Welcome to Women in Politics: College Edition, where promising women leaders in student government on college and university campuses across the country will be featured on msnbc.com over the course of the year. Natasha Patel has been nominated by Stanford University as a leader making a difference not only through key issues on campus, but in bridging the gender gap in politics.
As part of msnbc’s “Women in Politics” series, these hand-selected women become part of a larger discussion of women candidates and women’s issues on a national level. “Women in Politics” features newsmaker interviews, profiles, photos, and deep dives into the key conversations, including a series on "Women Leaders Bridging Tech and Politics in 2016."
From the Ivy Leagues to the Big Ten to liberal arts colleges and beyond, young women are making a difference across the country – meet them here!
Hometown: Bakersfield, California
Role in student government, organizations: Chief of Staff to the Student Body Executives, Mentor and instructor through the Haas Center for Public Service, Women in Philosophy.
Dream job: Chief of Staff to the President of the United States
Class year: 2016
What keeps you motivated to work in student government?
Student government offers young people an institutional route to change-making on a local level. For many of us, ages 16-24 is the period during which we start learning to take responsibility for not only ourselves, but also those around us. For me, student government has been an opportunity to not only elevate this sense of responsibility, but also to show my respect and care for the community I live in.
What issues are you most passionate about following this election season? Why?
There's so much to talk about! I'll pick one: college cost. Sure, we can expect students to pay for their education. But should we expect students to take out life-long loan repayment plans? Probably not. If we're gonna say 'anyone can make a good life in America as long as they try hard enough,' the people trying hard enough better be able to live decently. From the perspective of foster youth, native youth, black or brown students, and low-income students more broadly, cost is just one more barrier to entry -- I'm interested in hearing clever, reasonable strategies for building a better higher education system from the front runners.
Has feminism played a role in your life? If so, how?
Of course! Feminism, as a broader social movement for liberation, has a long, complex history in the United States. While mainstream (#leanin) feminism taught me how to bring my A-game in a workplace culture historically built to prioritize male-associated gender norms, I think it's important to recognize the mixed-nature of this kind of feminism. It operates to the disadvantage of less wealthy, women of color and gender non-conforming people. Folks in these latter categories taught me to center discussions of fairness and dessert on those who have been most systemically wronged by governmental and other social institutions. With this lens, we might envision policy initiatives that have broader-reaching impact.
Have you ever been in a protest? If so, how was it and how has it affected your leadership work?
Good question. Yes. There are many important avenues for engaging your community and your state in an effort to seek political change. Public protest is one of these avenues. The most formative protest I participated in was in conjunction with Black Lives Matter's call to #ReclaimMLK on MLK weekend last year. The decision to partake and the experience itself helped me define my commitment to undermining race-based injustices. More importantly, it taught me how to be a better ally to black and brown activists in their struggle to end ongoing state violence against their communities.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Sagar and Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Central India. My parents are both from the state of Gujarat in India, where they grew up and spent their early adulthood. The last time I visited their hometowns I was seven years old. Now that I'm a bit older, I think I could appreciate, learn more, and ask the right questions to better understand how my parents' experience in Gujarat affected their lives and careers here in the United States. Plus, from what I remember, Ahmedabad's street food has endless, delicious vegetarian options!
To nominate an exceptional undergraduate female leader in student government please email Anna Brand at Anna.Brand@nbcuni.com