‘Being a female voice in a room is very important’

ASWSU’s ninth female president hopes to bring fresh approach



ASWSU President Savannah Rogers talks about her decision to come to WSU instead of the University of Washington during an interview on top of the Holland-Terrell Library on Tuesday.

MAGGIE QUINLAN, Evergreen reporter

Savannah Rogers hopes to utilize her position as ASWSU President this year to bring both a woman’s perspective and a safety-based, holistic approach to the student body.

Rogers, elected in spring 2018, ran a campaign focused on safety and empowerment.

She said she defines safety as something more than physical. In her view, a feeling of safety also relates to students’ academic and emotional worlds.

“[Safety] can be tangible, like with sexual violence, or intangible, like being able to speak up in class,” she said. “Or it’s emotional safety and mental health.”

Raised by a teacher and career Army soldier, Rogers has the heart and discipline common in both careers. Her solutions for WSU flow from one crucial sentiment — WSU students should be safe in their body, classroom and mind.

ASWSU Vice President Tyler Parchem said Rogers’ powerful values drew him to run with her.

“The real reason I decided to run with her was because I saw her vision for the position and what ASWSU can be,” Parchem said. “We both believe we’re so privileged to be able to give back to these students and community.”

To address physical, intellectual and emotional safety, Rogers has laid out specific plans of action. For example, she has proposed the implementing of a second mandatory Green Dot training before every student’s junior year to prevent sexual violence.

“I don’t want to come in and say we need to do it every semester or every year,” Rogers said. “Just adding one more time. It would be the same program, but different, because you’ve been to college and you know what it’s like.”

When it comes to emotional safety, Rogers advocates for an increase in the number of counseling sessions available to students. She said she hopes to see a suicide hotline number printed on the back of every Cougar Card.

After WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski’s suicide, Rogers said she saw national and local suicide hotline numbers written on the whiteboard in every classroom she entered.

“Why not have that available at all times,” she said. “Even if it impacts one student, isn’t that worth it? That’s a life.”

Rogers’ core belief in a student’s right to safety relates to her strong interest in women’s issues. As the ninth female ASWSU president in over 100 years, Rogers said she has a unique opportunity to support women at WSU.

“Everything that I do, I try to make sure it can help build up women in the future and it’s with women in mind,” she said. “I got to where I am because of other women. Even if they didn’t know me, and they didn’t know, they were impacting me.”

Rogers said she can help women in various ways.

“Being a female voice in a room is very important,” she said. “Bringing that perspective, that’s a tangible way to help.”

Rogers said she can bring attention to issues important to women like reproductive healthcare, menstrual hygiene, maternity leave and cultural issues involving gendered expectations.

She said she thinks she can provide inspiration to future leaders.

“Having women come in as freshman and seeing a female ASWSU president, I think that’s huge,” she said. “I didn’t think it was possible until I saw Taylor Christenson run and win two years ago.”

Rogers originally planned on attending UW but changed her mind and found her way to WSU. She also changed majors from bioengineering to political science pre-law, and in terms of her career, she said, “like so many people, I’m kind of lost.” One thing Rogers is completely sure of is her dedication to empowering women.

“Growing up, I worked really hard in school, and I did well. Someone in my family said to me ‘you’re lucky that you’re smart and pretty, you’ll make a great housewife. Men love smart women.’” Rogers said. “I’m not here to get a ‘Mrs.’ degree. And if a woman wants to, good for her! That’s just not for me.”

Rogers plans to spend her career in government, where she can help protect people, especially women, on a larger scale. As ASWSU president, she wants to keep her expectations for herself reasonable.

“I can’t solve the problem alone, or even in a group,” Rogers said. “I would just like to see positive strides forward.”