By Ivan Rahman, MPP 2018
America has recently elected a new president after a turbulent election cycle. At HKS, there is one other presidency that students may be curious about. That’s the presidency of Arohi Sharma, MPP 2017. Originally from Torrance, CA, Arohi serves as the President of the Kennedy School Student Government (KSSG). The Citizen recently had the wonderful opportunity of chatting with her about her experiences.
Citizen: Why did you become KSSG President?
Arohi: It took me seven months last year to feel like I made an impact on campus and to find something that I cared about on campus: HKS Talks. It’s a TED-style talk, where students from different degree programs at HKS deliver speeches interpreting the theme “Ask What You Can Do.” The personal transformation that I saw students undergo from making their initial pitch in September to delivering their speech in the spring—that level of personal transformation made me feel like I made an impact, because I helped provide an opportunity for those students to show off their passion and savvy. The moment when the students delivered their final speeches resounded with me. And the reason I ran for KSSG President is to provide more opportunities like that for students here.
I want people to feel like they belong on campus. I want them to feel proud of who we are and of what we do. When it comes to graduation, I want HKS students to say that they are proud of who they are as Kennedy School graduates. I want them to feel a deep sense of pride for graduating from the Kennedy School. Not everyone may feel comfortable with a platform like HKS Talks, so, I want to create multiple avenues for people to have that same kind of resounding experience.
Citizen: What’s been challenging about the job?
Arohi: Finding the balance between not being a micromanager and making sure that things get done. I want to make sure the VPs and Reps who have been elected have the resources to get done what they need to get done.
On a personal level, more people are looking to me for guidance, and people are expecting me to step up my game with regard to my formal authority. I find formal authority a little uncomfortable. And so, the challenge is that I need to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Citizen: What was the biggest thing you learned so far?
Arohi: That having a good partner in crime makes a world of difference. Jen Smith—KSSG’s Executive Vice President—is my rock.
Citizen: What do you regret about your leadership so far? If you could go back and change something?
Arohi: The one thing I regret is not providing a better platform for both sides of the recent Harvard dining-worker strike to express their issues. I regret not creating the space for representatives from both sides of the issue to speak with students in informal settings. It was unfair of me to assume that folks would have those kinds of pro-and-con conversations organically. So, what would such a platform look like? Hearings, I think are way too formal. Briefings, on the other hand, would allow students to hear from both sides in a less formal setting.
But now, I’ve learned a lot from that experience. And should a resolution come up in the future, I know what I am personally obligated to do.
Citizen: What are your biggest steps going forward?
Arohi: Personally, it’s not being afraid to say what’s going on in my head. Too often, I want to polish my thoughts and make sure they’re PC and kosher. Jen encourages me to speak my mind, and in that way, she’s pushing me to be a better leader.
As for the community, I am working on building a website for KSSG that helps us increase our visibility. The website will show students what our budget is and where our money is going. People should be able to see what their elected officials are working on.
Our second big project has to do with the lack of space at HKS. I’m vexed when HKS students who operate on limited space are displaced by non-HKS groups. For instance, I believe that the way the IOP handles the Forum space is very inequitable. Developing a more equitable relationship with IOP with regard to the Forum space is, therefore, a priority for me. I don’t think I should have to fight now as hard as I did last year for Forum space in order to host events that celebrate and empower HKS students.
Citizen: Where do you find joy?
Arohi: I find it in the student body. I know that sounds clichéd, but there is literally no other place on earth that I have been to that is this diverse—where the diversity is harnessed in a way that challenges mindsets and that fosters so much creativity when it comes to problem-solving.
Citizen: What advice do you have for HKS students to make the most of their two years here?
Arohi: Get used to feeling tired and be okay with feeling tired. Be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable—so step out of your comfort zone. And, finally, the people here—the students and faculty—they are, to me, the best. I learned more from them than I have in classrooms. So, go the extra mile to get to know your classmates and professors on a deeper level.