To hear his mother tell it, passive is not the word to describe Gregory Cendana.
“Gregory, from kindergarten, has always wanted to take an active role in helping people out,” Maria Cendana said. “From grade school to high school, he always had some type of leadership role.”
“(He’s) always wanted to be part of the solution instead of sitting around playing games and doing nothing,” she added about her son, who is running for president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council.
And Cendana, the current internal vice president, said he hopes this leadership and experience will eventually translate to a career in education, a major theme in his life.
“The teachers in my life challenged me to pursue higher education,” he said. “They reaffirmed my ability and potential.”
He credits his educators for where he is now as a UCLA student and presidential candidate for the Students First! slate.
The third-year sociology and Asian American studies student described himself as “energetic” and “passionate,” two qualities he believes allow him to connect with and relate to students.
He said, among the other candidates for president, he has “unmatched experience” and his campaign revolves around “leadership, advocacy and action.”
Cendana said in his current role in USAC he has “developed relationships with administrators and student groups” and there is much more within USAC he wants to improve and accomplish.
He added that the needs of students are his priority, and he wants to understand the issues they care about and then take action.
Cendana said because of the two-slate system, the council was divided at times this year and if elected, he plans to collaborate with the elected officers to establish a cohesive, collective decision-making body.
“I will work to develop relationships with the officers and get to know them on a personal level,” he said.
He said campus diversity is important to him, and he plans to meet with the elected Academic Affairs commissioner to evaluate the university’s new holistic admissions process to ensure the student body is “well-rounded.”
His presidential appointments would also reflect as much diversity as possible, because he wants to select the most qualified and experienced people who can best serve USAC in their positions, he said.
Cendana also would like to work with the elected external vice president on the issue of rising fees.
Formerly the vice chair of the Student Fee Advisory Committee, he said he would like to host a conference on the process of allocating and spending student fees.
He added that in light of nationwide issues such as hate crimes and the Virginia Tech shootings, as well as campus-specific events such as the breach of a university database and the Powell Library Taser incident, he wants to continue working with the Campus Safety Alliance he helped start this year.
“It’s important to address (the issues) and be proactive,” he said.
Additionally, the candidate aims to introduce a student bill of rights that he hopes would span across the UC campuses and be forwarded to each school’s respective chancellor to ensure they are responsive to students’ needs.
“It’ll be a framework for student leaders. … Many issues each year are similar,” he said.
Cendana also wants to increase access to the chancellor and other administrators for students by hosting quarterly luncheons or dinners and encouraging longer office hours.
If elected president, Cendana said he would be one of the only students to have a direct relationship with the chancellor, and he wants to allow more students the opportunity to engage with university administrators.
He said during his time as a student, he has applied for the chancellor’s office hours lottery every quarter and never been selected.
Stephen Rice, Dykstra resident director, said despite Cendana’s busy schedule, he focuses on being personable and connecting with people.
“He takes time out to mentor students and guide them to be leaders,” said Rice, Cendana’s former supervisor. “He really loves UCLA and the student body.”
Cendana’s personal experiences being tested for HIV have encouraged him to prioritize sexual health services and resources on campus if he is elected, he said.
Cendana said he understands the stigma and mental stress of being tested and he wants free STD testing available for students in the Ashe Center, as well as the introduction of rapid HIV tests.
“I want to educate students that it’s OK to get tested,” he said.
His platform also calls for hosting a civil rights project across the UC campuses and expanding training for student workers.
In addition to his work with USAC, Cendana is active in other organizations. He is a resident assistant in De Neve and is involved with the Darfur Action Committee, the Asian Pacific Coalition and the U.S. Student Association.