A Conversation with the Incoming and Outgoing EGC Presidents: Aarushi Govil, ENG‘22 and Ethan Zang, ENG‘21
The Engineering Governing Council (EGC), the oldest governing council at Rutgers, exists to empower School of Engineering students. It does this by maintaining connections with the administration, alumni, and student body. Its more than 100 members leverage these relationships, along with an annual $200,000 budget, to support student organizations, address campus and academic issues, and provide professional, academic, and social programming to SoE students. Senior applied sciences and computer science double major Ethan Zang served as EGC president during the 2020-21 academic year. He will be moving to Seattle to join Amazon as a software engineer after graduating in May. Chemical engineering major Aarushi Govil, who is minoring in women’s and gender studies and who is also on the pre-law track, will lead the EGC as its president during the 2021-22 academic year. Below, they reflect on the organization’s recent challenges and successes – and their hopes for the future.
What was your EGC involvement before becoming president?
Ethan Zang: I was class rep my freshman year, academic affairs chair my sophomore year, and chair of engineering affairs my junior year before I became president senior year.
Aarushi Govil: I was class of 2022 representative, university senator, and internal finance chair. My role as internal vice president of EGC led to my presidency.
What were some of the challenges that EGC faced this past year?
Zang: Continuing to support engineering students and engineering student organizations during virtual learning was our first challenge. Considering that the majority of our organizations still needed funding and that we were adamant about continuing regular meetings, we found ways to maintain our typical funding and meet virtually.
Govil: The biggest challenge was, of course, moving everything online. This meant a lot of what we were used to was simply not possible. It was very unfamiliar territory, but thankfully we had a very strong executive board and cabinet that mobilized to get creative and find some unorthodox solutions to our challenges.
How did you support students during the pandemic?
Zang: To address students’ academic challenges, we established the Academic Concerns Form for students to report concerns to us that we could work with faculty to resolve. Not only were students able to express their thoughts, but faculty members were incredibly accommodating and open to working together to address these concerns.
A growing population of SOE students faced extreme financial difficulties, and we were able to contribute $40,000 to the SOE Emergency Assistance Fund and also raised and donated roughly $12,000 to the Rutgers Food Pantry Drive. Social injustices also affected students’ personal and academic experiences, which is why we raised money for two nonprofits that support STEM education in underrepresented communities. We also collaborated with SOE diversity organizations to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Govil: We used the online transition to the best of our ability and once we got into a groove, we were unstoppable! We were able to expand initiatives due to the ease and convenience of online meetings. This meant more collaborations across organizations in and out of SOE, expanding our big events, and picking up projects we wouldn’t have been able to if we had been in-person.
What kind of support did you give student organizations this year?
Zang: In the fall the RUSA proposed a drastic funding reorganization. EGC worked extremely hard to try to ensure that the existing student fee model continues to adequately and appropriately support SOE student organizations. While there is no concrete resolution to the proposed funding change, EGC is committed to ensuring that SOE organization funding will not be negatively impacted moving forward – and I’m confident that we have established a strong precedent on this front for the future. This is in addition to the typical semesterly funding EGC does for SOE student organizations.
Govil: Ethan was a strong advocate for the Student Activities Fee split to remain as it is in order to support the allocation funding system that allows SOE organizations to build, compete, and flourish. EGC’s primary goal is to support the SOE student body and a huge component of that is supporting our SOE student organizations. I truly believe we’ve been successful in that this year and will continue to work in the organizations’ best interest moving forward.
What about student programming events?
Zang: This year we continued all of our typical events, but virtually, including the Rutgers Pantry Food Drive, Engineers Week, Rutgers Day, Open House, and Freshman Kickoff. EGC also held a diversity panel/DEI workshop for student organizations in the fall and an advocacy panel involving Rutgers student advocacy groups in the spring.
Govil: We also were able to host our very first alumni panel. The biggest benefit of being online is that no matter where you are in the world, you have access to Zoom. Alumni from California, Chicago, Boston, New York, and more signed on and spoke with our members about what they learned during their time in college and what set them up for great careers and professions.
What do you most enjoy about your EGC participation?
Govil: The community that EGC has fostered is one of students who truly want to make their community a better place. I wouldn’t trade my time in EGC for anything because I’ve not only made so many friends, but I have also grown personally and professionally.
EGC exists to empower SOE students. By supporting all of our students, EGC is able to lay its legacy of being a student resource and create a community that all students can feel welcome in and succeed in. It’s able to mobilize students and develop advocates that will influence those around them to use their voices as they go through their college career and beyond. That’s how EGC is able to touch every SOE student and empower each of us.
What are you most proud of in terms of your leadership of EGC?
Zang: I’m most proud that the EGC team was able to collaborate and uplift one another to support our community. The theme that I wanted to set for this year was “Making EGC a Student Resource.” While that meant something drastically different when I first mentioned it in pre-pandemic times, the theme stuck with us.
The entire EGC cabinet have been stellar at not only maintaining their typical responsibilities in a completely virtual format but have also found ways to creatively and passionately support the SOE community – whether for student organization funding, DEI initiatives, pandemic-related concerns, or academic experiences.
How have you benefited from your participation in EGC?
Zang: EGC has first and foremost shown me that the SOE community is strong, compassionate, and dedicated. Seeing how students, faculty, and administration align and work tirelessly on a number of key objectives has been inspiring, to say the least.
I’ve also had the incredible opportunity of working with countless students and administrators who have uplifted me and empowered me as a leader. I’m committed to doing the same for those around me in any leadership position I may have in the future.
What are some of your goals as next year’s EGC president?
Govil: We’ll be transitioning back to in-person education, so I’ll focus on transitioning back to in-person activities – specifically SOE student organization operations.
I’d love to collaborate with other governing councils and work more deeply with the organizations within SOE. Another goal is to create social events to assimilate the classes of 2024 and 2025, as they are coming to campus for the first time and could use guidance from upperclass students to make friends and socialize.
There are things in place at Rutgers that I see can be improved: the student activities fee breakdown, the mental health resources on campus, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ housing, and the SOE curriculum.
I look forward to my time as EGC president, as I believe the best way to give back to the community is to be of service to those in the community and make permanent, impactful change.