Bulldog of the month: Student Body President Mike Kenyanya
As a high school student, Mike Kenyanya was not involved in leadership. When he was a senior in high school, his friend, who was a freshman representative for Student Association (SA) at UMD, convinced him to attend the SA session at Bulldog Welcome Week.
There, he fell in love with the group, and now serves as Student Body President in his junior year at UMD.
“I think everyone sees problems and room for improvement, but I would rather work on it than talk about it all day,” Kenyanya said. “This is my avenue to try to affect change.”
A management information systems major, Kenyanya was born in Kenya and moved to Minnesota with his family when he was five-years-old. He spent most of his life in Maple Grove, Minnesota, and was drawn to UMD because of the size and accessibility of the campus.
“It’s really easy to get in contact with administrators and other representatives of UMD,” Kenyanya said. “It truly feels like a community.”
In his past two years as a member of SA, Kenyanya has been a part of several policy changes, as well as advocating for funding. Some examples include changing university sexual assault policy, advocating for the new chemistry building and delaying lawn parking enforcement.
One issue Kenyanya cares about in particular is improving the amount of mental health resources at UMD. He and other members of SA succeeded in receiving more funds for that purpose last year.
“I have to give credit to the Twin Cities campus SA for starting the work on getting more funding for mental health resources,” Kenyanya said. “We were later able to jump in and pick up on that momentum.”
While Kenyanya has played a role in influencing change on campus, he still sees plenty of room for improvement. One thing he aims to improve while president is the campus climate, and hopes to address that with the new Diversity and Inclusion director position, which was established last year. Elected by leaders within the Multicultural Center, the Diversity and Inclusion director is an SA member that makes sure student voices of all ethnicities and backgrounds are heard.
“I see my job at SA as supporting the different functions and helping them do their job better,” Kenyanya said. “We hope this new position can help improve that.”
Kenyanya is following former Student Body President Nathan Ernst. One of Ernst’s favorite qualities about Kenyanya is his passion.
“Mike is a really great people person with a lot of passion,” Ernst said. “He has the ability to connect with people on a personal yet professional level, and that will serve him very well in his new position.”
Ernst believes that his ability to connect with people, as well as his proven track record, makes him a great fit as student body president.
“I was really lucky to work with Mike during his first two years in UMDSA, and I could tell from early on that he was the type of leader capable of helping the student body,” Ernst said.
The UMD Student Association is the official recognized voice of the student body. Kenyanya encourages all students to stay engaged with what SA is doing and attend meetings if they wish.
“Few people know and understand that every student that pays a student service fee is automatically a member of UMDSA,” Kenyanya said. “We are here to represent you -- this is your SA.”
Photo by Mueez Ahmad