Passionate President Melody Shekari Leads GSG
As Graduate Student Government (GSG) president, Melody Shekari hopes to use her diverse experience and education to create positive change.
“She’s a very passionate president,” said Jakita Morgan, GSG and Undergraduate Student Government office manager, about Shekari, who is pursuing a J.D. in Administrative and Environmental Law and Policy at the USC Gould School of Law. “She really wants to make sure that her year as president is the best year ever, and so far she’s done a great job at it.”
Shekari earned a B.S. in International Relations and Economics from Bentley University in Massachusetts and her Master of Public Administration at the University of Washington. She has been recognized for winning the National Peace Essay competition, earning a full scholarship for her undergraduate degree, and more recently, earning the Dornsife 2020 Research Fellowship to research the Burundian genocide. She became involved in student government when she was only 15.
“The reason I’ve been in student government for so long is because I like improving the community around me,” Shekari said.
Her main objectives for GSG are to expand the travel grant program, raise the availability of TAP cards, and help establish a sustainability master plan for USC. The travel grant program provides funds for students on academic expeditions, but Shekari hopes to more broadly define what constitutes “academic travel.” She cites a theatre student traveling to perform as an example of a possible travel grant recipient. TAP cards allow graduate students to buy metro passes, a necessity for some commuters, at low rates; Shekari plans to continue to increase the number of those able to buy them. However, the program that Shekari is the most enthusiastic about is USC’s effort to establish a master plan of sustainability.
“When you’re just a member of a board you think kind of small, you think about your program, and I’ve been trying to push myself and my board to think big picture. What are some really great things that five years from now we’ll think ‘Wow, that was a seedling when we started and now it’s a big thing,’” Shekari said. “Sustainability is going to be one of those seedlings so I’m excited about that.”
Shekari’s best tool for implementing change in the graduate community is student feedback. She is very receptive to students’ opinions whether on campus or off. At National Association of Graduate and Professional Students (NAGPS) meetings, she hears about the needs graduate students have on other campuses to learn if the same concerns exist at USC. More importantly, she makes herself available to hear the opinions of USC students.
“I love the students. I’m here for the students. If any students needs us, I hope they come and talk to me,” Shekari said. “I offer weekly cookies and coffee in my office just to let people come in and grab a cookie if they want and talk to me.”