Gilbert Orbea is a Sophomore from Fairview, New Jersey intending to Honors Major in Political Science, Honors Minor in Economics and Minor in Chinese. We sat down to talk with him about his service on Student Government and his stance on problem-solving.
This semester, you were re-elected to Student Government representing the class of 2019 as senator. What ideas do you hope to bring to student government this year ?
GO: I’d like to bring vigor into our decision-making process. As you mention below, SGO is a very slow, process driven institution. We need to speed that up a little and I’ve done so in working to provide free feminine hygiene products next semester with Free Pads for Undergrads, discussing a potential SEPTA subsidy, and reevaluating our Matchbox hours on weekends, among other things. I want to challenge the notion that change takes forever and that SGO has little power.
Government is typically a very slow, process driven institution. What room does that leave for student representatives to come up with creative solutions to campus problems?
GO: It leaves a lot of room. We introduce amendments, we talk about how our committees are running and what projects we might be able to collaborate on, and we solicit feedback from students. Our pads initiative is not part of SGO but I am still working on it and presenting updates to SGO, so there are many opportunities both within and outside of Student Government to work on solutions.
What has been your biggest “Aha!” moment while working in Student Government?
GO: It’s been this semester. We’re doing a lot of great work on Student Life committee in regards to addressing many of the issues we hear over and over again from students, really fantastic work. I’d also mention that the first time I had to create my own study break, our Chill Out ice cream study break last semester, it was a really satisfying moment to work on that and see people enjoy all the work we put in. The happiness that students get from our work really drives me.
What does your vision of the future of Student Government at Swarthmore look like?
GO: I’d want it beefed up. It has to be more powerful. Right now SGO has a lot of sway but it can do more and should hold more sway. I envision SGO as being able to shape many things on campus and work with varying groups, committees, and initiatives to advance its power and agenda.
Cuba’s been in the news recently, and I understand that you’re developing an idea for SwatTank that involves Cuba. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?
GO: I’m proposing a project called Ingles for Success, which is an English-language learning program with a slant towards business English. Cuba, because of the Cuban Thaw, will soon be exposed to global markets and internet access is increasingly common, at least in public areas. English language skills have been shown, many times, to lead to real increases in wages and socioeconomic mobility in non-English speaking countries. If we can introduce English language skills to a rapidly globalizing country with sudden internet access, it’d be a great case study on how these things, in conjunction, impact people’s lives. It’s really critical for me to empower the Cuban people and provide economic opportunity and promote entrepreneurship and small business.