Profile: Student Body President Neal Bhakta

UMD’s Student Association (UMDSA) has sworn in the new student body President, Neal Bhakta. Bhakta is going to be a junior this fall majoring in Political Science and Communications with a minor in Hispanic studies. He is also involved in the Indian Student Association and the Student Sustainability coalition. He has previously served as Freshman President and Vice President of Student Life.

Bhakta enjoying the outdoors. Photo courtesy of Neal Bhakta.

Bhakta enjoying the outdoors. Photo courtesy of Neal Bhakta.

Beyond student association, Bhakta said he loves the outdoors, hiking or just being outside in general. He is also a fan of discovering new music and is a “huge Netflix guy”.

When asked how others would describe him Bhakta said he is, “someone who is very approachable, very kind.”

Former UMDSA Student body President Mike Kenyanya and UMDSA Public Relations Director Jade Hipp echoed his statement.“Neal is a great guy,” Kenyanya said. Speaking of when they first met Kenyanya said it didn’t take long to see that he cared and worked hard. “He’s always been reliable,” Kenyanya said.

“He is approachable, understanding, and most importantly, realizes that he isn't perfect and makes mistakes,” Hipp said. “He does not dwell on his mistakes though, he views them as learning opportunities and tries to grow from them.”

Bhakta having fun with Champ. Photo courtesy of Neal Bhakta.

Bhakta having fun with Champ. Photo courtesy of Neal Bhakta.

The praise for Bhakta didn’t end there. Hipp continued with why she knows Bhakta will be a great president and that she has her complete trust in him.

“He knows when it is time to be a friend and when it is time to work on business,” Hipp said. “I have known Neal for a little bit of time now and I can honestly say I can trust his word on anything.”

She also pointed to his previous SA work as why she is excited for him to be the new president. Work such as the “It Ends Here” campaign and starting his own campaign focused on mental health called “Band Together”. Bhakta himself is excited for the future with his new role and the mental health campaign.

“A couple of my big goals are promoting more mental health awareness,” Bhakta said. “We started this year with a campaign and we’ve also noticed a lot of groups getting involved in mental health awareness. The school has been more involved and the university is preaching a lot more about mental health.”

Another big goal Bhakta has is to be a voice for what the student body needs.

“After all I’m serving for my peers, it’s not for me it’s not about me its for what my peers want to see get done,” Bhakta said. “It’s for betting the future for future bulldogs as well as our future while we are still here.” Bhakta stressed he, as well as the rest of UMDSA, is here for the student body. He encourages any students with questions or concerns to reach out. The UMDSA office is located on Kirby Student Center Porch and if the doors are open to come on in. Additionally all his contact info is available on the UMDSA myU page.

Being a former president himself, and personal friend of Bhaktas, Kenyanya passed on some advice to his successor.

On the right are Kenyanya and Bhakta respectively at a UMD Lacrosse game. Photo courtesy of Neal Bhakta.

On the right are Kenyanya and Bhakta respectively at a UMD Lacrosse game. Photo courtesy of Neal Bhakta.

“Use the help around you,” Kenyanya said. “I know I felt when there were issues or initiatives you ultimately feel like you’re responsible for it. But you have a big team, they’re talented and the student body put them there for a reason.”

He continued with a reminder that being the president doesn’t end on weekends.

“You’re always SA president,” Kenyanya said. “You have to be mindful of how you’re representing and being an ambassador for the university.

“Ultimately remember why you joined,” Kenyanya said with conviction. “Remember the reasons that brought you here.”

With a slight grin Kenyanya added,” I certainly hope he is a better president than I but he will never be better than me at video games, specifically 2K.”

Bhakta and all of UMDSA are certainly excited for the upcoming year. They are however still looking to fill a few of their positions. See the UMDSA website for openings.

VoicesHeidi Stang