VanderToolen Presidency Reflects on Time in Office


Marco Lozzi

The ASUU President’s office inside the A. Ray Olpin Student Union in Salt Lake City on March 28, 2023. (Photo by Marco Lozzi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Allison Stuart, News Writer


With the 2022-2023 school year over, the transition between the VanderToolen and O’Leary administrations has happened and the previous ASUU presidency gathered to reflect on their time in office.

Benvin Lozada, vice president for university relations in the VanderToolen administration, said the thing he was most proud of during his time in office was “the foundation that we’ve built for ASUU in terms of how to really bring it back after COVID-19.”

“How we reintroduced a lot of,  really significant campus programming, how to re-engage with the University, and a lot of advocacy initiatives,” he said. “All of that together really just kind of reactivated and laid a baseline [for] future student leaders.” 

During their year in office, the VanderToolen presidency focused on reviving and strengthening initiatives such as Crimson Nights and RedFest. Many of these events had fallen away in recent years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The presidency also had new goals including a student tailgate before football games, Student Wellness Week, student outreach dinners and Friendsgiving for U.

VanderToolen ran unopposed in 2021 with the slogan,“We see you, we hear you, let’s bridge the gap.”

Ashlee Roberts, vice president for student relations, said they kept that slogan close to heart in office, with a goal of involving as many people as possible in their decisions within their respective roles.

Roberts added she spoke with many students and student groups, while Lozada and VanderToolen focused more on the university faculty and leadership.

“When we actually took time to meet with the administration, with leadership and, you know, share the student perspective, but also really try to listen … I think that it in turn made them listen,” VanderToolen said. 

Lozada mentioned the regret he has with not involving more people in his processes earlier on.

“I think that one of my regrets is that I didn’t engage the wonderful folks around me earlier in my term,” he said. “If you want to go fast, go alone. if you want to go far, go together.”

With terms of one year, there is often not enough time to complete every initiative that the ASUU presidency sets its sights on. A goal they had was to resurrect the Student Commission, a communicative body for students to speak with an intimate group of higher-ups. Lozada said he wasn’t able to make much headway with the time constraint.

VanderToolen said his biggest regret with his time with ASUU was he wasn’t able to “solve everything.” 

ASUU recently struggled with transparency in this year’s election when it comes to endorsements. VanderToolen said his administration was dedicated to updating the Redbook and creating more channels for students to voice their opinions.

“I think, you know, we really, really tried to help improve our Redbook, or ASUU constitution, to be more transparent because there are so many things just completely contradicting each other,” VanderToolen said.

He added that even though his team got started on those changes early in the year, it still ended up being tabled by the student senate. 

VanderToolen said one year was not enough to implement everything he wanted to do.

I wish I could have run for a second term,” he said.

The three members of the presidency expressed gratitude to the people in their circle who supported them through all the successes and hurdles of being in office with ASUU. Roberts said the biggest thing that she will take away from her time in office is to ask for help when needed, something she struggled with at first.

VanderToolen’s parting words encouraged students to be involved and find opportunities to grow.

“Just make sure that you, you find a way to contribute to the university community … but find a way to be a part of something bigger, because when you graduate college, it feels a lot better to be able to look back,” he said. 


[email protected]