Student Union endows fund to support student leaders

Students and leaders meet to sign an agreement.
Student Union executives Emily Chen (second from left) and Mishka Narasimhan (second from right) meet with (from left) Anna Gonzalez, vice chancellor for student affairs, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin and Pam Henson, executive vice chancellor for university advancement, to establish the Student Union Leadership Award. (Photo: Jenny Sinamon)

In an effort to support and celebrate student leaders, Student Union, Washington University in St. Louis’ student government, has established a $2 million endowed fund for the Student Union Leadership Award. 

Emily Chen, Student Union president, said the fund will distribute approximately 15 $5,000 undergraduate awards annually starting this spring. Student Union started the fund to recognize the hard work of student leaders, regardless of their title, she said. 

“There are so many students here who devote hours outside of their academic work to build and enhance the undergraduate experience,” Chen said. “These are WashU’s hidden heroes, and the entire community benefits from their passion and commitment.”

Mishka Narasimhan, Student Union vice president of finance, said a panel of administrators and students will judge award applicants on a range of leadership criteria including creative problem solving, teamwork and overall impact. Students may apply on the Student Union Leadership Award webpage. The deadline is noon April 19. Narasimhan said Student Union hopes to name its inaugural recipients later this spring.

Student Union is charged with managing and distributing the student activities fee, which is 1% of undergraduate tuition. Student Union previously established the SU Mental Health Fund and the endowed SU Opportunity Fund, which are administered by the Taylor Family Center for Student Success.

Anna Gonzalez, vice chancellor for student affairs, said leadership development is core to “Here & Next,” Washington University’s 10-year plan. Student Affairs currently offers a range of leadership education opportunities. In March, the university announced the launch of the George and Carol Bauer Leaders Academy, which will support research and oversee student leadership programs across schools and co-curricular programs. 

“One of the great hallmarks of Washington University is the relationships that we build with each other,” Gonzalez said. “At a time when some of our peer institutions are experiencing discord among administrators and students, this initiative is a testament to the collegial relationships crossing all levels of WashU, and our ability to work together toward a shared commitment to supporting our students’ engagement at WashU and beyond.”

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