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Ava Nasrollahzadeh ’16 and Dhruv P. Goyal ’16 worked on their first big initiative together two weeks before finals last spring. Working on a collaborative project between the Undergraduate Council and the Business School, they had to persuade busy undergraduates to sign up for the school’s inaugural online course offerings on its new HBX platform.
One hundred thirty-nine College students—20 to 30 percent of the course’s total enrollment—ultimately signed up, and all “unanimously had a brilliant experience,” Goyal said. The UC also received at least $1,500 in compensation from HBS, and is slated to receive at least $3,000 this year for continued publicity efforts.
Half a year later, Nasrollahzadeh and Goyal both cite this project as a formative experience in their partnership.
“When you see things like that,” Goyal said, “when you’ve worked with someone on such a big project before, it was really a no-brainer that we wanted to work together [again].”
Hoping to continue their partnership with Nasrollahzadeh as president of the Council and Goyal as vice president, the three-year UC veterans are campaigning on a platform that seeks to find new funding sources for students and increase the sense of community among undergraduates.
THE FOUR Fs
Although Nasrollahzadeh and Goyal’s platform focuses on perennial UC issues like funding, they argued that their tangible plan to improve student life sets their campaign apart.
That plan will address what they call the “Four F’s”: funding, food, freshmen, and fear of missing out.
One of the pair’s top priorities is securing a steady source of funding for student groups by leveraging alumni donations. They argue that the University should allow alumni to earmark a certain portion of donations to go directly to the UC.
“While we will definitely continue conversations with the administration to increase student group funding, we recognize that at some point the administration is just not willing to budge on this issue,” Goyal said.
Nasrollahzadeh serves on the UC’s Alumni Relations team, and Goyal is involved with the Harvard Alumni Association, and both said they have spoken with alumni who have been supportive of the idea.
“I informally pitched this idea of them giving just a part of their usual donations to Harvard...to the Undergraduate Council,” Goyal said. “They’re very receptive to the idea, because they can actually see their dollars at work in a very tangible manner. [And so] there’s this wealth out there that the UC has never leveraged in the past.”
Rahul V. Pandit ’15, president of the Harvard College Microfinance Project, which endorsed the ticket, cited these ideas for achieving financial sustainability as key to his group’s endorsement.
“The campaign’s concept of [leveraging] alumni donations,” Pandit said, “was very new, was very innovative, and really caught our attention.”
The duo also say they plan to improve the quality of student life by increasing attendance at extracurricular events and providing more meal options.
Nasrollahzadeh said that students are often unaware of the many activities that the UC funds. The ticket plans to address this “information asymmetry” by using a free mobile app called Ventfull. The app, which has already been implemented at Brown University, would display events happening around campus that relate to a student’s personal interests, and student groups would be required to add their events to Ventfull in order to receive UC grant money.
“Students will find it not only user-friendly [but also] pertinent to Harvard and up-to-date,” Nasrollahzadeh said.
The ticket also wants to implement weekend brain breaks, add more vegetarian options to the dining halls, organize a food truck festival for the River Houses, and ban midterms on Housing Day.
Tarik A. Moon ’15, who worked on the campaign, said Nasrollahzadeh and Goyal would bring passion and experience to the positions.
“I think they’re great people, great leaders, and very friendly,” he said. “They’ll listen to you whenever you go to them, they’re very passionate about the student body…and they know how to get things done.”
“THE BIGGEST FOODIE”
Nasrollahzadeh and Goyal have based their platform on their personal experiences in the UC and at Harvard.
For Nasrollahzadeh, one of the primary motivators has been food. She referred to herself as “the biggest foodie,” a passion that has inspired some of the work she has done for the UC. Last year, for example, she spearheaded a food truck festival, and plans on advising the process this year as well.
As Student Relations Committee chair, Nasrollahzadeh said, she also played a key role in the Gus A. Mayopoulos '15 and Sietse K. Goffard '15 administration, which has focused on improving outreach to students and promoting engagement with the UC.
Nasrollahzadeh recalled that, when she first joined the UC, she thought that the organization's communications were too formal and distant.
“Why,” she asked, “are we just hitting people’s emails? And why are we speaking in such a formal tone that students can’t relate to?”
She said that one of her biggest accomplishments as SRC chair was to make the UC more approachable. As examples, she cited the launch of a new UC website, an increased social presence, and last year’s Ghost Protocol initiative.
Fellow UC representative Eva Stojchevska ’15 agreed with Nasrollahzadeh’s assessment, stating that “she really transformed the SRC ever since she took on that task.”
Nasrollahzadeh, a Detroit native, lives in Pforzheimer House and is concentrating in molecular and cellular biology.
HOT MEALS, AIR MATTRESSES AND THE HONOR CODE
Like Nasrollahzadeh, Goyal started as a freshman representative on the UC, serving on both the finance and education committees. In his first year, he worked on what he calls his “three big projects”: the honor code and honor council legislation that has now been adopted by the Faculty Council, the UC’s air mattress program, and, perhaps his proudest achievement, the shift of Annenberg hours from 7:00-10:00 a.m. to 7:15-10:15 a.m.
“If my kid goes to Harvard thirty years later,” Goyal joked, “I’m going to tell him: If you have a 9 a.m. class and you’re getting hot breakfast after that, I absolutely did that.”
Another accomplishment, Goyal said, has been to increase enthusiasm for the Education Committee, which he has chaired for the last two years as a representative for Lowell House.
Nasrollahzadeh said that under Goyal, the committee has been able to produce tangible results.
“In the past, the Education Committee was considered to have very theoretical ideas,” Nasrollahzadeh said. “Dhruv Goyal mobilized, revolutionized the Education Committee. I’ve never seen it be so fruitful in my three years.”
Goyal said his achievements include the HBX project and two referenda on this year’s ballot, one for a section size cap and one for the return of the difficulty score on the Q Guide.
Goyal is a Mumbai native concentrating in economics and would, he said, be one of the first international heads of the UC. Stojchevska, who also serves as co-president of the Woodbridge International Society, which endorsed the ticket, characterized Goyal as having an unprecedented “level of care and passion for everything.”
“He takes everything that he commits to very seriously,” she said. “That’s definitely a vote of confidence, because I know that he will take that level of commitment to a higher level if [the ticket] wins.”
If elected, both candidates promise to resign from their roles in other organizations on campus, setting a “precedent” for future presidents.
“The UC is our top priority and we understand the role, responsibility and time commitment that it has,” Goyal said. Moreover, he added, resigning would prevent any potential conflicts of interest, as the UC funds several of the student organizations they are a part of.
The pair also promised to hit the ground running if elected.
“If we are elected on November 20,” Goyal said, “[that] night we party, and then November 21 we start. We start absolutely off the bat.”
The Ventfull app would be rolled out in the “initial stages” of their presidency, and conversations with administrators about alumni donations would begin well before the pair officially assumes the presidency.
“You can’t wait until January,” Nasrollahzadeh said.
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