of my biggest goals, actually. One of the things I ran on was on being more transparent to students and to have more student outreach. At the same time, what I was going to try and do is for those students who do know anything about ASUAF they’re usually pretty frustrated with the way it works. So, I’m going to try my hardest to try and fix that because I pretty much get along with everybody in the senate. I’m going make everybody sort out their differences and do what’s best for the students.
As far as student outreach goes, I’m planning on trying to get in to as many classrooms at the beginning of the semester as I can. I’m going to try and get our P.R. director Rosemary (Paz) to make a pamphlet and I’m going to schedule an event maybe two weeks into school and I’m going to pass out pamphlets and tell people about the event and be like ‘I’m your president, Mari, and this is what your student government does for you. This is what you can get from us; this is what you can make us do for you and that kind of stuff. I plan on doing that and I’m hoping to have a few forums. The problem with forums is nobody ever really shows up because it’s either at a bad time or they don’t want to take time out of their day to attend it. I’ll either figure out a way to get people to attend it or do something else. We’ll see.
SS: You were Vice President last year. Did that help prepare you for your new role as president?
MF: Yeah, it did. I learned a lot about what the president is responsible for and I learned a lot about what’s important to people that look at the president and what they expect. So, I think that’s the best preparedness that I have because I saw what people expected of the president. So, I know what people want so I’m going to try and fulfill that and still get everything done.
SS: Do you have any goals as president?
MF: Yeah, one of my goals is to do more student outreach and to get the executive and the legislative to get along again. I was incredibly frustrated how that did not happen this year, because that was one of the things I wanted to do as vice president was to get rid of the brick wall that seems to be up between the executive and the legislative. It became worse and I was very frustrated with that. I would like to get involved with the plus-minus grading system and residence life policies.
SS: What about as regent?
MF: I have a better answer for this question then I would have a couple days ago. I was reserving this answer for after the Coalition (of Student Leaders) met and the students hashed out what they wanted to do in the next year and it was pretty clear that [it is] going to be reforming academic advising throughout all the MAU’s (Major Administrative Units – those being the three primary campuses of UAF, UAA and UAS) is a really big thing. The students want it, Chancellor Rogers really wants it and President Gamble also acknowledged that it should be addressed.
I would really love to see a law school in Alaska but that’s kind of a huge feat so I don’t even know if it’s feasible at this point.
SS: So, you’re first Board of Regents meeting was last week. How did you feel being part of the process?
MF: It’s funny because I was so nervous I couldn’t even move. But, as soon as I sat down, Fuller Cowell, the chair, had everybody introduce themselves. After that we started going and I had read enough about the agenda that I felt like I was prepared for the meeting. Which made me feel a lot better about it. So, I felt really at home on the board very quickly. A lot more quickly then I thought I would have. I also pushed myself to talk at least once during the day, both days. I just tried to talk when I had something to say instead of just sitting there like a little scared school kid. Which I kind of am.
SS: If you had to pick three-words in which you hope to define your ASUAF administration, what would they be?
MF: That’s really hard. I don’t know if I can answer that yet, but what I would like my administration to be is approachable and effective. Things that were in my platform. I really just want us to make sure we get the job done and that we don’t let down people. There are very high expectations for my administration, I feel like, as with most when they start out, everybody kind of thinks it’s going to be really good or really bad. I think a lot of people think we’re going to be good, so I just hope we don’t let them down.