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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


People of UW: District 8 Alder and UW student MGR Govindarajan shares importance of getting involved

Stories of students: Read about students making a difference on campus
MGR Govindarajan

Editor’s note: People of UW is a human interest series produced by features editors and associates. The series — published online and on our social media accounts — aims to highlight a student at the University of Wisconsin making an impact on the campus community. These Q&As are lightly edited for clarity and style.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a rising senior majoring in legal studies and political science. I’m also the District 8 alder, so the City Council representative for the students. My parents live in Brookfield, Wisconsin, so I’m from there. I was born in India and I’ve moved around the United States quite a bit, but most of my time has been here in Wisconsin. I came here mainly for high school and then I also came here for college.


On campus I’ve been involved in the Associated Students of Madison for most of my time, but more heavily for the past year and a half. I’ve been involved in a lot of various groups throughout campus, mostly advocacy groups. I would say a lot of that just comes with being alder as well, and obviously being alder itself is one organization through the city of Madison that I’m involved in.

Why did you decide to run for alder? 

I decided to run because I have spent most of my time on campus fighting for things that students really care about. Affordable housing, mental health access, improved transportation, things like that. A lot of my focus used to be on the state level, but then the more and more I worked on it, I realized that these problems are more of a local issue. I’ve always been frustrated with how little of a voice students have on things that affect us specifically when it comes to UW or at the city level. That frustration eventually got the best of me and I decided to run hoping that it would make a real impact and that I would be able to uplift the student voice and get other people to speak up for themselves as well.

What has been your favorite experience since being elected?

There are two experiences that stand out. I do this weekly thing on Instagram, a weekly Q&A kind of feature, which is such a simple thing. But for me, it makes me really happy because students who see it engage and ask questions. I get to share what I’ve been doing and a lot of the time it leads to Instagram DM conversations where I get to talk about what’s happening and even learn a little more about them. So that’s been a recurring favorite thing that’s been happening recently. Another thing is that in the past few weeks, we’ve been having a really healthy discussion in the City Council about affordable housing for students specifically. And that’s a conversation that is long overdue. It’s the key thing that I ran on and something that I felt like students never really had a voice on, even though it affects us directly. And for the first time in a long time, we’re having that conversation. There seem to be some things that are actually changing, so I’m very excited to see how this goes.

What has been the most challenging thing?

The biggest challenge has definitely been my work-life balance. Being alder is supposed to be a part-time job, but it really is something that takes over if you let it, so I’m definitely a little bit nervous for this upcoming semester. Balancing a heavy class load on top of everything else. That’s definitely been the biggest challenge so far.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

My main goal outside of policy-related things is just getting students involved. Whether that’s sending an email with comments, showing up to a City Council meeting and speaking in favor or in opposition to anything or sitting on a city committee. That’s my main goal because I really, really believe that students need to be represented more in the city of Madison. We are one sixth of the population and we only have one dedicated seat on the City Council. And there are so few of us on any city committees. This past week has been really amazing because alders have been consistently hearing from students. So that’s my main goal, just making sure that students engage and continue to stay engaged.

How do you balance everything you are involved in?

I would love to say I have the answer, but I’m still working on it. This summer has been a little bit of a trial run if that makes sense. Just because classes obviously are not as heavy of a load. I have been trying to treat the City Council kind of like a 9-to-5, but not every single day. I also have an internship going on. Towards the evening, I try to enjoy my life a little bit and just give myself some me-time.

Who inspires you?

My parents. They both own a small restaurant and worked really hard to get there. As I mentioned before, I moved around a lot before and a lot of that was because my dad would move around with restaurants. I’ve seen them work from the bottom up and now they’re able to own their own restaurant. I’ve seen them persevere through Covid, and so they are really hardworking people and they are the people who inspire me.

Any advice you would like to give to incoming freshmen?

Everyone always says to get involved, but honestly, I feel like that really is the best advice. My freshman year was Covid, so it was really hard to get involved when everything was virtual. So personally, I feel like that is still the one thing I wish I could have done differently. Go to as many organizations and clubs as possible. Try to explore things that are out of your comfort zone, is the biggest piece of advice I would give. I did not get involved in any political organizations in high school, so doing that my freshman year over Zoom was the best thing I’ve done. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t done that. I would say just pick a random club and try it, see how it goes. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll make a few friends but never go to the meetings again.

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