Student-body leaders are science scholars giving back

ASCSU President Samantha Guinn and Vice President Lance Li Puma outside of the CSU Administration Building.

Their paths crossed in a Colorado State University dormitory, and Samantha Guinn and Lance Li Puma have been inseparable since the day Li Puma proved to Guinn he could throw a boomerang.

“Three years ago, in a study lounge in Aspen Hall, we made a pact – Sam would be student-body president, and I would be her vice president,” said Li Puma, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.

Like the boomerang, their plan has come full circle. This fall, Guinn, an aspiring veterinarian, and Li Puma, an aspiring surgeon, are stepping into their executive roles within the Association of Students at Colorado State University. Both students are undergraduates in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, providing a source of pride for a college that prepares students for careers in health and medicine.

“Sam and Lance are great examples of the motivated student leaders we have in our college. These are students who excel not only in science and academics, but are committed to giving back with service to their community,” said Dr. Mark Stetter, a veterinarian and dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

ASCSU president speaking at CSU's 2014 President's Fall Address
ASCSU president Samantha Guinn spoke at the CSU President’s Fall Address in early September about her goals to be a voice for all students, especially underrepresented groups at CSU.

Many in the campus community had their first glimpse of the new ASCSU president when she introduced President Tony Frank at his Fall Address on the Oval Sept. 10. It was a sign that the student-body president – a senior majoring in microbiology – could have a macro impact on campus.

“I’m very type-A. I always have a plan. I joined ASCSU as a freshman and decided then that I would eventually run for president,” Guinn said. “I really value the land-grant mission and the university’s leadership.”

Serving CSU students

Guinn began her trek to the presidency by getting involved in multiple organizations on campus, including the honors program, Gamma Phi Beta, and the ASCSU Ram Leadership Team.

Guinn’s involvement sparked an interest in Li Puma, and – in order to uphold their pact – he became a member of the ASCSU senate his sophomore year.

“I consider it a privilege to represent students and be involved. ASCSU has given me the ability to help people,” Li Puma said.

The two have a combined seven years of experience in student government, holding positions in the University Facility Fee Advisory Board, University Technology Fee Advisory Board and Honor Code Task Force. In her role as ASCSU president, Guinn is a non-voting member of the Board of Governors, the body that hires the CSU president and sets policy for the CSU System.

“What we believe really set us apart from other candidates is that both Sam and I are science students,” Li Puma said. “We aren’t looking for a resume builder. We’re here because we’ve had great experiences at CSU and want to continue giving those experiences to students.”

Making underrepresented groups a priority

The pair promised voters a “fresh approach” to student government during the spring elections. Their campaign initiatives included improving the test file, wireless connection, alternative transportation, bookstore scholarships and food security programs.

“Lance and I are both passionate about underserved student populations – anyone who is low-income, first-generation or a minority,” Guinn said. “They are our priority this year.”

ASCSU provides a vehicle for the student voice to be heard. Guinn and Li Puma hope to be an effective liaison between students and the CSU administration, the city of Fort Collins, the state of Colorado and the nation on pressing issues in higher education.

“We want to increase ASCSU’s visibility campus-wide and connect with people so that we can be a true voice of the students,” said Guinn, who draws inspiration from the CSU administration. “President Frank is definitely a role model. He is that rare college president who is truly here for the students.”

Ken Blehm, associate dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, praised Guinn and Li Puma for their energy and engagement on campus.

“They have informed themselves on issues,” Blehm said, “and have dedicated themselves to supporting positions that forward student interests.”