Q&A: VP for external affairs candidate Samad Gillani

CW News Staff

Samad Gillani is a sophomore majoring in finance and economics who currently serves as a deputy chief of staff to SGA President Madeline Martin. 


Q: How did you get involved with SGA? 

A: “So, my involvement with SGA began well before my time in college when I was in high school at Spain Park [High School]. I joined their SGA and the Alabama Youth in Government program, and going through that, I learned that I had a passion for servant leadership and service and student government. So, when I came to the Capstone, I knew that I wanted to continue my time in student government here as well at one of the best SGAs in the country. So, I applied to First Year Council, and I was selected to be a councilor, one of 65, my freshman year. And through my position in FYC, I was able to further grow my passion for servant leadership, and I knew that this is what I wanted to continue doing as my main thing in my college experience.” 

Q: What made you want to run for this position?   

A: “So, this past year, I’ve been working as one of the deputy chiefs of staff for Madeline Martin, for the 111th Administration. So, through that position, being on the executive cabinet, I’ve gotten to see the inner workings of how exec works, and basically, I’ve been able to be in the position without being in the position. So, I feel that having already done that side of it now, being able to bring my own ideas and my own initiatives into it to push for better connection on campus is what I want to do.” 

Q: Why are you the best choice for this position? 

A: “So, like I said, I feel like I’m the best choice for vice president for external affairs, because last year as deputy chief of staff for the Martin Administration, I worked directly under Collier Dobbs, the outgoing vice president for external affairs, and Cameron Doyle, the outgoing vice president for academic affairs. I was on their cabinets as a full-time member. So, getting to be a working member of their cabinets, I know that I would be able to support UA with someone that could make the things that they need to happen, happen.” 

Q: What’s the biggest problem you see on campus? 

A: “So right now, I think we’re still coming back from a really weird disconnect from COVID. There’s still, you know, instances on campus where we see people feeling separated about, you know, whatever it may be, and we felt that little tension that wasn’t there pre-COVID. So one of my goals as vice president for external affairs is to work to bridge that gap … because there’s so many students that are incoming here [and] wanted to come to the Capstone for a long time … and they don’t feel like they’re getting their full college experience, because there’s still some of those COVID overlays happening. So my goal will be to make sure all these new incoming students to the Capstone feel as welcome and enjoy being here, not only on this campus, but in the city of Tuscaloosa. We live in a beautiful city. And a lot of our students don’t know that; they only live within, you know, the small realm of our campus. But one of my biggest goals is to move further from that disconnection to help our students realize that there is a lot more to do outside of just these grounds. Tuscaloosa is a beautiful city. And there’s many ways to get involved, and you just have to be able to find them.” 

Q: How do you plan on increasing SGA transparency?  

A: “So like I was telling you earlier, I think one of my biggest things is just going to be to be there. A lot of people’s problem with, you know, their executive council in SGA is that they think it’s an elite group. They think that those people are never seen on campus. They think that they just are holed up in the office all day doing whatever and they don’t share. So my goal is going to be to simply be there and be out, be able to talk to my talk to my fellow students, talk to my voters, get input and ideas from them, and then in turn, show them what I’ve been doing, what I’ve been working on for them, what’s been working for us and what hasn’t been working and how we can take steps forward to do better.” 

Q: What’s your number one goal with the position?  

A: “My number one goal as your next vice president for external affairs is to bridge the gap between campus and community. That’s all external affairs is about. You know, we have an amazing program of UA Lobby Board. And so Lobby Board works with the Alabama State Government to lobby for our students’ ideas in Montgomery at the state government level. So, one of my goals is Lobby Board this year. One of my goals as vice president for external affairs will be to take lobby board and get more engagement on it, get more students to be a part of it because … right now, Lobby Board isn’t the most highlighted SGA experience or opportunity versus other freshmen opportunities. So, one of my goals is to make Lobby Board a more open, accessible opportunity for freshmen to come to and share their ideas … and help bridge the gap between our campus and community.” 

Q: What’s one last thing you want voters to know about you?  

A: “I think if there’s one thing I would want to tell the voters that, you know, I couldn’t probably individually tell each and every person just talking to them is that I’m passionate and I’m running because I care. I want to be in this position because I know that there’s real change that needs to happen and that there’s real change that I can make happen if given the opportunity to do so. So, I encourage all of the University and all my fellow students to ‘stand with Samad’ on Feb. 28 on myBama from seven to seven.”