Many women in politics will tell you that they got their start in student government. Given that just under 20% of the United States Congress is composed of women, student government is an excellent place to start building the pipeline of women who will eventually run. Aysha's presidential win has been monumental for numerous reasons. During my four years at Syracuse University, I was not only the sole female president, but I was the only woman to run for the position. In our 59 session history, our student government has only elected 11 women to the position - so it was about time we had another woman on the ballot! Aysha also was elected with another woman, Jane Hong, who will be serving as her Vice President. Aysha has been an extraordinary Student Life Chairwoman during her time at Syracuse, and I know she will continue that legacy through her presidency!
Tell us a about your recent victory. What is your position and what inspired you to pursue this role?
I’m currently the President-Elect of Student Association (SA), the student government representing undergrads at Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF. I was the Director of Student Life in SA for a year and a half and found that I love serving the student body. I like to think that SA is compiled of students that want to fight for things that the rest of the student body doesn't have time to do (i.e. get heat lamps in bus stops). I pay a ton of money to go to Syracuse and I want to make sure that I and the rest of the students I represent, get our moneys worth.
Once my time as Student Life chair was up, I decided, with immense support from my peers, to take the next step and run for President. My Vice President-Elect, Jane Hong, was my rock. The funny part about this all is that while Jane and I have so many mutual friends, we never crossed paths with each other! I met with her in the beginning of the semester and we talked for hours on the issues we had with Syracuse. Jane comes from a different background on campus, and therefore can represent issues that I would never have known about. It really was a blessing meeting Jane, who has now become one of my closest friends. We are both very excited for the 59th Legislative Session!
What woman has been your biggest inspiration and what do you admire about her?
As cliche as it may sound, but my mom is my biggest inspiration. All the women in my mom’s side of the family are great role models, but I specifically watched my mom break the cultural norm of women staying at home and raising the kids - instead, she got her doctorate and made more money than my father. It was so great to see her take on that initiative and ever since I was young, she encouraged me to push the envelope to go the extra mile. I saw her do it, so I’m doing it.
What has been the biggest struggle for you as a woman pursuing your role? How did you overcome that and what do you want others to learn from that?
Jane and I got a lot of backlash after we announced our candidacy together. As a woman who identifies as Muslim and of Pakistani decent, I got called lots of names, including “terrorist.” It became hard to continue to love Syracuse knowing that there was still racism and ignorance so apparent on this campus. Instead of letting the comments get to me, I talked about it during the campaign, making voters aware that these things were happening. It helped me identify and relate with a lot of students on campus, which became something important to me.
People look at elected officials, whether at the state and federal level, or even in college and think that they are worry-free and perfect, but I want students to know that it isn't true. I've had several bad experiences on this campus, similar to most of my peers, and I want to talk about them and how I want to fix them. I’m human too!
What advice would you give to your 10-year-old self?
It gets better! When I was 10, my parents had just separated and I was adjusted to life with having only one parent around at a time. I felt like the world was ending. And honestly, now that more than double that age, I can safely say that life DOES get better—so much better.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other young women about pursuing their dreams?
Haters will hate… People say negative things about others when they feel insecure. When you hear it, and you will, know that their intent is to stop you from following your dreams, so don’t let them get what they want.
What is your career ambition?
Ideally, I want to reform the public education system in the United States (get rid of standardized testing as a method to measure a teacher’s performance). However, being in SA has made me think about going into higher education!
Anything else you would like to add about women in leadership?
I want us to get to point where women in leadership doesn't have to make headlines. I just want it to be normal and I really think we’re getting there!
And for fun... what is your favorite travel destination?
Oregon and Washington! I've traveled there a few times in my life and I actually get speechless when I see some sites (i.e. Mount Hood, Oregon.) The air is clean, crisp, and it’s always to sunny whenever I go!
Where is she now?
This last year has easily been the most rewarding year of my life. Serving as SA President gave me a new perspective on higher education and the true value of our education system - the values that are so crucial to instill in our young professionals. As SA President, I had the opportunity to serve on a number of search committees ranging from our Vice Chancellor and Provost to the Maxwell Dean Search. I helped craft Syracuse University's new free speech policy. In 24 hours, I assisted in organizaing transportation and lodging to the Final Four in Houston, Texas for SU students. Post-graduation, I backpacked in the Grand Canyon before starting my full-time job at JPMorgan Chase & Co. - working in compliance, supporting the Corporate and Investment Bank. Graduating college has been defining in a way that I've come to learn so much about my work ethic, stress levels, eating habits, how long I can go without sleep...And Syracuse University has helped me learn that. Serving the undergraduate students there, I've come to learn my passion for serving others, implementing crucial policy changes, ensuring that even with such a large population, that understanding bredth and scope are integral to success. Those are lessons I've brought with me at JPMorgan and will carry with me everywhere I go. Every day doesn't feel like 'work' - but a new adventure, and I don't mean that as a cliche at all. It's possible - it takes time to learn it, but it's so worth it once you find it, and lucky for me, I've found it.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!