A.S. President-Elect Jennifer Chen on Her Plans, Her Team, and Herself


The new Associated Students President Elect, Jennifer Chen. Photo taken on Santa Monica College main campus in Santa Monica California on April 17, 2017 (Photo By: Zane Meyer-Thornton)

Jennifer Chen, 22, a business marketing major and the Associated Students president-elect for the 2017-2018 school year, is the first Asian-American female student to be elected since 2010. This may seem daunting, but Chen faces life’s challenges with a sense of contagious optimism: a trait that could only help a nominee get elected to office. Becoming a leader for SMC’s vibrant community of diverse students is only then a natural step for a student like Chen.

After beating her opponents Jorge Sandoval, Peyton See, and Furkan Yalcin by a wide margin, winning with 48.2% of the votes — a hefty 6.5 points ahead of runner up Sandoval — Chen will assume her position as AS president with a network of other leadership experiences already under her belt.

In her senior year at Canyonville Christian Academy, Chen was appointed as her school’s Student Ambassador. Her leadership experience at Santa Monica College started with joining Alpha Gamma Sigma, an honor society that encourages community service, in her second semester of studying at SMC. Chen then began participating in the President’s Ambassador program, a program where students provide leadership by assisting at events and promoting college life and campus involvement, along with creating the Asian Culture Exchange Association, a club that aims to celebrate cultural exchange between international and American students.

“All these experiences are good for me because I kinda know what’s going on in campus and what programs [and] what resources we can use as the students,” Chen said of her involvement with different school activities and programs. “It’s also like a connection with other students too, because I’m always out there and people know me. For me, to get elected as AS president, they can easily just come to me and talk about their issues, their problems with school. I think I can be a really good bridge between AS and students.”

Campus apathy towards the student government elections is not exactly a new challenge for the AS. In a school of over 20,000 students, only 2,360 votes were cast for this year’s AS presidential candidates.

“I think, for me [and] as the AS, we should be the ones to reach out to students,” Chen said, reiterating one of her campaign messages to promote more student involvement when it comes AS and campus life in general.

Support of SMC’s Textbook Exchange Program is another message that Chen strongly advocated for during her campaign. This program acts as a potential solution to a problem every college student inevitably faces — spending a significant amount of money on textbooks they only use for one semester.

Through the Textbook Exchange Program, every student would get their own account where they can turn in a book they no longer need and accumulate a balance based on the price of these books. The balance they receive can then be used to buy a textbook they do need, and any balance that is left over will roll over into the next semester.

Chen wants to implement this project as soon as this upcoming fall semester, but plans to first discuss matters on how to get the program started with incumbent president Terrance Ware Jr. and AS advisor Dr. Nancy Grass after Spring Break.

“I came from a family [where] I don’t have to worry about a financial situation,” Chen said. “But, sometimes, while growing up, I see a lot of my classmates kinda suffering and they might not have a lot of things provided by their family. And I’m always there; I want to help, I want to encourage.”

While born in and currently living in Los Angeles, Chen hails from Taiwan, where she was raised and where the rest of her family also resides. She came to the US by herself at the age of 15, a time when she didn’t even speak English. She learned how to speak the language conversationally within a year. “I wasn’t afraid to try,” she said, “so I learned faster.” Today, Chen’s immovable spirit has her speeding through her words as if they were her first language.

Across the board of positions for next year’s AS leaders, diversity is a given. Candidates like Edgar Mauricio Gonzalez, vice president-elect, and Chase Matthews, elected as Student Trustee, have already worked in leadership roles through clubs like Homegirls and Homeboys and the Black Collegians Program, respectively.

“We are really a good team with diversity,” Chen said of her future partners. “I’m sure it can bring out a lot of good ideas, and then we can work together so we can kinda reach out to all parts of school, not just one individual part.”

When it comes to SMC, Chen is determined to focus on the big picture — and she wants the average SMC student to see it with her.

“I wish all the students can take advantage of [their] two years and take advantage of the programs we have at SMC and meet people with different backgrounds, different diversity, and have friendship,” said Chen. “SMC is not a school just for classes, I would always say that. For me, SMC is like a family.”