ASI President-Elect Demi Wack talks to The Collegian News Editor Razmik Canas about her upbringing during their interview on March 23, 2018. (Ramuel Reyes/The Collegian)

ASI president-elect wants to impact students from the ‘ground level’

Demi Wack grew up as the only daughter in her family. Last year, she was the only woman running on Associated Students, Inc. President Blake Zante’s slate “Students United.”

This year, she was the only woman serving on the ASI executive board and the only woman running for ASI president.

Just before students left campus for spring break, Wack was voted president-elect of ASI, making her the 15th woman to take that role in over 100 years.  

“I’m really grateful to have this opportunity for other girls to see, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this, too,’” Wack said.

She is originally from Arroyo Grande, a town on the Central Coast. Education had a large influence in her upbringing. Wack is a product of a middle and high school teacher.

A family value she said she holds close to her heart is giving back. Wack grew up with three biological brothers, but her family brought numerous foster children into the home. She said she considers all of the foster children as part of her family.

Wack said her “unique” upbringing made her a more open-minded person, realizing that there’s hope for everyone, regardless of their situation.

“I’ve seen a lot of success stories and things that didn’t go so well,” she said.

Wack said she thought her family dynamic was normal growing up. She didn’t realize how impactful the situation was until she grew older.

“The experiences that I’ve gotten to have changed me forever,” Wack said. “They’ve helped me more than our family has helped them at some points.”

High school was a busy time for Wack. She played club soccer in Santa Barbara and was also on the high school team, all while she was enrolled in the Advanced Placement (AP) program.

During her senior year, Wack got her first taste of student government when she was elected as the spirit commissioner for the high school. The job entailed hosting school assemblies. Her public speaking skills of today are largely owed to that early experience, she said.

When it came time for college, Fresno State was not near the top of her list. But with encouragement from a high school counselor, she applied to the Smittcamp Family Honors College at the university.

When she found out she was accepted into the program, she visited Fresno State. Immediately, she said, she was surprised to be greeted by so many smiling faces.

“This is where I want to be,” she told herself. “I want to go to school where everyone is friendly and welcoming.”

She began her first semester at Fresno State studying psychology and criminology. An early memory she had at that time was her freshman convocation.

She remembers when former ASI President Tim Ryan gave a speech to the incoming freshmen class. Wanting to have a leadership role like his, Wack said to herself, “Maybe someday that could happen,” but she never thought she would achieve it.

Later that school year, the idea became closer to a reality when Zante asked her to join his slate and run for ASI vice president of external affairs. She was elected into that role in 2017 to serve alongside Zante on his executive board. She said the dynamic of being the only female on the board was that of she and her brothers.

Wack said the male students on the board did not undermine her effort and continued to push her to reach her full potential.

When it came time for this year’s election, Wack contemplated if she was ready for the role. She told The Collegian that student support gave her the push to pursue the presidency. She said she values the students’ opinions as a priority.  

A fear held during Wack’s campaign was that she could lose by only a few votes. She said she did everything she could to reach as many students as possible. Regardless of how the students voted, she wanted to get ASI’s name out there as much as she could.

In the end, she beat runner-up Sebastian Wenthe by more than 700 votes.

“I didn’t want to lose because I didn’t try hard enough,” Wack said.

Even on the last day of voting, Wack was seen standing in the the rain outside of the Henry Madden Library speaking to as many students as she could before the noon voting deadline.

She said she enjoyed her time interacting with the students at the “ground level.” The face-to-face interaction made the campaign more impactful, she added.

“It’s so much more personal than just receiving an email,” Wack said. “You’re gonna miss students if you do that.”

She said campaigning was not going to be the only time students will see her outside that library. She plans to make ASI more open to students by having a more physical appearance on campus.

A common campaign promise by many was to get more students aware of ASI and its services. Wack plans to fully dive into that issue. She said it’s something she plans to tackle effectively as soon as possible.

Her plans for “mobilizing the senate” includes more personal conversations with constituents like she did during her campaign, but she also plans on giving more attention to how the senate works.

Wack’s plans include moving the location of the senate meetings to more visible locations across campus. She hopes that more students can see what the senate is discussing and to also create a more welcoming environment so that students are comfortable voicing their opinions.

“If they have an idea, I want to hear it. If they have a complaint, we need to hear it,” she said.

As a woman taking the presidency, Wack hopes to use the role to show other women that they have a spot at the table for important decisions and discussions. She wants voices to be validated and ideas to always be heard, she said.

“You’ve got to be confident in your own beliefs, make sure you do everything that you can,” Wack said.

After receiving the news that she won the presidency, Wack got a message from former ASI president Abby Hudson, the last woman to take the role.

Though they have never met, Wack was inspired when Hudson told her she was the 15th woman to take the role in the more 100 years of Fresno State history.

She plans to continue that legacy by standing side-by-side with students as they experience their time on campus.

“It’s really important that we’re out here present, that people see our faces and that they know who’s representing them,” Wack said.