Ten Quick Questions at Tulane: Lauren Gaines

Deeya Patel, News Editor

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Lauren Gaines, a senior at Tulane, is involved in a variety of organizations at Tulane. She is the executive vice president of Tulane’s Undergraduate Student Government, a brother in business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi and a residential advisor. The Hullabaloo sat down with her to discuss what changes she hopes to carry out in her term and her opinion on Tulane’s Shifting the Paradigm talk held earlier this month. 

What made you choose Tulane? 

What made me choose Tulane? I had a few critical criteria. I’m from Baton Rouge. I wanted to be far enough from home where I could branch out and grow and become an adult and not be with the same people and in the same place. And I wanted to be close to my family in case anything happened so they could get there. I also wanted to go to a really good school because I didn’t want to coast. I like challenges, so I wanted a school that was rigorous academically but allowed you still be a human being. So all of that taken together led me to Tulane. 

How did you get involved in Undergraduate Student Government? 

I started in USG as part of the Freshman Leadership Program. Just putting my neck out there and applying for something that I heard was super competitive that not a lot of freshmen got. I think it all really started with not counting myself out, saying, “Yeah, actually I am good enough to be part of this program” and going ahead and putting the application forward. I found out later that I was the first person to apply. I was very, very excited to do it. It was one of those things where I realized I was the only thing holding me back. 

As executive vice president of USG, what role do you play? 

For me, it’s all the internal [operations]. I work with our secretary and historian, I am the keeper of the constitution and the by-laws and also constitutionally I am over the awards and the elections committee and over the judicial council. So I point those roles out because when you have one person with a hand in so many things, I personally believe it’s at the discretion of each EVP if they want to point out and I chose just to have more voices and more opportunities for leadership in the body. But yeah, all of the internal [operations] and making sure that senators are doing the platforms that they ran on and making sure that they’re actually getting things done. 

One of your action plans for creating a more inclusive student environment was to create a more inclusive student government. Can you tell us about that? 

The big thing is that USG has been using very narrow methods of outreach for a very, very long time. When you’re using the same channels to communicate with people and going to the same departments and you’re going through the same clubs to recruit people, you’re going to get the same people. Which means you’re going to get the same perspectives, the same voices, and how do you grow? You don’t. A big thing I want to do especially since we’re gearing up for recruitment season for student government is making sure that we look at our body and saying, “Who isn’t being represented, and what is the best way they could be right now?” And that’s a lot of people. And from there being like “Okay, how do we reach out to people without tokenizing them,” and not saying “You are going to be the person that speaks for every person with this identity.” So that’s a big part of it. And what that looks like to me is meeting people where they are. People might not be as comfortable with me sending an email from [email protected], but if I’m using my personal email and I’m like, “Hey, do you want to get coffee and talk about this?,” the return is ten times better. Why? Because they might not know USG is the machine it is, but they know me as Lauren, so reaching out person to person and being like “Hey, I do see potential in you to do this. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen yourself in a role like this before but I think you’d excel,” goes a long way, especially since I always think of things in terms of a marginalized student like myself having someone say “I actually believe that you can do this” can be powerful. 

As executive vice president, what are some goals you have for this school year? 

This is something that easily should be happening but just isn’t. I want every single USG position to be contested for executive board because all of them last year weren’t except President. So I want multiple people with multiple different backgrounds and multiple different ideas to feel confident enough in themselves and feel like they can succeed and know enough to run for these positions. Also, making Senate meetings as a space where people can come into seem way less scary than it is, because I feel like people don’t come, and really digging into why that is and getting into our position within Tulane’s bigger culture is something I really want to continue to examine so that by the end of my term I can know exactly where our areas of growth are and where we’re doing well, since I think it’s been a long time since we’ve had that self-assessment. 

Did you attend Shifting the Paradigm on Oct. 3? 

I was very upset that night. The lack of turnout was disheartening. I started off really angry and I was talking to [USG President] Joseph Sotile and our director of communication Ananya Gollupadi, and I was saying I wouldn’t be mad if we put out a post where we said, “Tulane, why didn’t you show up to this?” because I think our intentions are only as good as the actions we put behind them. We just really let our school down with that one, as a student body.

What are some goals that USG has in general for the school year that you think deserve the most attention? 

I would say student engagement is a big one. You know how you come into college from high school, people have a very different view of what student government is. In high school, student government plans your dances and class bonding. How do we stop letting students be disillusioned about student government in college? Because we’ve dealt with in the past seeming — no, not seeming — being very elitist. So tearing down what those behaviors were perpetuating. Also, getting more student input. In the past, USG kind of did what USG wanted to do and not what USG was asked to do. So I think we have done a pretty good job this year at keeping student interest at the forefront of our plans for everything. My number one thing is “Did you ask any students about this? Or did you want to do this?” I want that to be the automatic thing for everyone in USG to ask: “Is this what I want or is this what Tulane students need and want?”

What’s one tip you have for freshmen?

So I’m an RA in Josephine Louise Hall. It’s my third year of being an RA in JL and my fourth year living there since I lived there when I was a freshman. I’ve been there my entire time at Tulane. I’ve gone up a lot of steps since there’s no elevator and I’ve only ever lived on the third floor. But I’ve given a lot of advice to freshmen and I would say that when it comes to making friends and finding your place socially at Tulane, start with things you like to do. If you like to go out, start there. But if you like to bee keep, or if you like student government, activism or community service, start with things you’re passionate about and then notice what familiar faces you’re seeing. Who are you seeing at beekeeping club and in student government? Who are you seeing in your first class in major and in this other thing? Those are going to be your core people to go up and talk to, or go to lunch with, or form a study group with. Because then, you at least know what your baseline interests are. That worked out pretty well for me for finding my core people and my friends, starting out with what you’re already super passionate about. If you start there, you already have your first talking point. 

What’s your favorite place to go off-campus?

I go to Nothing Bundt Cakes once a week because they rotate their bundt cake flavors every week. It’s really important to me. All of their cakes have cream cheese frosting and I love cream cheese frosting. So if I’m having a rough day I’m like “Forget this, I’m going to Nothing Bundt Cakes on Prytania. I’m gonna get a red velvet bundt cake and eat it by myself.” I walk in and I’m like “Hey, ladies.” I have a rewards card. I’m really close to getting a free bundtlet. And you get a free bundtlet for your birthday, so it’s great. It’s self-care. 

When’s the last time you surprised yourself? 

This is funny because I’m really hard to surprise. I’m very much a planner. I would say maybe this summer, because this summer I was in D.C. interning and it was the first time I had ever lived out of state. I’ve always lived in Louisiana, so this was my first time being far from home. But I did it. Not being around my family and not being around my friends in the way that I was used to, it was really scary to do that. Especially at schools like Tulane where everyone’s an overachiever and everyone has internships in all of these big cities, you don’t really think about the toll it takes on you to be away from your family for such a long period of time, and that freaked me out. So I guess I surprised myself by enjoying it, you know? Exploring a new city, not knowing everything about a place. Because, like I said, I’m very much a planner, I like to know what I’m getting into. But taking that chance and being in a new place, I really surprised myself by saying “Yeah, I’m gonna do this” and then doing it.