Meet the four candidates running for ASW.President

The candidates gathered together for the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. This year, the candidates are no longer allowed to run in teams, creating a large shift in the shape and scheme of the elections process. Photos by Rachel Robertson

The candidates gathered together for the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. This year, the candidates are no longer allowed to run in teams, creating a large shift in the shape and scheme of the elections process. Photos by Rachel Robertson

It’s the heart of election season nationally, but closer to home ASW.Elections are in full swing as well.

This year candidates are no longer allowed to run in teams, creating a large shift in the ASW.Elections shape and scheme.

This year, there are four candidates running for ASW.President: Ryan LaRe, junior; Nate McDonald, junior; Ben Pok, first-year; and Michael von Ballmoos, junior.

Meet Ryan LaRe

LaRe described themself as an activist whose platform prides their experience of activism and fighting for marginalized identities.

Campaign slogan:I have been an activist. Now I want to take my activism to ASW.”

Main platforms addressed: Diversity and inclusion on campus and Title IX.

Get to know more about LaRe's platform here.

ASW.President candidate Ryan LaRe speaks at the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. LaRe is running on a platform of inclusivity and diversity, including their past work with activism. 

ASW.President candidate Ryan LaRe speaks at the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. LaRe is running on a platform of inclusivity and diversity, including their past work with activism. 

What are you focusing on for your platforms for the students while campaigning for ASW.President?

My platform is fairly simple on its face, I have two things that I like to focus on. The first thing is diversity and inclusion, which is I think something that I am known for on this campus. Just pushing for more… You know, we haven’t been tracking as predominantly as we should have past diversity and inclusion on campus, and we’ve set these goals and we never really reached them. Also, one of the things I want to look at is how to we make sure that our syllabi are diverse. These are things that I think are closed conversations with administration and with the professors, like, ‘How can we make this better? How can we keep making this an issue?’ Because I don’t want this to die. I don’t want us to stop talking about this issue. We need to make sure that this is something that is always on our minds, and we’re always trying to do better at because we can do better and we should do better.”

And your second platform alongside diversity and inclusion?

“There’s a lot of really awesome activists on campus around Title IX and around sexual assault on campus. So one of the things I want to make sure of moving forward we work on is that we don’t let that die but also what common reforms can we put into place that make this less prominent. One of the things I think we need to focus on is on getting a Victims Advocate. We need a professional staff who has had that training, who is a paid professional on campus. Also, I think continuing the conversations and the town halls we’ve been having and, you know, ultimately trying to change the culture around Title IX on campus.”

What experience have you had to prepare you for this position?

“Long history and a lot of experience on this campus of doing things that show I stand in solidarity with groups and that I will keep doing that in this position [ASW.President] in any form that I am capable of… I was one of the organizers behind the Are You Listening Protest, and I was one of the founding members of the Be a Human campaign. I’m the campus coordinator for Democracy Matters on campus, which is a non partisan student-led organization that focuses on campaign finance reform. I’m the vice president for Students for Choice [Westminster’s Planned Parenthood Affiliate Chapter]. I’ve done a lot for that. And then I was recently an intern with Rep. Hemingway of District 40.”

Any actual hands-on experience and formality with processes with Rep. Hemingway?

“I learned a lot about processes and how processes work. So I’m not going to promise all these fun, fancy things because that’s not what the [ASW.President] is able to do here. The president is basically the person who gets to be part of conversations and gets to push for things and not always get it but be that voice and push for things, and I have a history of pushing and trying to get things.”

Beyond the candidacy, what is one thing that voters should know about Ryan LaRe, whether it be a fun fact or your passions?

“My cat. So my cat Sprinkles, she is a minx, so she was born without a tail. She has a tendency that when she gets excited to run into walls ‘cause she’s off balance. I love my cat. She’s my everything.”

One last fact?

“I can’t guarantee it, but I think I would be the first non-binary gender, non-conforming person elected, which I think is kind of awesome.”

Meet Nate McDonald

McDonald is running his campaign around growth—growth of student government and student involvement.

Campaign slogan: “Vote for growth, vote for Nate McDonald.”

Main platforms addressed: Student growth, identity growth and communication.

Get to know more about McDonald's platform here.

ASW.President candidate Nate McDonald speaks at the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. McDonald is running on a three-pronged platform of growth that includes student growth, identity growth, and communication growth. 

ASW.President candidate Nate McDonald speaks at the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. McDonald is running on a three-pronged platform of growth that includes student growth, identity growth, and communication growth. 

What are you focusing on for your platforms for the students while campaigning for ASW.President?

“I’m pretty much running my campaign on growth. My main key objectives—I only chose just three because the school with the big monetary issues and such, you know, I can’t change all that. So the things that I feel like I can change as the president are like student identity with identity growth, student growth and then just communication.”

Break down those three platforms. Student growth?

“Student growth would just be as a student body as a whole. I think that there is a lot of same. There seems like there’s just the same people involved on campus and [the student growth initiative] is just getting students engaged and understand what ASW is and how it affects them, because a lot of students don’t understand how what [ASW passes] affects them.

Identity growth?

“Identity growth is mainly just aimed towards ASW and the rebranding. I think for next year [the rebrand is] just a huge change. People never understood what student government did anyway, especially with all the different branches, so having it now ASW.Events, ASW.Clubs, that will help.”

Communication platform?

“Just communication and that’s kind of a touch for both of [his initiatives]. There is just a lack of communication between like all areas, between especially like the board of trustees and the students, whether it be [the students] giving input on whether we transition from a university or stay a college. It’s like something that I feel we should sort of have a say in maybe, or even seeing why that decision is made.”

