When J.R. Rodrigo met Andrew Powell on a monthlong backpacking trip, he said he knew then that Powell was a leader.
“He was the best navigator of our group,” Rodrigo said. “He was able to convince everyone that he knew where he was going.”
Meet the candidates
The DTH will feature each SBP candidate this week:
Wednesday: Emilio Vicente
Thursday: Winston Howes
Once the navigator at National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming, Powell is now navigating his way through the student body election process.
But he did not always know he would run in the election. He almost decided not to return to UNC this year because of a job offer at Coursera, an education company that offers online classes.
“I thought about it, and what I decided was that what I was really passionate about was making an impact at UNC,” he said.
Powell said the focus of his platform is changing the nature of the classroom experience to be more hands-on. His campaign manager, Neel Patel, said Powell’s ideas have broad appeal among students.
“In some ways, the way that we teach students could better address everyone in a more personal sense,” Patel said about the education changes. “Through education you can touch every single person on campus, and you can touch students not only at the undergrad level, but at the grad level and all ages.”
Former Chancellor Holden Thorp recently released a statement of support for Powell, who he worked with last year on the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor.
Powell said he will address tuition costs through his education reforms, which are centered around course redesign. To fund these initiatives, which he estimates will cost more than $1 million, he plans to reach out to private donors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The big goal is to change the classroom experience to be more enriching and engaging,” he said.
Economics professor Rita Balaban, who flipped her ECON 101 classroom with Powell’s help, said she has seen a huge improvement in students’ grades. She said she thinks that professors will have to work with Powell to accomplish the flip.
“I’m a believer,” she said. “I like what I’m seeing so far, and I think it’s just a really great model in practice.”
Powell, a Morehead-Cain Scholar who attended the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg during the summer, said he hopes to use his experience to bring a diverse perspective to the executive branch.
He also cited his experiences with the Honor Court to help students become involved in the punishment process. Part of his platform includes better educating international students about UNC’s honor system.
“I worked during the duration of that summer to set up an honor system at African Leadership Academy along with a lot of the leaders at the school because we wanted to make sure it wasn’t just taking Carolina’s system or my high school system and forcing it on them,” he said.
Powell said he will use his experiences across other policy areas as well.
He plans to reorganize student government by streamlining the organization from 15 committees to six policy areas with four cross-cutting teams. Powell said he will not eliminate any organizations and plans for each committee to have a place in the new organization.
With his efforts toward education reform, Powell said UNC students can lead the way through change.
“I feel like, who better than Carolina students to figure out the problems with higher education in the country.”
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