Abby Cooner (SFS ’16) organized Grab ‘n’ Go lunches at Einstein Bros Bagels during her time as a senator in GUSA.
Abby Cooner (SFS ’16) organized Grab ‘n’ Go lunches at Einstein Bros Bagels during her time as a senator in GUSA.

Abby Cooner (SFS ’16) was recently elected as one of two senators-at-large for GUSA. As “the smallest senator-at-large,” Cooner has been quite active in her short tenure and role as an active woman leader at Georgetown. She brought Grab ‘n’ Go lunches to Einstein Bros Bagels and helped set up the ElectHer conference to encourage female leadership in student government.

Why did you decide to run for GUSA senator-at-large?
I ran for GUSA senator-at-large because last year I was a senator, and I absolutely loved it. I got to connect with a lot of awesome people who have really great visions for Georgetown. GUSA is such a good way to get some of your own ideas on the table with administrators and advance the interests of the student body. Being a senator-at-large was a way to represent more of the student body.

How did you get involved as part of the program to enable meal swipes to be used at Einstein Bros?
I was the co-chair of GUSA’s food subcommittee with Sam Grecko (SFS ’15) ,and that was an initiative we worked on last year. We brought the idea to the auxiliary services that work with Leo’s. We tried to explain that if they want more upperclassmen to buy a meal plan, they really have to provide services that are going to give more variety and options outside the front gates. Sam and I sent them emails over the summer to follow up, and we’re really excited about it. This year we want to expand this to other restaurants besides Einstein’s.

How receptive have they been to plans to expand the program in the future?
I know that when I last spoke with someone who works in auxiliary services, he told me that Einstein’s is kind of a test to see if this policy can work. If it is successful, and a lot of students are utilizing it, it’s something they could consider expanding upon. I think that so far it’s been very successful, so I hope that with more student interest and more advocacy through GUSA it could be expanded in the future.

What are your goals for this year?
I am super excited about funding. The way the funding works at Georgetown is that the GUSAFinance and Appropriations Committee allocates the student activity money among five advisory boards which distribute it among the student groups. I’m on the Finance and Appropriations Committee and the liaison to the Performing Arts Advisory Council, PAAC. I want to be able to cooperate with PAAC to increase the student voice in funding decisions on campus. I want to allocate funds in a way that best addresses students’ needs and promotes the richest life possible on campus.

Did you know when you came to Georgetown that you wanted to be involved in student government?
No. Actually, I was never involved with student government before Georgetown. I did a pre-orientation program, Leadership and Beyond, where we met with student leaders on campus. I met with Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13), the GUSA executive last year, and she talked about the sorts of things she was working on with GUSA. Talking with her made me realize GUSA was something I might be interested in. From there, I decided to go for it, and now, it’s my favorite thing I do on campus.

What is the campaigning process like?
It is definitely the most intense among freshman dorms. There were 17 people who ran in each of the districts, which are each two-dorm, three-member districts. A big part of campaigning is just walking around and talking to people. You get to meet everyone, and I just enjoy talking to new people, so I really enjoyed that part of the process. When you meet people who are actually interested in what you have to say and have ideas about what they want to change, you get to make a connection.

Have you felt that the administration has been receptive to your efforts for change?
The people I’ve worked with in auxiliary services are all really great people to work with. They are so excited to hear people’s ideas about how to improve things. They love any feedback they can hear. The same thing is true with residential living. The best thing that GUSA can do is come up with new ideas in collaboration with the student body and bring them to administrators and advocate for these sorts of changes to happen. Administrators have to be on board, but student advocacy is the role that GUSA can play.

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