Today we feature Shivani Shah, a leader at Rowan University. Shivani is cofounder of South Asian Students Association (SASA) and currently serves as its copresident. Shivani is a junior, first-generation college student from Egg Harbor Township, NJ (Atlantic County). She majors in Biochemistry and has a minor in Psychology.
This story is part of a series spotlighting campus leaders during Women’s History Month.
What is your role in your organization?
As an underclassman, I quickly realized that there wasn’t a community dedicated to South Asians on campus. My friend and I worked together to found South Asian Students Association (SASA) to provide that inclusive community. I currently serve as copresident. I work with the rest of the executive board to fill the calendar year with social events catered to South Asian culture and conversation.
What have you learned in your role as a leader?
You can’t run away from tough conversations. It’s your job to be able to have these conversations and sometimes even just facilitate between peers. The most important thing to learn as a leader is to listen and observe before making any decision. This has helped me with many of my other commitments aside from SASA.
What’s your favorite memory as a leader or at Rowan in general?
There’s so many! One that immediately comes to mind is organizing a Fall Leadership Conference through Residence Hall Association (RHA). The organization manages about $20,000 to plan events for the residents of Rowan. This conference was catered for the the RAs and ARDs. It was a long process to plan everything however delegating each responsibility to an executive board member contributed to the success of the event. Without the rest of the team, the event wouldn’t have happened!
Who inspires you and why?
My mom inspires and motivates me the most. She’s gone through so much and has so much wisdom. Migrating to the U.S. is not easy. She has been a pillar in the family and has done it all with grace. She also has a ton of patience! Don’t know how she does it!
What’s the most significant barrier to women today?
Underrepresentation at every level. It’s a cycle. Because of negative biases against women, women have a tougher time getting into a career of their choice. The ways of thinking that women are not equal to men need to be diminished. Only then will we be taking the right step towards equity.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?
Just DO! Whatever you want to see on campus, start planning and talking to the right people to make it happen. Start a business, create TikToks, choose the career you want to pursue! Jump in head first, troubleshoot as you go. Don’t overthink it. And always talk to people and get advice. You don’t always have to listen to the advice, but getting multiple perspectives is important.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks to all the leadership opportunities I received through Rowan, I gained the most valuable skills to be the best leader I can be. It also pushed me to jump in head first into a business I had no idea about. My best friend and I started a podcast, Call Me Whenever, in August 2020 showcasing an Indian and Nigerian friendship. We’ve had guests from all around the world. This has furthered my network and I couldn’t thank all the opportunities I had in between to learn.
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