By Taylor Herren, graduate student, Associated Students President

As a grad student at Chico State and serving my second term as Associated Students (AS) president, it may seem that I have my plate full. But as a matter of fact, I couldn’t be any more grateful to be in a position to serve my peers and providing a voice for the student body is really what keeps me going.

Chico State is a big part of me, and my education here has been instrumental in my growth to becoming a student leader.

Taylor Herren gives the Reflections speech at the College of Agriculture Commencement in May 2014.

Taylor Herren gives a reflections speech at the College of Agriculture Commencement in May 2014.

I graduated here in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. In between completing my undergraduate studies and applying for grad school, I decided to venture out, visit other campuses and look into various graduate programs in other states.

But I ended up going full circle and came right back to Chico State. It wasn’t necessarily because the other campuses weren’t as impressive; my decision to come back was due entirely to my experience being mentored by Chico State’s professors and staff who provided guidance during my undergraduate studies. The academic program and stellar teaching is a distinction of the CSU experience. With such supportive advisors, my academic career is immensely shaped and now is my time to pay it forward to other Chico State students.

My involvement in the AS originally started with wanting to address issues going on at my campus, such as safety and violence against women. These topics really moved me and I felt compelled to take a proactive stance. I found others who also wanted to be more active in our campus community, which led to a small group of us creating a student-based organization and hosting events highlighting campus issues.

Associated Students President Taylor Herren (left) takes the first leap as Chico State President Paul Zingg (right) along with students took the plunge into the pool at the Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC) as part of the Wildcat Way version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge event Monday, September 1, 2014 in Chico, Calif.

Taylor Herren takes the first leap as President Paul Zingg and students plunge into Wildcat Recreation Center pool for Chico State’s version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014.

I soon realized that the more I engaged in targeting campus issues, the more I became motivated to support the unheard; a desire that had its foundation from the counsel I received as an undergraduate and graduate student. I understood the value in having advocates by my side, and I wanted to serve in that capacity for others. I realized that there are other students out there who need to be heard but not everyone is outspoken. As AS president, I keep in mind the impact that mentorship has given me and the importance of advocating for my fellow students.

With this leadership platform and a great group of AS members beside me, we are proud to speak up on behalf of our student body and contribute to the overall campus experience. In summer 2013, after two years of protesting, we were able to have a ban placed on alcohol during the Chico State Labor Day river float. And in December 2014, Chico State fully divested from fossil fuel companies, after months of campaigning and running an advisory measure that resulted in over 80% of our student vote.

Although there are plenty of additional campus issues AS may address, my focus will always be in creating personal relationships with my peers. My mission is to make sure that they are aware that the AS is here as a supportive platform for them. I’m an advocate for the CSU, but more importantly, I’m an advocate for its students, and I’m here to provide a voice for the unheard.

This originally appeared as part of the California State University system’s CSU Voices and Views blog series, posted Feb. 24, 2015.