The Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, has a new president.
Replacing international relations senior Lorenzo Santavicca, who served as the ASMSU president for two years, political theory and constitutional democracy junior Katherine Rifiotis ran unopposed and won unanimously with a vote of 32 to 0.
"When I first came to Michigan State, I chose this place because I knew that Michigan State was a place where everything started and ended with students. And clearly right now, the student voice is not being heard," Rifiotis said. "But for sure, it's not the end."
Rifiotis, who served as ASMSU's vice president for internal administration during the last session, is the first international student to become the president of the undergraduate student government. She is Greek and Brazilian, and goes by the nickname "Cookie."
"Great ideas, but how are we putting that to practice? It takes a village, or in this case an assembly. And I want to make sure that everyone is ... focused, determined," Rifiotis said.
Some of her goals as president include being a part of the university's academic governance system, having a voice in the presidential search, advocating for student voice on the board of trustees, finding a dean of students, ensuring engagement and outreach and tackling sexual assault issues.
"The day I handed in my packet, I hesitated," Rifiotis said. "I hesitated because I didn't know if I was going to be mentally fit for the position. I hesitated because there was too much going on in my life to put other people's problems first. But I decided that in helping others, I find my strength."
During the election, Rifiotis was asked six different questions by the general assembly, which ranged from how she would promote ASMSU to how she would interact with the administration.
Improving marketing and outreach
Rifiotis said ASMSU's marketing department has done a good job, but outreach has been a "big problem."
"It's hard because they're only a group of seven people and it's a campus of 50,000," Rifiotis said. "I don't believe that they solely should be the outreach ... they're going to be the brain trust of how we're going to organize that outreach."
Addressing MSU's administration
Rifiotis was asked about the current campus climate and how she would "go against the MSU administration" if needed.
Rifiotis said she would not be intimidated and she would address student issues with the administration.
"It's not what we're trying to achieve, it's how we try to do it. We all have a goal in line to better this community," Rifiotis said.
Representing marginalized communities
Rifiotis discussed her time in the International Students Association and what she learned from being a part of that diverse community. As president, she said she plans to work with those groups and affiliates.
"I learned that it's not enough to have two passports to understand the issues across the world ... There's a lot of intersectional issues, class, language barriers," Rifiotis said.
Santavicca said Rifiotis is a magnet that draws people into the organization.
"With the assembly unanimously electing her tonight, she is going to be a real catalyst for change on our campus," Santavicca said. "I'm sure that she will do nothing but a fabulous job, hopefully better than I had been able to do as president."