Shivali Korgaonkar and Ryan Lee: Leaders of the 2021-2022 Student Union

Senior Shivali Korgaonkar and junior Ryan Lee discuss their upcoming plans as the Student Union leaders for the 2021-2022 school year.

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In the midst of a pandemic and a year of online classes, uncontested candidates senior Shivali Korgaonkar and junior Ryan Lee were appointed President and Vice President, respectively, of the 2021-2022 Student Union (SU).

As a vice president for the 2020-2021 school year, Korgaonkar elected Lee to succeed her based on his former experience and character. “I had worked with Ryan last year when he was a Soph[omore] Caucus Co-President and [...] I was really looking for someone who’s vocal and someone who can work well with people,” she said. “I felt that Ryan’s personality would be compatible with mine and that we would both be able to create [a] welcoming environment in Stuyvesant.”

In conjunction, Lee chose to run as vice president because he wanted to directly help the students at Stuyvesant. “I felt as though there was a large gap between the SU and student body and realized that space was only going to get bigger. [...] Hearing students and their problems and trying to find a way to help them was a really big motivator in my work and having future endeavors in the SU,” Lee said.

Prior to becoming president and vice president respectively, Korgaonkar and Lee both became involved in the SU during their sophomore years, with Lee as Sophomore Caucus Co-President, and Korgaonkar as Director of External Affairs, a department responsible for expanding and maintaining relationships between the SU and external organizations through initiatives such as newsletters and engagement courses.

Korgaonkar then became Vice President with 2020-2021 SU President Julian Giordano, whom she had collaborated with in the past. “I spent my first year in External Affairs, and Julian Giordano, who was then the SU vice president, [...] had asked me to join on this equity program that we worked on with the Department of Education, which I’m still in today, and that’s how I got to know Julian and how we eventually decided to run together as president and vice president last year,” Korgaonkar said.

Korgaonkar feels optimistic about stepping into the role of president because of her experience as vice president, especially as the pandemic pushed her to learn how to accommodate and inform the student body on a new level. “Being the vice president required a lot of adaptability and communication with students. The reason I felt so confident in taking a position as president this year was because last year was one of the most difficult tests I think we would be put under,” Korgaonkar said. “Everything was kind of just a clean slate and we had to work from the ground up.”

Overall, Korgaonkar and Lee hope to implement a different approach than that of the past administrations. To do so, they emphasized the importance of student feedback in their decisions for the school year. “We didn’t want this year to be a continuation of what previous administrations and years had done […] Ryan and I are not just continuing what has always been the norm. We’re entering a new year. New circumstances. New conditions,” Korgaonkar said. “We will also be adapting and changing based on what we hear from students [...] We want to be approachable people and an approachable organization that does more than just bureaucratic work.”

For example, in light of the mental health discussion during the 2020-2021 school year, the SU hopes to change the academic culture at Stuyvesant with regards to it. “Something that we’ve been working really closely with Principal Yu on is understanding [the issue of mental health], and [...] what mental health really means at Stuy,” senior and SU Chief of Staff Owen Yaggy said. “And we want to make progress that everyone is involved in. [...] To improve things one step at a time is still really good in a school where not a lot has changed, so we’re going to try and be ambitious and make sure things get done.”

Another focus of their platform is altering Stuyvesant’s technology policy. Prior to online classes, students were generally not permitted to use electronic devices in the classroom. Due to remote instruction, however, students have wondered whether they will be allowed to continue using their devices for learning purposes or not. “I know the technology policy is something students were interested in because it was something people reached out about, so it was something we pursued,” Korgaonkar said.

Yet another part of Korgaonkar and Lee’s goals is to bring back Stuyvesant’s pre-pandemic environment by rebuilding traditions at Stuyvesant and welcoming the incoming class. “[This means] bringing back traditions such as the Club Pub Fair and different events that we couldn’t do during the pandemic,” Lee said. “We’ve been very collaborative and in constant contact with the Big Sibs and Camp Stuy and how the SU can be included in that.”

Members of the SU have commented on Korgaonkar and Lee’s cooperation, expressing their enthusiasm for the upcoming school year under the new leadership. “Shivali and Ryan have a really good partnership [...] I know that they’re both really really capable at doing SU things together,” Yaggy said. “We have a really great group in the Student Union this year, we have a lot of things we are really excited to work on, and we have a lot of opportunities in front of us, so I’m really excited.”