City and regional planning student Roaya Higazi has an active profile on campus. Currently a junior, she is a University Ambassador and serves as the Vice Chair of Diversity and Inclusion for Ohio State's Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and as the Director of Campus Outreach for Buckeyes First. She will be even busier next year as the recently elected president of USG. We spoke with Roaya Higazi to discuss her plans for the future, and how her planning discipline may play a role in shaping that future.
Building from your campaign platform—that addressed access and affordability, for example—can you give us a sense of what you hope to accomplish next year as president of Undergraduate Student Government?
During our term, I hope to inherently change the way students engage with student government and advocate for themselves in all levels of governance in the university. Throughout all of our policies and projects that we hope to continue or implement, we want to place an emphasis on justice and equity and bringing our most marginalized identities and lived experiences to the forefront of every conversation. Showing administrators that this is a priority to the student body creates a more equitable experience for students across the board.
It has been noted that this year had one of the highest election participation rates in USG's history. Do you have any thoughts why the participation was so high?
There are many reasons. One of the biggest reasons, I believe, is because this was one of our first competitive years in a long time. Students engaged more with the campaigns because they had multiple teams to choose from which is really, really important. I also think the inherent nature of my partnership with Caleb Hineman (USG vice president-elect) increased engagement from campus communities that had never engaged with USG before. Our team was incredibly diverse in terms of identities, but also diverse in the fact that we had a lot of people who were not in USG. This gave students the opportunity to understand what USG does, how it impacts them, and why their vote is important.
Can you tell us how you decided to pursue a degree in city and regional planning?
Coming to Ohio State, I had no idea what city and regional planning was. I was really interested in social justice and the impact of policymaking on different communities and knew that I eventually wanted to go to law school. My advisor, Christine Meadows, recommended that I try out a few CRP classes, and I fell in love with the content. My courses have really changed the way I see the world and the impact of policy and planning leaders, and have shaped my goals for the future.
With another year before you graduate from Ohio State, can you provide a glimpse of what you hope to do in your early professional career?
After graduation, my goal is to pursue the Fulbright scholarship and spend a year abroad. After that, I hope to go to law school and pursue a career in the local or regional level of advocacy around affordable housing and anti-housing discrimination laws.
As you preside over Undergraduate Student Government next year, do you anticipate ways that your experience in the planning discipline will inform how you approach challenges and opportunities?
My time in CRP has taught me a lot about public participation processes, advocacy vs. empowerment, and creating sustainable systems. I’m excited to see how the best practices I’ve learned in my courses and internships can influence a more inclusive student government.