A Conversation with the Candidates: Emma Zhou for External Vice-President

Lauren Kim, May 11, 2024

Note: The views expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bruin Political Review, and the publication of this interview does not constitute an endorsement for the candidate. Vote through MyUCLA between May 10th and May 17th.


Bruin Political Review (BPR): Can you introduce yourself? 

Emma Zhou: Hi, my name is Emma Zhou. I use she/her pronouns. I am a third year Public Affairs major with an Entrepreneurship minor. I'm from Toronto, Canada, so I'm an international student. I've been involved in USAC for the past 3 years. I joined as an intern in both the Office of the External Vice President and Office of the Internal Vice President my freshman year. Then I became directors in both offices my sophomore year. I became the Director of Campus partnerships in the EVP Office and Director of Accessibility and Transparency in the IVP office. I'm currently the Director of Student Relations in the EVP Office, as well as the Bruin Advocacy Grant Chair, which I was also the chair of last year. 


BPR: What inspired you to run for this position?

Emma Zhou: As I mentioned, I've been involved in EVP all 3 years of my time here at UCLA, and I think the I really know the potential that the EVP office can have. In my 3 different roles in the EVP office, I've worked with numerous organizations, met with so many different communities on campus, and I've been able to see the projects that we've been able to work on and the things that we've been able to achieve, whether that's internally, or lobbying externally. I think with my previous experience and qualifications, I'm going to be able to lead an office that can reach its full potential. 

The EVP office is one of the most well-funded offices in USAC. We had $200,000 in funding this year, and we can do a lot of things with that amount of money, whether that's community events on campus or lobbying. I really want to create that community on campus through the EVP office.


BPR: Do you have any other campus involvements or qualifications for this role? 

Emma Zhou: First and foremost, I'm a UCLA Campus tour guide. I represent UCLA admissions, talking to prospective students about why UCLA is so good, with all of our resources. Being in the EVP office has really helped me be a better tour guide. For example, if you're an international student, you have access to the Dashew center. Regardless of who you are, we have access to CAPS. We have access to the Community Programs Office and the Basic Needs Coalition. These are all things that I like to bring up in my tour, because these are things that are specific to UCLA, and something to be proud of. 

I'm also the Vice President of a women's pre-law society. I am on the pre-law track. So I guess running for EVP makes sense for me as well. I'm very passionate about human rights issues, gender equality, all of that stuff.

I'm also a co-founder of the Students Demand Action chapter at UCLA. SDA is a national organization that works to end gun violence around the United States and the world altogether. I think those experiences are pretty diverse, and allow me to work with different communities on campus. I think that's another really important asset to being the EVP. As EVP, you have to represent the entire student population, and being involved in so many different organizations and being able to meet so many different students will really help me with that.


BPR: What are some of the biggest challenges UCLA students are facing? 

Emma Zhou: I think one of the biggest challenges that UCLA students face is affordability and accessibility in every way. I think being able to afford healthy food options affording affordable housing – access to basic necessities – are things that we don't normally think about. I do acknowledge that a lot of students at UCLA are privileged, but at the same time a lot of students are struggling with basic things that a lot of times we don't think about. Just because we don't experience something doesn't mean that we can't advocate or fight for that. I think to combat all of that, the main issue we have on our campus is access to USAC and all of these government offices. Last year in the USAC elections, only 20% of UCLA students voted, which is one of the largest turnouts we've seen in USAC elections. But, that's problematic. Given that our UCLA

Undergraduate Student Association is meant to represent all of the student body. I really want to increase student voter turnout on campus for USAC elections because we have a federal election happening in November. I think increasing student voter turnout for internal elections can also increase voter engagement in external voting.

I think one of my biggest platforms is community and engagement, and both of those really work hand in hand to not only show students what USAC is, but also show them what we can do and how they can get involved.


BPR: Could you give an elevator pitch for your platforms? 

