From the American Southwest to New Haven, Grace Kang ’21 is no stranger to community engagement. Kang says that her own life experiences and her concern for those around her have informed what she does in her extracurricular positions at Yale, and she hopes to continue on that trajectory as vice president of the Yale College Council.
A native of Las Vegas, Kang jokes that, contrary to stereotypes about her hometown, she has never gambled and does not know how to play poker. As part of the FOCUS on New Haven preorientation program, she worked at Sunrise Cafe, a free breakfast cafe run out of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James on Olive Street where volunteers serve low-income guests restaurant-style. She said that she is “delighted” when New Haven locals whom she had served come up and greet her on the street.
“Before I was introduced to the Yale community, I was introduced to the New Haven community,” Kang told the News. “That’s what got me into this institutional route [of student government].”
During her first year on campus, Kang joined Dwight Hall, where she currently serves as the advocacy coordinator. She communicates with student groups through the Dwight Hall advocacy network, where students are able to mount a unified response to large-scale campus issues. It is “a space to make sure that everyone is contributing in an efficient and effective manner,” Kang explained. Kang added that being a part of these discussions has been very important to her.
She was originally a part of the class of 2020, but she had to take a medical leave due to a back injury early in the fall of her first-year. After she had to navigate the complex policies of Yale’s reinstatement process a year later, she said that she knew she wanted to get involved in policy advocacy when she returned to Yale.
“Policy at Yale doesn’t impact your life unless you come across a point in your life when you need to dissect those policies,” Kang said.
During her first semester back on campus, Kang served on the First-Year Class Council, and during her second semester, she oversaw First-Year Olympics and First-Year Formal as the council’s president. At the end of her term, she successfully applied for the position of YCC student life director. In that role, Kang has worked on multiple policy initiatives, including working to simplify the reinstatement procedures.
Kang is running on a ticket with YCC presidential candidate Kahlil Greene ’21. The duo’s platform delineates four different policy categories: city and community, health and equity, University policy and YCC reforms. Kang said that during her tenure, she will prioritize working on providing students with alternative nightlife options that would also help bridge the Yale-New Haven divide.
“Students don’t have alternative nightlife options aside from fraternities,” Kang said, which prompted her and Greene to discuss bringing New Haven artists in for student entertainment. She and Greene also plan on collaborating with Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun to implement some student proposals related to the Schwarzman Center, which will open in 2020. She hopes that it will be open for late-night hours and provide dry foods and additional study spaces for students.
She added that an anticipated increase in resources from the Yale capital campaign could further her and Greene’s health and equity goals, including hiring more staff clinicians at Yale Mental Health & Counseling.
She said that her goals for University policy include addressing Yale’s faculty diversity issues.
“We hope to play our part as student leaders and advocates to ensure that Yale uses its resources to retain and promote diverse faculty members and cultivate a stronger, more diverse faculty than we’ve ever had at Yale,” Kang told the News.
Kang added that she also hopes to change the role YCC plays in campus activism, saying that she wants the council “to be a humanistic figure” that is “transparent about not only what [it is] accomplishing but also [about] the sentiments [it] share[s] with the student activists on campus.”
John Besche | firstname.lastname@example.org