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Meet Me’ilani Nelson: Purchase’s New PSGA President

By Daniela Rodriguez

Photo by Nelson

The Purchase Student Government Association (PSGA) has a new president. Me’ilani Nelson, a junior photography major, has been elected to hold the position during the ‘23-’24 academic year. Though her time at Purchase has been very limited, Nelson has become a familiar face around campus. As the current chair of senate, she has spent the last year working to rebuild and organize the student senate in hopes of returning to its pre-COVID glory. Now, she’s ready to take on the challenge to improve the rocky relationship that has developed between the PSGA and the student body during the past few years.

Q: Let me start by asking, how long have you been working for the PSGA?

A: Currently, I am the chair of senate. I have been working for the PSGA for at least a year now. I came in my sophomore year, so I’ve only been a student at Purchase for two years. I’ll be working for them next year as well.

Q: What kind of work have you done this year?

A: A big part of our goals this semester, or this year actually, have been to just build the PSGA back up to what it originally was, obviously that’s gonna be a lengthy process. It took a big hit from COVID, so a lot of it was just trying to restart the senate, for me as the chair of senate, get it organized, get Pantherlink and clubs kinda organized, figuring out which ones were still active, which ones had e-boards; that was a big part of this year.

Q: So, what made you wanna run for president?

A: Well, my current eboard is graduating and I just felt that, with my experience working with the PSGA as an executive, I feel I would be able to lead in a better way than someone coming in completely unaware of the dynamic between clubs, the PSGA and students. I felt like I would be able to lead them best and I feel like I did a lot for the senate. As the chair, I felt like it was time for me to step away from my position in order to give someone else with a new perspective a chance to improve it further.

Q: What are your plans for next year? What is it that you want to do as president?

A: I have a lot of plans, so get ready to type! So, starting off, we’re working on transparency, which is a big thing. I’ve been going to different clubs and talking to different students asking what they want to see from the PSGA and almost every single person said more transparency. I feel like it’s definitely important that we have general students, not only the people who are actively involved, more included in the daily running of what’s happening. The way we’re gonna do that is by having a town hall at the end of each month. We’ll also be sending out monthly forms with the number of events and a “give us your opinion” kinda thing were they can tell us what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they wanna see more of; just getting more of the general populace opinions so it takes a little bit of the stress off of the club heads. We’re also trying to do more activity things. We’re trying to get some yard stuff so that people on the Great Lawn can hang out and have more of a community nature. I wanna maybe get some more food trucks on campus every now and then; that’s in the works, it’s not 100% but maybe just more often than once a year so that people have something to look forward to other than dining.

Q: That’s a great idea! I feel like a love of people would definitely love the food trucks. I was wondering, what makes you like your job so much?

A: I feel like I’ve gotten to meet so many new people since joining the PSGA. I get to talk to so many people and hear all these different opinions that are so different from mine, and some that are the same. I’m a photography major and I feel like art and design majors, we kinda stick to our own so I’ve gotten to meet people from majors all across the board; I feel like that’s one of the best parts of this job. Also getting to see the PSGA grow back into what it was. Yeah it has its faults still but it’s been on break for all of COVID. Seeing it slowly develop back into this fundamental part for the community at Purchase has been amazing to watch. It’s definitely a lot of work and a lot of stress is put on our shoulders, but the pros outweigh the cons.

Q: Speaking of the Purchase community, I wanted to know how you ended up coming to Purchase.

A: That’s a good question. I actually am from Hawaii, so I’m pretty far away from where I’m from. My mother’s side of the family is from Buffalo so we kinda had the idea that I wanted to be in New York for college because I wanted to get closer to that side of my family. I went to Dutchess Community College for my associate’s degree. It was easiest to transfer through the SUNY system and Purchase has one of the best photography programs.

Q: What do you like the most about Purchase?

A: I feel like I already answered that question. I feel like there’s definitely gotta be work for it but I like the community the most. I feel like the people you find at Purchase you won’t find anywhere else; at least not such a large amount of us at the same time. Like, you see someone walking down the sidewalk in full elf ears and some kinda of silly outfit and I’m like “Yeah, that is so Purchase of them.” In general, I feel like the people here are so uniquely amazing and they’re all here to support each other as much as we can.

Q: So, talk to me about your art.

A: I actually thought about being interdisciplinary in sculpture and photography. I like doing work with my hands because, obviously photography does have a physical element to it, but it’s mostly digital. So, I like working with my hands and making a mess and doing those kinds of things. I made my culture shock outfit.

Nelson’s handmade culture shock outfit (Photo by Sebastian Bass via the Purchase College Instagram account)

Q: Really? That’s amazing

A: Yeah, it was like a cool ribcage piece and then like a mushroom hat. I really like those kinds of things, like costume design, and I like implementing them into my photography. Those kinda work hand in hand.

Q: Aside from your major and the PSGA, do you have any other interests or hobbies?

A: I feel like my art is my hobby and I am so grateful that I was able to turn my hobby into my literal degree. I think it’s one of those silly things that you don’t think you’re ever gonna do; like, “I’m going to be a doctor,” “I’m going to be a lawyer,” No, I’m going to be a photographer. I feel like it’s mostly sculpture and photography, but I also write. I’m actually working on a book; it’s a long process and I’m just in the beginning of it. I also love to read, but I feel like that goes along with the writing. I’m an avid reader; I have a new book with me at all times.

Q: What kind of books do you like to read?

A: Fantasy mostly. It’s kinda what I like to write as well and also what I like to involve in my photography; like fantastical, out of the world, escaping from reality kinda thing, just getting a break from the day to day.

Q: I just have one more question. Is there anything in particular you want the Purchase community to know?

A: With my role at the PSGA, I definitely really want to grow that community between the PSGA and the student body back to what it used to be. I feel like, long ago, the PSGA was a bridge between all the different groups on campus and I think that it needs to go back to being what it used to be. We’re working on making the office a little bit more inviting, so we want people to come, maybe even just hang out with their friends. We want people to just come by, say hi; I mean, we’re students too, we’re not gonna eat you. And yeah, I wanna build that community back and I am very much looking forward to next year.



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