What experience have you had to prepare you for this position?

“Me personally, I have a lot of experience on campus. I’ve been RHA president for two years now. I currently sit on the ASW.Clubs board. I previously have sat as the ASW.Events assiociate athletics chair. I’m also a member of GriffinQuest. I play on the men’s soccer team, my third year, so I’m very active on campus. But what that does for me is allows me to really prioritize things, especially with RHA. When I stepped in as president, we were having like on average event sizes of maybe 15 people, very small, low-key except for Mr. Westminster. But our average event size now after two years is now upwards of 100 people. And we actually are returning full executive boards, rather than just two members. The retention rate is growing. We’re actually being able to keep and maintain a budget, we’re becoming more recognizing our region, so growth, right!”

Getting to know McDonald beyond the candidate:

“Definitely getting outdoors this year, though, has been different for me since I tore my ACL and meniscus, so I wasn’t able to ski but I was able to fish a little bit. But at least normally with soccer I’m able to get out and release stress a little bit every day. But anything outdoors— camping, fishing, skiing or soccer.”

Meet Ben Pok

Pok is a 17 year-old first-year student who is running his campaign based on that. He addresses his age head-on and says he is a fighter.

Campaign slogan: “This time, it’s time.”

Main platforms addressed: Stronger student advocacy, a more diverse and safer campus and improved student life.

Get to know more about Pok's platform here.

ASW.President candidate Ben Pock speaks at the ASW.Elections debate in the Gore Auditorium on March 15. Pock is the youngest candidate in the race, and is using his age as part of his platform, in addition to student advocacy and a more diverse campus.

ASW.President candidate Ben Pock speaks at the ASW.Elections debate in the Gore Auditorium on March 15. Pock is the youngest candidate in the race, and is using his age as part of his platform, in addition to student advocacy and a more diverse campus.

What are your main platforms?

Stronger student advocacy, a more diverse and safer campus and improvement for student life. The thing that separates me is I’m going to be here for the next three years, and it has been empirically proven and spoken to that a one-term president— or in this case a one-year president—is not a sufficient enough time frame to get things done. Costa [current ASW.President] has been working on this email initiative trying to figure out how to reduce the number of emails, and it’s taking over a year. Even some of the simplest of things cannot be done. I’m not a single issue candidate. When you get elected president you are there not to improve student government but life of the student body. I’m an all-encompassing candidate that has the ability to basically dive into everything on campus and see what the issues are and what the problems are.”

What experience have you had to prepare you for the ASW.Presidency?

“In Cambodia, ever since I was thirteen I started working for a non-profit fighting against gender discrimination, corruption, domestic abuse against women and children. That organization also specializes in increasing political involvement of females in the political system because it is a very sexist society. I’ve done the walking behind the lines of protest, even when my life was at risk, having smoke bombs thrown my way and everything. These are the things that I have actually put my life on the line to fight for what is right. Just because I haven’t been here long enough, it doesn’t disqualify me from fighting as relentlessly as anyone else. In high school from 13 to 14, I organized a leadership conference for my high school in Cambodia. I’m only 17. I’m a first-year. I’m two years ahead of my education, so that is what prevents me from getting these stake-heavy internships or on campus organization.”

What’s your strongest asset to bring to the presidency?

“I think that communication is my stronger suit. When I have a task to do and I am sent to do something, it’s really easy for me to do it. Like if I didn’t know you, I could come up to you and if there’s something to talk about, I would get that done immediately. I would get what I need from you and give you immediately what you need from me. And that’s the easiest thing communication and student government right now fails to do that a lot. So as president, one of my platform issues to communication more. So what that means is that first of all when I become president I want to create a cabinet, so there’s going to be like a secretary of diversity and all these different secretaries or directors and every month or two all of us, like the entire cabinet, will table in Shaw and talk to students. ‘What are you concerns? What are you facing right now that you need addressed?’ We haven’t seen any of that at all. The only time we have had student government table is when they needed the student body to vote on the [ASW rebrand].”

And lastly, beyond Ben the candidate…

“I coach debate and that’s my passion—just inspiring people to like go, fight, win. Other than that, I just do a bunch of work, like I’m in Honors, I work in Gore, I’m the marketing associate chair for ASW.Events, also TEDx, so just all of those…that’s my social life.”

Meet Michael von Ballmoos

Michael is a junior international student who participated in the ASW.Elections debate.

Main Platform: Free condoms for all students.

ASW.President candidate Michael Von Ballmoos speaks at the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. Von Ballmoos is running on a platform of providing all students on campus with free condoms. 

ASW.President candidate Michael Von Ballmoos speaks at the ASW.Elections debate on March 15 in the Gore Auditorium. Von Ballmoos is running on a platform of providing all students on campus with free condoms. 

Von Ballmoos was at the debate and discussed making condoms more accessible beyond just the Student Health Center, but the Forum team could not reach Von Ballmoos after several requests for comment.

When ASW.Elections committee member and moderator Jane Jerman asked his five words for Westminster’s future, Von Ballmoos replied “Make Westminster great again” with a grin.

Von Ballmoos said he was inspired to get more involved on campus after being heavily involved with Latin@ Club and being welcomed there with open arms.

ASW. Elections take place on Mar. 22- 23 on Canvas. Students can log on at anytime and vote for the candidates that most suit their fancy. Anyone with questions regarding ASW.Elections can swing by the ASW Office in Shaw across from the Concierge Desk. Happy election season to all!