Starting in student government as a Ziv senator her junior year, later than most students, Gwen Fraser ’17 decided she wanted to return to the Student Union for the fun meetings and great community, as well as the opportunities to do amazing work on campus. Now, she is one of the class of 2017 senators.
“I wanted to help out the community and still be part of it in some kind of way, and after that I really liked it,” Fraser said.
As one of the elected senators of her senior class, she has capitalized on the opportunities to “help out the community,” especially on the front of the mental health of Brandeis students. This year, Fraser worked with the Health and Safety Subcommittee in a partnership with the Jed Foundation to help promote mental health issues at Brandeis and prevent suicide.
The Jed Foundation works for the general health and well-being of college students. In its partnership with the Brandeis Union Health and Safety Subcommittee, the aim is “just really making sure that students are genuinely happy and can seek the help that they need,” Fraser said.
The subcommittee met with representatives from the Jed Foundation to create a strategic plan that is being implemented this semester. Fraser was proud to work on this project and it was “so cool to even be in the room when that conversation was happening … It’s fun to work in a hands-on way and really explicitly and actively be working toward mental health goals,” she said.
This subcommittee, in its efforts to have an increasing presence on campus, played an integral role in mid-year orientation through multiple presentations and reminders about how students can access the myriad mental health resources on campus.
Fraser’s only regret in her Student Union career is that this initiative to focus on student mental health had not been started sooner to help students in years past, she explained. The students have been pushing for changes on campus, but it was not until after several students committed suicide during the past two years that the administration pushed for mental health reform with the students, she continued.
Her position in the Student Union allows her to help the community in a huge way, such as being a member of the Health and Safety Subcommittee, but also in smaller ways to help make students’ lives easier, such as the graduation process.
As a Senior Week coordinator last year, Fraser knows there are many steps to finishing the last semester of Brandeis that can be confusing or intimidating, but she is hoping to make an informational guide so that her class has a smooth transition out of Brandeis.
“As a result of getting questions from last year’s seniors, I got a bunch of answers that I think would be obviously beneficial if they were spread to this year’s class,” she said. The guide will answer questions that most people would not even think to ask.
For example, in order to graduate from the university, students must apply for graduation through their Sage account—a hurdle most students are not aware of. Other questions include what to do with your old mail key post graduation or how to order a cap and gown.
Fraser’s job in the Student Union could be laid back, just going to the meetings and voting on proposals. However, she and her co-senator, Ryan Tracy, have worked hard this year to help the community in big ways. She has taken on this high-energy job with a mission: “to help out the community and still be part of it in some kind of way.”