Emma Zhou: My 3 platforms are Affordability, Community and Engagement. In terms of affordability, I really want to promote access to basic needs through working with the Community Programs Office and the Basic Needs Coalition. Both of these organizations are located in our Students Activity Center. But, I'm sure that the majority of students have not actually gone inside of SAC, or actually know all of the resources that they can access inside there. One of the things we can all have access to is a CBO food closet. This is open 24 hours, no questions asked for all students experiencing food insecurity. You're able to go in there, grab a snack to go or a hot meal. There's other things, including the CPO van service, the test banks. There's a whole list of resources that are available inside the Students Activity Center that a lot of students aren't aware of.

In terms of community, we have 42,000 students here. It's impossible to know everyone, but we can try our best to build community by connecting different groups with each other. That's one of my main goals. Not only have I met with over a hundred different clubs and organizations in my past 3 years of being involved in USAC, but I also want to work to connect organizations with each other who might have similar priorities. 

In terms of engagement, this is really about increasing engagement with USAC. The number one thing under this is funding. As the Bruin Advocacy Grant chair, I have $24,000 to allocate each year. I want to increase this number to $30,000. But through BAG I've been able to help fund at least 50 organizations, host events or go to lobby. A lot of students here have things that they want to do. But, one of their biggest barriers is funding, and USAC and EVP are great resources to help provide that funding so that students can achieve what they wanna do. I want to introduce a new grant called CALL which stands for Cultivating Activism through Legislative Lobbying. This grant is going to encourage lobbying outside of EVP and advocacy spaces. And then also through engagement, I want to increase voter turnout, not only in USAC elections, but in our November election. 


BPR: What forums exist for students right now to inform themselves of campus resources, and how do you plan to expand awareness?

Emma Zhou: At UCLA, there are a lot of different advocacy-based organizations. In terms of food insecurity, three of the biggest ones I'm aware of are Calfresh, BruinDine, Swipe Out Hunger, and all three of these work in the Basic Needs Coalition. EVP is a part of this council. A lot of these advocacy-based organizations are part of it as well, for example, the three food insecurity orgs I mentioned, as well as Ignite and Overdose, and Bruin Shelter.  All of these different organizations all sit on this one coalition, and we have met a few times to talk about how we can all work together. But this council is pretty new, so not much has happened. I really hope to continue to serve on this coalition next year as EVP.

Similar to all the other resources at UCLA, students don't find out about it unless they're looking specifically for it. If you're, for example, facing food insecurity on campus, and you aren't able to purchase your own meal, you're going to find opportunities or look for places where you're able to get food for yourself. So whether that's a CPO Food Closet, or BruinDine. BruinDine is an organization that brings leftover food from the Hill to outside the Student Activity Center at 10pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They provide to students who just want a hot meal, no questions asked. You can bring your own container, your own plate, and grab as much food as you'd like. It's a great community space as well. These are two resources that are available that students are aware of, to some extent.

But once again, you won’t know about these resources unless you're actively looking. I know about them because I'm in EVP, and I've been involved with both of these organizations. But if you're not really involved in EVP, USAC, or these organization spaces, you really don't know about it, and that's a problem. Promoting these resources, and all UCLA has to offer, is one of my top priorities. 

Another thing is that a lot of the times when students are facing food or housing insecurity, they may not be aware of the resources available to them because it's really hard to find stuff at UCLA. There's no centralized area or guidance there, so I want them to be able to come to USAC. Come to EVP. Come to me specifically. Ask me questions, and I want to help them out whatever way I can. 


BPR: What are some concrete steps you will take to ensure that more students are aware of these resources? 

