Passing the Torch: Introducing CCSGA President-elect Dorsa Djalilzadeh

After last block’s CCSGA election, students voted for junior Dorsa Djalilzadeh to be CC’s CCSGA President for the 2017-18 academic year, following the graduation of current president Annika Kastetter. Kastetter is Colorado College’s first female student body president in seven years, and Djalilzadeh will be the first queer woman of color to ever hold the position.

Photo by Mikaela Burns

During her three years at CC, Djalilzadeh has been involved with the CC Democrats, the Student Association for Sexual Safety, the Democratic Dialogue project, and has served as the Co-chair of FemCo. Outside of student organizations, she remains an active member of the CC and Colorado Springs community, participating in the Women’s march, the Planned Parenthood Protest, Butler Center events, Glass House events, and spearheading conversations at CC about the Trump administration’s Muslim ban.

Djalizadeh’s experience working with marginalized groups has given her a unique perspective into student life. “I have been uniquely prepared to speak on behalf of those marginalized spaces without taking up space that doesn’t belong to me,” said Djalizadeh. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, many have felt a considerable amount of tension in the United States and at Colorado College. However, even during times of perceived division and alienation, Djalilzadeh sees the circumstances as a call to action. “The thing that really catalyzed my motivation was Trump’s Muslim ban” she said.

Djalilzadeh’s campaign is focused on community, inclusion, and finding an avenue in which marginalized groups and individuals can come forward and contribute to the broader campus community. “Accessibility is interesting on this campus,” noted Djalizadeh. In order to make CCSGA more accessible, Djalizadeh plans on utilizing one hour once or twice a week to talk to people over coffee or meals in order to build personal bonds and relationships. Djalilzadeh’s leadership in FemCo has engrained in her the importance of personal relationships. “It’s made my personal and emotional leadership skills finely tuned. Knowing how to listen is super important, and the emotional input from your peers really really matters” said Djalilzadeh.

As the first queer woman of color to become CCSGA President, Djalilzadeh is excited for the opportunities the position will bring. “It feels really freaking cool… Seeing me will encourage more people who are marginalized to take up leadership positions… it is important because we are predominantly white at CC and it shows that everyone can be equal and everyone deserves a chance”, said Djalilzadeh. The experience was not only a significant moment for Djalizadeh, but also for her family who are of Iranian descent. “I called my mom and we both started crying” said Djalilzadeh.

And while Djalilzadeh is focusing on her future at CC as CCSGA President-elect, Kastetter is reflecting on her tenure as current CCSGA President. “Overall I think that we implemented a lot of new initiatives this year that were incredibly successful… with every leadership position, there are ups and downs and you make mistakes, but its been such a healthy excersize learning how to cope with those mistakes… and having realistic expectations of what you can accomplish,” said Kastetter. One of the prominent criticisms of CCSGA is that it can be insular. However, Kastetter believes that CCSA has taken a step in the right direction by conducting outreach events to encourage students to contribute to CCSGA and other student groups.

Kastetter’s experience as president has given her an in-depth perspective of what it is like to be a woman in a leadership position. “The thing that I was told by a lot of female mentors in leadership positions that I respect dearly is that when those barriers are so blindingly obvious, that the best way to handle it is to not acknowledge it in the moment” she commented.  “Instead, own your femininity in that moment and own the fact that yes you are a female and yes you are in a leadership position, you are capable and if people aren’t responding then that’s on them… because a lot of people can’t handle it.” Kastetter acknowledges that gender was one of the more challenging dynamics of leadership that she had to navigate. “I didn’t realize how much gender barriers really existed until I was in this position” she said. However, Kastetter is incredibly thankful for the experience because she believes it has prepared her for future leadership roles and she hopes that her experiences will encourage other women to pursue leadership positions at Colorado College. “I am really proud that Dorsa did run because it is so important to me that the only way to change the culture and these perceptions is if more women become more involved and more women run,” she concluded.

Djalilzadeh acknowledges that being president will be a huge responsibility but she knows that she and Kastetter were in it for the right reasons. “I think we took on this position because we truly and passionately care about the students” she said.

Kastetter, reflecting on her time here, spoke of her love for Colorado College because of the students and faculty. “I have met the most brilliant, engaging, and compassionate people that I have ever met in my entire life and that I will ever meet” she said. Djalilzadeh describes her experience at Colorado College as being abundant with academic and intellectual experiences.“I will leave class and my entire reality will be altered, my mind will be blown,” said Djalilzadeh. ”I am so happy of the path I have taken at CC as well as the maturation of intellect with students.”

Even though it has only been about two weeks since Djalilzadeh was elected, the transition process had already begun. “It’s pretty stressful, but it’s great being surrounded by powerful women,” she said after meeting with President Teifenthaler who was wearing “hot pink pants.”

Kastetter hopes that Djalilzadeh will continue to maintain her identities and connections outside of CCSGA.“I think the only way the culture of CCSGA will become less insular and isolated is if we have leaders in positions that are willing to bridge those gaps to make those connections between different student groups, different students, and different demographics on campus… the position doesn’t define you” she explained. Kastetter is proud of her ability to forge strong bonds with students and groups that CCSGA had not been close with in the past. She is also happy that she was involved with groups outside of CCSGA such as Women in Comedy and intramural soccer which have helped her build meaningful relationships and develop her leadership style. “My legacy is not being a robot, you gotta be a human. I’m really proud of being a human being,” said Kastetter.

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