ASUO President Amy Schenk looks forward to a year of changes and student connections
When you talk to the people who know 2017- 18 Associated Students of The University of Oregon (ASUO) President Amy Schenk best, certain words come to mind when describing her. One of the most prolific would be ‘passionate’. Schenk’s passion for improving students lives shows in everything she does. She’s willing to stand up for students in areas they often can’t, one of which being tuition.
While Schenk had served for years in different ASUO positions, being ASUO president hadn’t crossed her mind. But after winning the 2017-18 election in an unopposed race, Schenk took the win and ran with it.
“To be completely honest, I never saw myself running for this position,” Schenk said. “I merely just wanted to be involved in the upcoming year and give my knowledge and my work, specifically on tuition, to the student body.”
When faced with the possibility of becoming ASUO president, Schenk met the challenge head on and never looked back. People around her took notice of her dedication to the position and helping students.
Emily Olson met Schenk when she was a freshman and Olson was a sophomore during UO Mock Trial, an activity that Schenk participated at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland. They quickly became best friends.
“I think she has exceptional drive, and she’s not the kind of leader that will just delegate tasks and is distant from the day in and day out responsibilities,” Olson said. “She’s really involved, she really cares. She wants to get to know people, and she’s a very hands-on leader. She really makes everyone she talks to feel like they’re really important and that their opinion is so important.”
One of the most notable memories Olson has of Schenk stepping into a leadership role is during the U.S. Presidential election. When Schenk was surrounded by students who were scared and upset, she remained calm and comforting.
“After the election on November 8th, there was a big gathering of students at the EMU,” said Olson. “And there were so many people that were just so startled and didn’t know what to do, and just so flustered and emotionally upset and heartbroken. Amy definitely felt all of those feelings, but she had such a positive outlook, she was just amazing in that situation. Amy was just so inspiring in her own way.”
But knowing what she wanted out of life and her future wasn’t always easy for Schenk.
Growing up in a middle class family in Portland, Oregon, Schenk knew she wanted to be involved in political work, but in high school that meant becoming a lawyer. After studying abroad at Oxford University in the UK, Schenk realized that wasn’t the right path for her. At the same time, she struggled with understanding who she was as a woman in the political system.
“What hit me most hard was definitely the systematic pressure against all women,” Schenk said. “People will tell you that of course it’s hard for a woman, but then you get in it, you can definitely see it. So whether that’s working with an attorney who might address the boy student that you work with in high school more than you, or having representatives really not talk to you, but rather the man in the room, or remember their name and not yours. That was the kind of difficulty that I had, and I just felt like it pushed me forward to really break down any of those barriers.”
Schenk began looking into international studies with particular interest in the Middle East, eventually selecting that as her major at UO. This summer, Schenk took a trip to Jordan where she experienced first hand the region she had such a passion for.
“I think that for me was vital for me to go to the Middle East, and to find scholarships to even just get my toes into what the region is,” Schenk said. “I still haven’t fully digested what the program and country gave to me.”
The person who has witnessed the most of Amy’s growth is her mother, Jeri Schenk. When Amy told her mom that she was going to run for ASUO president, she was more than excited for her daughter and never doubted her ability.
“Amy’s always been very ambitious and has lots of energy,” Jeri said. “She has always been very dedicated to things she’s done. I think she brings a lot of energy to the program, and she’s very committed to representing students from all backgrounds.”
As for the year ahead, Amy has set goals aiming toward helping the current issues that students face in regards to tuition. Ideally she would like to make the tuition process as transparent as possible for students, but she also understands the financial budget of the university.
Another important goal for Amy is an accessible food pantry for students. While there is one off of campus, she believes there is a great need to have an operational pantry where students have food security.
“It hasn’t ever been touched on at the University of Oregon, but efforts have been lethargic for lack of a better word,” Amy said. “I want to continue those efforts that have happened throughout the past, and really push them this year and accelerate them.”
For the people who know and love Amy, they are confident the upcoming year will be another incredible accomplishment.
“If the world was full of Amy Schenks, it would just be such a better place,” Olson said. “She’s just so talented and so passionate and so empathetic, and she is going to change the world.”
Follow Erin Carey on Twitter: @elcarey