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ASPLU president Ellie Lapp on student government, research and preparing for life after graduation

ASPLU president Ellie Lapp on student government, research and preparing for life after graduation

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2016-17 ASPLU president Ellie Lapp smiling on PLU's upper campus.

Image: “I was excited about the opportunity to be more political and be involved with making positive changes at the university.” ASPLU president Ellie Lapp ’17 (photo by Zach Powers/PLU)

September 15, 2016
By Zach Powers '10
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, WASH. (Sept. 15, 2016)- An anthropology and global studies double major from Kalispell, Montana, Ellie Lapp ’17 is passionate about a wide variety of social justice issues. She’s hopeful that her tenure as president of Associate Students of Pacific Lutheran University (ASPLU) will be remembered for bringing students, staff and faculty members together for important conversations. While she says the role of public-facing leader of PLU’s student government isn’t one that comes naturally to her, the former peace scholar is learning to embrace it and has big plans for the year to come.

When and why did you get involved with ASPLU?
I got involved my first year, as a senator. I was really excited about the possibility of ASPLU and student government being advocacy focused. In high school I’d been involved with student government but we mostly did things like plan dances, so I was excited about the opportunity to be more political and be involved with making positive changes at the university.

What have you found are some of the differences between serving as ASPLU vice president last year and your first few weeks as president this fall?
The biggest difference is I’m now the one who has to give the speeches. It’s less behind the scenes work and more being the public person. Following last year’s president, Martha Spieker, has been interesting because she is incredibly outgoing and her personality is perfect for that part of the job, but I’m more introverted. So the public speaking has been a little challenging, but it’s worth it and rewarding because now (after speaking at convocation) it seems like almost all of the first-year students know my face and come up to me and say things like “you’re the student body president, right? I have this question can you help me out with it?” There are positive and negatives, but I really enjoy being known by students and being someone that people can ask questions of, and that really didn’t happen last year when I was vice president.

What are your goals for ASPLU this year and what are the organization’s goals as a collective?
To start the year my personal goals are to continue some of the initiatives we started last year. We’re continuing our work around Title IX and continuing conversations around sexual assault and making sure the response process is as victim-centered and trauma-informed as possible.

We have a series called “Let’s Talk About It” that we started last year that’s basically a forum to talk about difficult social issues. We’ll continue to do that this year and talk specifically about religious diversity. We also have events in that series scheduled around the fall election that will address gender, xenophobia and other challenging election-related issues.

We have these big goals as a group and every senator also has their own goals around making campus more sustainable. Once this year’s senators are elected we’ll have our retreat, and that’s when we’ll do a lot of brainstorming about what each senator’s individual project will be.

Will you be working on research for your two majors this school year and, if yes, will you be able to combine that with your work at ASPLU?
I would like to find more ways to intertwine my academic passions and ASPLU. I’m really interested in social justice and advocacy in an academic sense. I just finished a Wang Center research grant in Oaxaca, Mexico. I did an internship with a microfinance organization and did research about a small town in Oaxaca. That seems like it would be totally different than ASPLU, and in many ways it was, but I also did a lot of the same administrative things that I’m doing now as president, like responding to emails and communicating with donors.

I’m also going to be doing a Severtson research grant, which is a social science grant. I’m going to be looking at images used in development organizations’ fundraising materials. Again, that’s quite different from my work as ASPLU president, but it’s still about how we represent people we’re trying to serve and how we do that ethically.

What do you plan to do after graduation?
I’m not really sure yet. I have a plan to apply for a lot of different things. For example, I’m applying for a Fulbright, but I’m also interested in work being done by some local organizations. I’m especially interested in possibly working at a domestic violence shelter, because that’s something I’m very passionate about. Or I might do some traveling internationally. Eventually, I hope to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology.