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The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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New student rep promotes political involvement at U

Jenny Zhang said she wants students to speak up in policy decisions.

Jenny Zhang, the newest student representative to the University Senate Educational Policy Committee, said she has always had an interest in policy and politics.

Zhang, a Carlson School of Management sophomore, became a student representative to the committee in December.

The committee looks to its student representatives for a student perspective and insight on policy decisions, Zhang said.

She said her first experience with University policy came during her work with the Summer Cultural Programs Committee in spring.

“That experience sparked my interest in University policy,” Zhang said.

Her interest did not stop there. Zhang is involved in several other University student organizations, including the Asian Pacific American Heritage Committee, the Chinese American Student Association, the Coffman Union Board of Governors and Christians on Campus, she said.

Chris Oudavanh, president of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Committee, said he met Zhang during a Carlson School summer class.

“Working with Jenny, I know she’s strong-willed and ready to present her ideas,” said Oudavanh, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts.

Zhang, who serves as the public relations chairwoman for the Asian Pacific American Heritage Committee, worked with Oudavanh for the Taste of Asia celebration in April at Coffman Union, he said.

Zhang also served on committees that designed layouts and found sponsors for the cultural events calendar for Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Oudavanh said.

Gina Kundan, a student activities adviser who has worked with Zhang on the Administrative Grant Committee, said, “Jenny has an eye for detail, and she asks thorough, thought-provoking questions.

“She’s always ready to roll up her sleeves and help out when there’s work to be done.”

Zhang’s appetite for hard work started before she enrolled at the University, she said. Education was always a high priority throughout her childhood, she said.

“My parents told me stories about the fight for education during the Chinese cultural revolution and, as a result, I couldn’t be an apathetic student,” Zhang said.

Zhang was born in Hefei, China, and her family immigrated to Fargo, N.D., when she was 7 years old.

“Fargo Ö was to me what Ellis Island in New York or Angel Island in San Francisco were to the immigrant generations before me,” Zhang said.

The culture shock of the dramatic transition helped fuel her ambition, she said.

“Because I was placed in the vantage point of a little house on the prairie (in North Dakota), I realized the world is full of possibilities,” Zhang said.

One of Zhang’s goals this semester is to encourage students to get their voices heard in policy decisions, she said.

“I want to talk to as many students as possible, of all majors and age groups, to ascertain as many perspectives from students on the issues as possible,” Zhang said.

She said she encourages students to contact her via e-mail to discuss problems and questions they might have with educational policy at the University.

“The student representatives are not phantom entities, but students that genuinely care about the quality of education at the University of Minnesota,” Zhang said.

The University Senate Educational Policy Committee is responsible for creating, amending and providing clarification on policies that affect the University system, excluding the Duluth campus, said Gretchen Haas, a student representative to the committee.

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