Emma Zhou: I plan to host tabling events with these organizations weekly. I want to host EVP office hours in Bruin Plaza either by myself or with other organizations. A couple of reasons for this. First, this year I've actually hosted a series of food insecurity tabling events with Calfresh Bruins. Sitting at the bottom of BruinWalk where you know that students will be passing by you, and they're forced to see what you are super beneficial, because whether it's 2 or 200 students who stop by and ask us questions, it still makes a huge difference. Through these tabling events, we've had over 100 people sign up for Calfresh because they were able to ask the Calfresh representative and myself – I am trained to answer questions – about whether they qualify and how to apply. This is vital because we don't have a Calfresh office at UCLA. So whether or not students want to volunteer with BruinDine, or want to benefit from the things that BruinDine does, either way, sitting on BruinWalk is really helpful. 

Last but not least, Swipe Out Hunger. I'm sure you’ve seen hunger representatives sit outside dining halls. But BruinWalk is a very centralized area on campus, and increasing exposure to these organizations through tabling goes a long way. This is the first year that we've done tabling events. This has not been a thing in the past. So, next year I want to increase these tabling events, and also reach out to other orgs to table with. I've already reached out to Ignite which is a women's reproductive club, and End Overdose. 


BPR: I noticed that you talked about your goals of working with the Westwood Neighborhood Council. Could you kind of just elaborate on what this collaboration would look like, and what some of your goals would be?

Emma Zhou: The Westwood Neighborhood Council is a local council that EVP has had previous relations with. We have a local relations committee in EVP, and they work closely with the Westwood Neighborhood Council every year. This collaboration would mostly look like representatives from EVP attending weekly Neighborhood Council Meetings and sitting on the board. There are students both involved in EVP and not involved in EVP, who sit on the Council as well, which is really important, because Westwood is the neighborhood that surrounds UCLA. It's really important to have student voices on that Council, especially student voices who are involved in EVP, so that we can all work together on certain projects. And specifically, one of the subcommittees that's part of the Westwood Neighborhood Council is the Westwood Tenants Union. Access to housing is another big part of my platform under affordability. And it's important to work with these local councils, because a lot of the issues that come with housing we don't have a full say over. When it comes to housing, a lot of it has to do with lobbying at the local and state level. When it comes to the local level, it means writing resolutions with the North Westwood Neighborhood Council or the Westwood Tenants Union. On the State level, it's lobbying to state officials, which I've been doing for the past years as well. 


BPR: Is there a particular policy you’re especially excited about?

Emma Zhou: The Safe Parking Initiative is a short term solution to housing insecurity at UCLA. And it's a tangible action to combat housing insecurity. It would allow students experiencing housing insecurity or commuter students to stay overnight in a UCLA parking lot in a safe manner, with access to basic necessities, such as portable toilets, sinks, snacks, water and blankets. Students aren't going to be sleeping in their cars forever. But this is a needed project that UCLA and the UC has to fund because a lot of students who experience housing insecurity simply need a short term solution. They can't just build more housing, and know they can afford that. That's not how it works. So we really need to focus on short term resolutions. In the past UCLA has offered students to live in dorms that are open, but with the growing number of students, that's just not possible anymore. So, we really need to fight for the Safe Parking Initiative, so that students who are experiencing housing insecurity and commuter students have a safe place to sleep. And I think this is very possible for us to accomplish within the next year. There's already funding that's going towards this and all we need is an action plan to get it running from the ground up. I have a few members of my campaign team who are also really excited about this. And we've actually lobbied for this as well, at the Student Lobby Conference in March. We're working on this project externally as well as internally with Admin, which is what we tend to do in EVP.


BPR: How do you plan to foster collaboration within USAC? 

Emma Zhou: I think one of the things that's often misunderstood about USAC is that it's a hierarchical organization. However, USAC is not hierarchical at all. Each of these elected officials has their own office, and in previous years, because all these elected individuals have their own office, they tend to work only within their office. There are weekly USAC meetings, but people get  caught up in the politics.

