For the first time ever, all top positions in UConn's student government held by women

For the first time at the University of Connecticut, all four top- elected undergraduate student leaders are women.

Undergraduate Student Government President-elect Irma Valverde, Vice President-elect Lysette Johnson, Comptroller-elect Seeyashree Sodani and Board of Trustees Student Representative-elect Christine Savino all won their respective races in the recent elections for the 2017-2018 year.

Valverde said she hopes female representation will disprove gender stereotypes that men are better suited for leadership roles.

“If [students] see a strong woman leader who holds good qualities and doesn’t have to act like a man to still be an amazing leader, I think that will definitely open the door for future potential leaders,” Valverde said.

Savino said the negative stereotypes about women in positions of power can be used to their advantage.

Newly elected member of UConn's Board of Trustees, Christine Savino, will represent the voices of students across campus. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Newly elected member of UConn's Board of Trustees, Christine Savino, will represent the voices of students across campus. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

“If someone calls you bossy for running a strong campaign, then being bossy is a good thing,” Savino said. “If you voice your opinion and stand up for students and someone says you’re being too aggressive, then being too aggressive is good.”

Valverde said election results suggest UConn’s student body is becoming more diverse and accepting.

“From my understanding, from people that have been on this campus for many years, they’ve never seen a Latinx student in this role,” Valverde said. “So I think it says something about our campus that we’re willing to look at all types of students and that we aren’t going to discriminate.”

Undergraduate Student Government Vice President-elect Lysette Johnson, left and President-elect Irma Valverde, right, will represent the student body for the 2017-2018 school year. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

Undergraduate Student Government Vice President-elect Lysette Johnson, left and President-elect Irma Valverde, right, will represent the student body for the 2017-2018 school year. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

Newly elected senator Fiona Bernardin (Multicultural and Diversity) said the desire for strong female leadership can be seen outside UConn’s campus as well.

“The Women’s March [in Washington D.C.] was a great demonstration of how empowered women empower women,” Bernardin said. “I think something as small as just one school, like us, … having those women in leadership positions can give students on campus a feeling of empowerment and a feeling like they can do that too.”

The only major student leader position that’s had an equal or greater number of women than men in recent history is USG vice president.

Since 2000, USG president and comptroller have been held by women just five times each. Two of those USG presidents were former vice presidents.

Savino is the first woman to hold the undergraduate Board of Trustees position since it was created in 2001.

Valverde said she saw posts on social media during her campaign discouraging students from voting for her because of her gender and race. She was called a “bitch” and false statements were made identifying her as undocumented.

“It was nice to know the student body wasn’t impacted by the negative things that people were saying about my race and my gender,” Valverde said. “They didn’t take the discrimination as a factor.”

Seeyashree Sodani, a fourth-semester finance student, was elected to the comptroller position in the Undergraduate Student Government. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

Sodani said she hopes after UConn’s recent elections, women feel inspired to run for leadership positions. She admitted she was scared to run and didn’t think she could win. Talking to other women within USG, including Valverde, convinced her otherwise.

“Don’t let fear stop you,” Sodani said.

Savino echoed Sodani’s encouragement.

“I know especially with these higher level elections, women choose not to run,” Savino said. “I hope that female students are empowered and they feel that it’s their place to run for these higher level positions because it’s open to them too.”


Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at schae.beaudoin@uconn.edu.