Undergraduate Student Government President Rachel Conboy described the organization as “a service, a business, a non-profit and also a bank.” She described herself slightly differently.
“I think most people know me as the person who walks in and out of the Union constantly,” Conboy said, smiling.
Conboy is personable, energetic and enthusiastic. According to office time cards, she spends about 30 hours per week in USG’s offices.
Conboy has been involved in USG since she transferred to UConn as a sophomore. Before the presidency, she was a senator for Hilltop Residence Halls, a multiculturalism and diversity senator, a member of USG’s committees for student development and student services, and a student representative on the university’s committee for the Master Plan. She was elected president, unopposed, last spring.
“I understand from a political perspective, that an uncontested election doesn’t help to keep ideas flowing, but from an organizational standpoint, that was awesome,” Conboy said. “Transition was easy. I was able to get started right away.”
Working with Vice President Adam Kuegler, Conboy selected her executive board for their abilities to work independently. She tries to take a hands-off role in leading that staff so as to take a hands-on role with the campus outside USG.
“I have three optional requirements for a job,” Conboy said. “It has to be one of these three things: it has to be making the world a better place, it has to be challenging or it has to be a lot of fun.”
Four years ago, Conboy was unsure about going to college. However, she was sure that she didn’t want to go to school in her home state. She spent her freshman year at the University of Rhode Island, where she was also involved in student government.
“I think my appreciation grew for UConn tremendously,” she said. “This was when I left and I heard all these kids say, ‘UConn is so great’ or ‘I didn’t get into UConn.’ I thought, ‘Crap! I should’ve just gone there!’”
Since arriving at UConn, her time in USG has been a huge part of her education, especially since becoming president.
“My first senate meeting I got up, debated, and now I find myself listening a whole lot more, which is probably good,” Conboy said. “I think it’s important because I realized that you don’t understand the experiences of every student on this campus.”
Outreach has been a common theme of her work. She was a liaison to Greek Life and the cultural centers, and she collaborated with the Office of Diversity and Equity last year on a flowchart campaign designed to educate victims of sexual assault about resources on campus.
“The campus is so big and we brag that you can always find your niche,” Conboy said. “But my big thing is that I’m scared our niches are so far apart now that the only thing that brings us together is sports… I’d like to bring our community together on other issues.”
Conboy also works as a building manager at the Student Recreation Facility. On Mondays, Conboy leaves the executive board at 7:30p.m. and then works from 8:30p.m. to midnight. Coupled with her majors in political science and history, and USG, it can be stressful, she said, but preferable to not working at all.
“I couldn’t tell you how many people in USG work, but I’ve come from a family where it was never like I could go without working,” Conboy said. “I did a little bit less last semester, and I try to work as much as possible, because loans are terrible. I close a lot. Midnight shifts are my thing.”
It’s been hard, but Conboy believes she’s been able to make a positive impact.
“I hope the biggest thing people remember me for is changing the culture of USG,” Conboy said. “When I was elected, my goal and Adam’s goal was to make USG broader, bigger, better and more of a service for students. That’s what my biggest project is. I think if that project is successful then many other projects will be extremely successful.”
She understands the common criticism of USG and attempts to listen to it.
“There have been times when I’ve read something negative about senate and I thought, ‘That was fair. We did not represent ourselves well,’” Conboy said. “And I understand we’re the government. We’re ‘The Man.’ But we’re doing our best. I think this year is a great year.”
Overall, Conboy sees her job as thoroughly personal and an ongoing challenge to understand others.
“The biggest thing is people don’t know what you go through when you go home,” Conboy said. “So when people come in and scream about funding, we have to look at it considering that this person is probably paying their way through school. Or maybe a loved one has just died. Or when we work with someone who’s experienced sexual assault. I could never know what that experience is like, but I want to help them… and it’s hard because people are multifaceted. And that’s interesting to me.”
Christopher McDermott is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.