I've been involved in 2 USAC offices – EVP and IVP – and one of the biggest examples I can give in terms of collaboration is within what I really want to work on: housing insecurity. EVP does a lot to address housing insecurity. We lobby at the local and state level. We work with the Westwood Neighborhood Council. However, I know that IVP also does a lot of really great work in terms of housing insecurity. They focus a lot more on things that are going on at UCLA. One of the biggest things that they do is the yearly housing fair. Basically, in the Spring they put on a huge event, kind of like the Enormous Activities Fair, for affordable housing. A lot of landlords and building representatives gather in Bruin Plaza showing students the options that they have for affordable housing in the upcoming year. Long story short, IVP and EVP both work a lot to try to combat affordable housing. But historically, there hasn't been much of a collaboration between the two offices. So next year, I want EVP to work with IVP by bringing members of IVP to lobbying events, because they have a lot of knowledge in terms of affordable housing. Or, since they know what issues students are facing on campus, we could include them in meetings with the Westwood Neighborhood Council. 


BPR: Does communication between the offices of the EVP And IVP (Internal Vice President) exist right now?

Emma Zhou: I think I will be able to foster more collaboration because communication is something that I really pride myself on. I'm really good at reaching out to people. I'm really good at connecting people with different organizations, different communities, all of that stuff. So I know that if elected EVP, I'm going to continue to reach out to different people. If something comes up in a meeting with the Westwood Neighborhood Council, for example, about housing that I know IVP can help me with, I will reach out to them to work with me on this project, and I think having knowledge about USAC and about the different offices is very helpful for this. When something comes up that I know someone in another office is involved with, I can reach out to them directly, and I think that's something that I already do very well, and I want to continue to do that in my position as EVP.


BPR: How would increasing USAC collaboration impact UCLA students? 

Emma Zhou: I think one of the biggest issues with USAC right now is its inefficiency. And I say this because there's a lack of collaboration, which is problematic because everyone on council wants to work towards the same thing. Affordable housing is one of my platforms, but that's also the IVP’s platform. That's also some of the Gen Reps’ platforms. That's also the President's platform. We might have different ways to approach this problem, but we all want affordable housing to be a thing at UCLA. For me, for example, I want to prioritize the Safe Parking INitiative. The IVP would like to increase the Housing Fair. I think under the theme of affordable housing we can have maybe a subcommittee of USAC, or specific USAC meetings dedicated to different topics. I know that every single person who sits on council does want to combat this issue. But there's never been a huge collaboration between the offices. I think collaborating will really increase actions and also spread awareness. The IVP’s housing fair, for example. If EVP were to help work on that, whether that's bring in State officials or help fund the event. The turnout is going to increase because there's more people working on this project. More people care. That's how awareness spreads. 


BPR: What is the difference between CSO and UCPD presence on campus? 

Emma Zhou: I want to start off with a story. Last year I worked very closely with AISA, which is the American Indian Student Association. They are an indigenous group on campus, and they are one of the Mother Orgs. I worked with them a lot through EVP and BAG to help them host events. One of the events that they hosted was at Sunset Rec. It was kind of a community prayer event where there were traditional dances and speeches by activists. It also had to do with environmental appreciation, just like a whole series of things altogether. And it was a really great event. It went super well.

The only issue with it is that the only way that they were allowed to host this event was if they had security, and at that time that meant UCPD. The event still went really well, but it did make some of the community members and leaders uncomfortable. UCPD is an organization that doesn't always understand how best to approach different organizations and communities, especially when it comes to these sorts of community events hosted by minority organizations and marginalized communities. And because of that a lot of the time these communities don't feel the safest with UCPD there, and that infringes on  the success of their event. So, decreasing UCPD presence would make a huge difference, not necessarily in terms of the event, but in terms of making the community members and leaders feel comfortable and having the advocates feel comfortable with what they're doing where they are. The alternative solution for security is to increase CSO presence. Community Service Officers are more UCLA based, but they don't have weapons on them or anything like that. They're more so just there to oversee the event.

I’ve met with people in other orgs, in marginalized communities, and through personal conversations I've learned that UCPD is an organization that is not the best when it comes to these events, and that CSOs are much more preferred.


BPR: How can the office of the EVP facilitate this substitution? 

