Born in London and having completed middle and high school in Nepal, Ural Mishra ’20 made the decision to attend a college in the United States. Now, he will be its president, after winning the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) election for the 2019-20 academic year, the results of which were announced Sunday night.
A government and legal studies major and a devout fan of Thorne Hall, Mishra is the first international student to serve as BSG president in over a decade. Despite serving on BSG in two different positions, both of which no longer exist, Mishra has no prior experience working on the executive board, unusual for an incoming BSG president.
He served on the Student Affairs Committee as an at-large representative during his first year, which allowed him to deeply engage with student life, including working with student activities and organizing talks and panels. He was involved in planning No Hate November and oversaw the Good Ideas Fund.
Last year, Mishra served as the Director of Curriculum. He led his own committee and worked with representatives to the Curriculum Implementation Committee, Career Planning and the Office of the Registrar. His work in this role influenced two of the leading focuses in his campaign: to amend the ESD distribution requirement and to provide course syllabi during registration.
Mishra did not commit to running for BSG president until this semester, after he returned from his semester abroad in Germany.
“I felt like I needed to be sure that I was doing it for the right reasons,” he said. “I thought about it for a long time. I took a look at what I wanted to do and what my motivations for doing those things were. And I wanted to make sure that I thought I was the best candidate available before I did it.”
During his sophomore year, Mishra also passed proposals introducing ranked choice voting and limiting the advantages candidates might have from ticketing unofficially.
One of his major goals for next year is altering how the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) distributes money. Recently, BSG still had $26,000 left in its SAFC budget with less than a month of school remaining. However, this number did not factor in invoices for BSG projects that had not gotten through yet, leading to an actual total of $11,000 being left, $7,000 of which will be spent very soon. Still, Mishra plans to establish what he calls a hybrid budget, cutting down the BSG budget from the SAFC to make more funding available to other student organizations throughout the year.
Mishra’s campaign also focused on destigmatizing the need to access resources for mental health, something he believes many students can relate to. He was inspired by Ben Painter ’19, current chair of student affairs. Mishra said Painter has done a phenomenal job raising awareness and decreasing the stigma around mental health.
“The long-term goal should always be to expand counseling services. [We] should definitely be trying to make sure the counseling services can meet the student demand,” said Mishra. “I think there’s an increasing culture of wellness on this campus. And I definitely [give] a lot of credit to [Painter]for that.”
One persistent challenge that Mishra hopes to address is the lack of student engagement with BSG.
“It’s unfortunate and slightly disheartening that people aren’t as involved,” said Mishra. “You have to have the BSG doing more things that the students care about and think impact their lives in a more tangible and visible way.”
He plans to begin such change by mimicking the 2020 Class Council’s tactics of reaching out to their peers, an effort that he thinks has been a success.
“Something we’ve done really well is staying visible to our class,” said Mishra.
Mishra has held multiple leadership roles outside of BSG throughout his three years at Bowdoin. He served as a founding member of the South Asian Student Association and is currently on the board of the Bowdoin Music Collective. Last year, he was Reed House’s programming chair and as a board member for the International Students Association. He has also served on BSG since his first year and is currently the programming director for the 2020 Class Council.
However, Mishra plans to prioritize his role as president next year.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of people who have warned me of the task at hand [and] how important it is to be able to [fully] commit to the job,” he said.
The other members of BSG’s Executive Board next year will be Arein Nguyen ’21 as vice president, Lily Tedford ’22 as chair of academic affairs, Anibal Husted ’22 as chair of student affairs, Marcus Williams ’21 as chair of diversity and inclusion, Sonia Shah ’22 as chair of student organizations, Charlotte Hall ’20 as chair of the treasury and Wilder Short ’22 as chair of facilities and sustainability.
Editor’s note 04/21/2019 at 2:02 p.m.: A previous version of this article had the incorrect date on which election results were available. They were released on Sunday, April 14, not Saturday, April 13.