Ethan Werstler, a sixth-semester political science and communications major, was named Vice President-elect in the University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government election held earlier this month.
Werstler grew up in Woodstock, Connecticut, and is a fourth generation UConn student. He attended high school at Woodstock Academy. There, he was involved in Model United Nations and had toured for Model UN at the national level.
Ethan looked back positively on his time in Model UN.
“That experience helped me get where I am in terms of speaking comfortably in front of people and working on policies,” Werstler said.
Werstler had little interest in student government when he began attending UConn until Dylan Demoura, the current vice chair of the UConn Public Interest Research Group, suggested that he run for USG Senate.
“He’s the reason I’m in USG. He believed in me and now he’s moved on, but that is one of the biggest reasons I am involved. Because a student believed in me. And now I’m trying to bring other people to the organization. USG needs good people,” Werstler said in an interview.
Werstler has since served as a USG senator for three years, Deputy Speaker for two terms and Food Security Coordinator, as well as a member of the board of trustees. Prior to running in the most recent election alongside now USG President-elect Mason Holland, Werstler’s only prior campaign experience had been his race for the UConn board of trustees.
Werstler said he wanted to better directly help implement change for students at UConn, and teamed up with Holland as he had similar goals.
“Mason’s very much an activist, outside the institution kind of guy. He’s so well connected with the grassroots organizations and activism,” Werstler said. “I have an understanding of the institution and the levers of power at UConn. With the two of those mentalities, we made up the most qualified candidates in the election.”
Wrestler noted that prior to Holland and himself being elected, former USG presidents had only discussed student advocacy with a small portion of the student body and had not paid enough attention to the perspectives of the broader population.
Core to the policies of Werstler and Holland are a plan to reimagine, reinvest and rebuild the student government. Improving student information and involvement in USG is critical to this plan.
“We want to redefine the narrative. The USG should be seen as a force of good, not an organization that tells other groups what to do. It’s not enough to bring awareness to the changes needed, but to actually make these changes” Werstler said.
Werstler said he intends to bolster Husky Market, which is a program designed to support UConn students facing food insecurity, through expanding the program to help students receive loans for emergency purposes or to help kickstart their own businesses.
Werstler and Holland’s policies also include further outreach between USG and the student body, as well as ensuring the safety of students at UConn against harassment and discrimination.
Most importantly to Werstler, USG should serve to provide students with many of the things they take for granted at UConn, and hopes that he and Holland will be able to reflect that.
“USG is an organization that’s made of undergraduate students who care about other undergraduate students,” Werstler said. “There is an incredible number of advocacy groups at UConn, hundreds of people who put hundreds of hours into making your student experience better. And to me, there’s nothing more important than improving people’s college experience.”