Emma Zhou: First, our connection with the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, because UCPD serves all of us, and they're very connected to that as well. So working together with them, and as well as our ties with Administration. So really, it's talking, meeting consistently with Administration, explaining to them why this is something that we need, bringing Mother Orgs into these conversations, bringing minority and marginalized communities into these conversations as well, because I understand and I'm advocating for these things. But at the end of the day, we do need first hand perspectives. Bringing all these organizations into the conversation with Administration, and EVP is a great office to facilitate that because we have a lot of great ties and connections with Administration, so we are able to set up those meetings.


BPR: You mentioned wanting to increase access to Narcan, Fentanyl test trips, Plan B, and some other substances. Could you explain how you plan to implement this?

Emma Zhou: Yes, 100%. So, End Overdose is a really great organization on campus, and their mission is to increase access to all of these things. This has been something that UCLA, through different organizations, advocacy groups, and USAC, has been working towards for the past few years, given the increase in overdoses. But, you're never gonna be able to stop drug use. What we can do as advocates is to increase safety when it comes to drug use and understanding the consequences of drug use and how to combat that.

That's exactly what End Overdose does. And EVP has worked closely with them in the past few years. We've tabled with them. I will continue to table with them next year. And right now, I'm currently working on writing a resolution with End Overdose to fight for a permanent Fentanyl test strip distribution center on campus through the funding of a vending machine in Ackerman. In Ackerman Union, there's vending machines for condoms. Plan B, other types of birth control stuff like that. I think there's already two vending machines in Ackerman  and we're asking for a third one that would have Fentanyl test strips and instructions of how to use that, so that it increases access to those test strips for students. Right now, End Overdose has a lot of these test strips, but the only way to distribute it is through tabling events, either by themselves or with EVP. They can't be tabling 24/7, right? So having this permanent distribution system would be very, very helpful to all students, and would really increase access to safety measures. 


BPR: Next, you mentioned CAPS appointments for non-UCSHIP holders. So again, what platform does the EVP office have to achieve this?

Emma Zhou: EVP has been working closely with CAPS. I think centers like CAPS and CARE and CRP are all severely underfunded. CAPS, for example, is meant to serve all 42,000 students at UCLA, including all staff and that's like, 60,000 people, which is crazy. So really, just increasing funding. But specifically, the reason I want to increase the number of CAPS appointments for non UCSHIP holders is because currently they are only allowed four free CAPS appointments, while UCSHIP holders are allowed eight. 

Sometimes, UCSHIP is just not affordable for students. Students already are on their own insurance plan, whether that's through their family, their parents, or their own doctors. So a lot of times, students, especially students from California, have their own insurance plan, and there's no reason for them to switch to UCSHIP. I don't think it's fair that students who don't get UCSHIP for any reason are unable to access the same number of CAPS appointments as people who are on UCSHIP. Access to mental health resources, counseling therapy, all of that stuff is super important. And UCLA really likes to talk about the fact that we have a CAPS program on campus. However, a lot of the times that's not accessible to students, whether it's because they don't have appointments or they're not on UCSHIP, or it's just under-staffed. Overall, I want to increase access to CAPS, and really fight for more funding and more staffing, so it operates more efficiently.


BPR: And for your final aspect of this platform, you talk about CRP establishment. Could you just walk me through the details of that, and your plans to make this a reality?

Emma Zhou: So, the Collegiate Recovery Program, or CRP, is similar to CAPS and CARE, which is the campus sexual assault program at UCLA. CRP is very important to students who are recovering from substance abuse, misuse, other behavioral or chemical addictions. Eating disorders, anything like that. I actually learned about this when I was going to the Student Lobby Conference in March. So this is pretty new. Our CRP is pretty new to a lot of the UCs. UCLA is actually one of the only campuses that has a CRP program. However, we don't have any full time professional staff. We don't have a physical space and we don't have institutional funding, which means at any point CRP can get cut from our budget. So, although we technically do have a CRP program, it's not established, and therefore it's not effective. What I want to do with this is increase awareness through tabling on Bruin Walk to show students that CRP is a thing that we have at UCLA, a resource that can be used and accessed. Even if I might not use it, or you may not use it, we will definitely know people who will need to use this resource. 

I think this is a two-pronged approach. One working with administration through continuous meetings to really show them that this is something that we care about. I want to work with CRP to create a petition form. There's strength in numbers. So showing administration that there's thousands of students who are in need of the CRP program or support the CRP program is really powerful and can be very impactful when administration makes decisions. On the external side, lobbying for institutional funding through UCLA or through the UCs. I already did this in March. I met with two state officials, and I got them to sign the CRP sign-on letter.


BPR: I know you talked a lot about funding, and one of the first things you bring up is increasing BAG by $6,000. Can you explain what powers the EVP has to advocate for this increase in funding, and where this funding would go? 

Emma Zhou: I'm very passionate about the Bruin Advocacy Grant. It's something I helped to establish in the EVP office last year, and I really worked to grow the awareness around this grant over the past two years. When it first started, we did a lot of outreach. Last year, we had around two to five applications. Today, we consistently have at least 15 applications per cycle. So it’s grown a lot in the past two years. The Bruin Advocacy Grant is really important because it can fund any sort of advocacy event. So whether you're an organization and you wanna host a workshop, or a rally, or a conference, you want to go to a leadership retreat, you want to create merch, you want to  create stickers, or you want to lobby. These are all things that BAG will and has funded in the past. So through BAG, we've funded so many different events. And it can really make a big impact, because, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of students have great ideas for things that they want to do. But funding is one of the biggest barriers, especially at UCLA. That's why BAG is so important.

For example, I just went to the Student Labor Advocacy Project event that they co-hosted with the Students for Farm Workers as well as the Westwood food Co-OP. They're hosting a labor rally in Ackerman today, and BAG did help fund that. I love to fund all of as many events as possible, I like to attend them as well, and encourage other people to attend them to see what the event is really about to increase collaboration. But the reason I want to increase BAG to $30,000 is because with $24,000, or actually last year it was only $20,000. So there's 6 cycles of BAG per year. It's 2 cycles per quarter. So right now, with $24,000, I'm able to allocate $4,000 per cycle. However, most organizations apply up to $2,000, which is our limit, and as I mentioned, we consistently have 15 organizations applying. So if I have 15 organizations apply, and I can only allocate $4,000. That really means I can only allocate money to two organizations. I try to help as many organizations as possible, but that's why there's a real need to increase the money for BAG. And where does this money come from? It comes directly out of the EVP budget. So by making the Bruin Advocacy Grant my priority, and saying that I want to increase it next year. That means I will increase it because it's coming directly from my personal EVP budget. 


BPR: You mentioned two other funding mechanisms within your platform. Let's go over GROWS first – what does this look like, and how would you promote it?

Emma Zhou: GROWS, or the GrassRoots Organizers for Working Students grant is a completely new grant this year that a member of my committee and I have worked together to establish. It's very similar to BAG, but the only difference is that this is focused on labor. This grant is used to support any organization or individual who wants to advocate for unfair labor issues. 

The rally for farm workers I mentioned today was funded by BAG as well as GROWS, because it's an advocacy issue. But more specifically, a labor issue. GROWS works closely with BAG. But it's a little bit different as it's labor focused. I want to promote it next year through collaboration with the UCLA Labor Center. So this year, labor was one of EVP’s biggest platforms. And it’s one of my biggest priorities as well. Two members of my committee organized a labor conference last weekend, and that went really well, and that was in collaboration with the UCLA Labor Center. So we've worked with them pretty closely this year. Next year, I really wanna work with them to promote GROWS in labor studies classes. Putting up posters in the Labor Studies Office, suggesting this grant, or having staff members suggest this grant to students. So increasing awareness about this grant and that it's available.


BPR: Finally, what would the CALL grant look like? And how does it contrast from GROWS and BAG? 

Emma Zhou: The CALL grant is going to be a new grant that I want to introduce. Several reasons for this. This year through BAG I've seen an increase in the number of applications from organizations who want to go lobby. One example is Bruin Parenting Scholars, their main priority is to lobby to increase resources for undocumented and international parenting students at UCLA.

First of all, I would love to collaborate with them in general. We've had meetings, but I don't want to take money away from BAG to fund lobbying trips, because lobbying trips are expensive. You’re going to Sacramento, or you're going to DC, those are plane tickets that you have to buy, hotels and all that stuff But, I really want students to lobby outside EVP. I think one of the biggest things is that I've really learned, the impact that lobbying can make. And really, anyone can lobby. You don't need any previous experience or anything like that. EVP does a really great job going to lobbying conferences, but would love to increase that to students outside of EVP, which is why CALL is going to be introduced. So the Bruin Parenting Scholars was one example. We've had 4 or 5 other applications through BAG that's focused on lobbying. So I saw a need for funding for lobbying efforts. This is why I want to introduce this grant. I will be encouraging orgs to apply to CALL instead of BAG, so that we can reserve BAG for other advocacy events. 


BPR: You talked about the importance of mobilizing voters, not only within USAC, but also within our November election. How can the EVP increase voter turnout? 

Emma Zhou: I think the most important thing is accessibility to voting. Currently, we have three ballot drop boxes located on the UCLA campus. However, one of them is all the way at the Hammer Museum, which is far. So, my number one priority is to fight for a third ballot box that's actually on our campus, that's within a quick walking distance. So whoever it may be, whether you live on the Hill or in the apartments, having another ballot drop off location is really important to increase accessibility for all students.

Second, getting the word out and empowering students to vote. I think a lot of the times students are unaware of how to vote, where to vote, all of that stuff. This year one of the things that Bruins Vote has been doing really well is that they've been hosting weekly tabling events in Bruin Plaza and Bruin Walk. I want to increase this number to three times a week, or even more when it comes closer to the November general election. And, as I mentioned earlier, with the impact of tabling, students who don't know how to register to vote or don't know how to fill out their ballot. We can have Bruins Vote ambassadors stand in Bruin Plaza, and be open to answer these questions. I think that would make a huge difference. 

Next, increasing registration resources to all students, specifically out-of-state students. A lot of students don't know how to mail in their voting ballot, or even request one. I want to increase awareness by being out in students' faces, instead of waiting for them to come to you, because how would they know where to look? 

Finally, increasing political awareness through a series of infographics that the EVP office can post with Bruins Vote. Bruins Vote is its own organization, but it falls under EVP, so we collaborate all the time. Doing a social media push telling people to register to vote today, this is how you can do it, this is why it's important to vote, what are the important policy issues that you should look out for in this election, all of that stuff.


BPR: What are the mother organizations, and how can the office of the EVP help fulfill their missions?

Emma Zhou: Mother orgs are a group of identity-based organizations on campus. I think there's 8 or 10 of them altogether, but some of them include APC, the Asian Pacific Coalition, the Vietnamese Student Union, the American Indian Student Association, and the Pacific Islander Student Association. The Mother Organizations advocate for their own issues, but at the same time they all work together to combat things like racism, colonization, all of that stuff on campus.

The EVP office has, or should have, a very close relationship with them. As you know, our main job is to advocate for students on campus, as well as lobbying efforts off campus. In the past three years I've personally done a lot of work to strengthen these relations through meeting with them and understanding their priorities, their needs. What we can do to help support them and what they need from us.

A lot of the time that need is addressed through funding. A lot of these organizations host annual cultural nights in Royce Hall. We have a Chinese culture night, the Vietnamese culture night, the Samahang Pilipino culture night. All of these things cost a lot of money, so BAG has funded a lot of these events in the previous years, and we'll continue to do so this year. 

Another way I want to strengthen Mother Org relations is inviting them into lobbying spaces. So some of these orgs already want to lobby, for example, IDEAS which is an undocumented student organization on campus has gone on a few lobbying trips already. They’ve gone to regents meetings, all funded through BAG, and I would love to continue to go with them to these lobbying events. I would love to invite them to the Student Lobby Conference so we can all work to advocate for these issues together. I think continuing to have regular meetings with Mother organizations and going into these meetings with no agenda that's EVP-based, just being there to listen to what we can do to help them. And not going to them and being like, “Hey, I want to work on this project like, are you guys interested?” Definitely not the right approach. It's really important to go and ask them what they need from EVP and from USAC and what we can do.

I've recently had a really great meeting with the Asian Pacific Coalition and they revealed a number of issues that EVP has the capabilities of helping them fix, that I would have never thought would be issues. So, letting them know that we're there to help support them and uplift their voices.


BPR: How can UCLA widen its lobbying efforts? 

Emma Zhou: Lobby Corp is a group of students who are gathered together to go to different lobbying conferences, including the Student Lobbying Conference, the Latino Lobbying conference, the Transfer Student Lobbying Conference. However, most of Lobby Corp are students who are involved in EVP or USAC. I want to encourage students who aren't in these spaces to come and lobby with us for several reasons. They can bring experiences that we might not think are things that we want to bring up to state officials, because I think USAC itself is a bubble. We talk about a lot of important issues, but it's always the same issues. I would love to have people who have different perspectives and experiences to come and bring those up as well. And lobbying itself is not difficult. It's just about gathering a group of people together and having the means to go. Anyone can lobby, whether it's your first time or your tenth time, it doesn't matter. I think one specific example is that at the Student Lobby Conference we advocated for a lot of different issues, including CalFresh and CRP. lt would have been really awesome if we had, for example, brought a staffer from the UCLA CRP office to come and bring in their own personal experiences and thoughts at these meetings. Personally, I really care about the CRP office, but I'm very new to it. I did advocate for it, but someone who has personal experience would do a better job than me. 


BPR: What is something that you would want students to know about you as a person?

Emma Zhou: I really want to increase connections on and around campus. I think if we were to boil it down to one thing, that’s my main priority. I say this because I know the potential that USAC has. I know the potential that EVP has. But that doesn't matter if other people aren't aware of that. So trying to increase engagement with as many organizations as possible to build that sense of community on campus.

This year, our collaboration with the Westwood Food Co-OP was completely new, and through them we were introduced to Students for Farm Workers, as well as the Student Labor Advocacy Project. These are three orgs that were new this year that we have been starting to work with. And we've already funded and hosted multiple events with them. 

Last year we worked with 50 organizations. This year, we worked with 100. Next year, I want to work with 200, or even 500 organizations. 

There are 1,300 clubs at UCLA, and my goal is to work with as many of them as possible. I think I'm the perfect person to do that, because, as I mentioned at the very beginning, I'm involved in a diverse number of organizations. I think I have the ability to create these connections on campus.


BPR: Why do you think students should vote for you?

Emma Zhou: I think whoever's elected into USAC is going to be someone who can't represent every single person at UCLA. There's 42,000 students here. I'm just one individual, and USAC is comprised of 15 people.

However, because of that, whoever you elect as a leader, you want them to be open-minded. You want them to be always willing to learn, to be always willing to listen to other people, to learn from their experiences, and I think I've shown through my past experiences that I'm someone who does that. I'm someone who's always willing to forge new connections to learn from new people. As I mentioned, I was able to grow BAG into what it is today, and one of the ways I did that is literally going up to organizations on Bruin Walk and asking them who they are, what their organization does, and what they're fundraising for. That's how I met the Asian Pacific Coalition. I'm someone who is willing to do that and will continue to do that. 



Conversations were recorded to ensure accuracy, and writers made slight edits for clarity.