Westhampton College Government Association 2010-11 President Ali Amaral has been involved in student government since the fourth grade. When the two college government association presidents greeted her class on the first day of orientation at Richmond she knew exactly where she wanted to be in three years.

That's just where she is now.

When Amaral ran for first-year class president, she was so committed that she hung campaign posters in every bathroom stall of the freshman women’s residence halls. “I figured you have to try, and to campaign to the best of your ability and to figure out what student needs were,” she said. 

Richmond's coordinate college system provides a unique opportunity for men and women on campus to pursue leadership opportunities through the gender-separated government associations. When serving as class president her freshman and sophomore years, she worked with her Richmond College counterpart to host some unifying class events such as a class barbecue.

During her campaign, Amaral said she wanted to unify the campus community, connect students to the metro Richmond community through better means of transportation, and ensure that housing meets the needs of students and fosters a communal atmosphere.

Amaral’s vision for inclusive events includes using the Robins Center for a show put together by many different groups on campus, or using the Richmond network to secure a big-name performer many people would be interested in seeing, she said. She said she would also like to transform Homecoming into a university-wide celebration, rather than just being a primarily student government event, and would like to use the presence of the Robins Stadium to accommodate a variety of student organizations in addition to Greek life. She plans to encourage a cappella groups to sing at tailgates, the baking club to hold bake sales, dance groups to perform and any other groups to contribute.

“A lot of that will be going to different organizations and saying: ‘We want to have this major event that supports the football team, what can you offer? What can we do to make you feel like you have a place?’ And then, ‘Let’s do it!’” she said.

Amaral started brainstorming ideas for her campaign platform in a Word document a year ago, and she turned to vice president of student development, Steve Bisese, as a sounding board. He helped her narrow her focus to three main points. Unifying the campus tops her list. She plans to talk to Richmond cab companies so students can have more transportation options. And, she pledges to lobby for renovation of the University Forest Apartments.

While Amaral is always thinking of ideas to better serve Westhampton College, one of her best ideas for herself was joining the Jepson School, she said. She is an international studies major and leadership studies minor. “Joining Jepson was probably one of the best college decisions that I’ve made, because the Jepson community is phenomenal,” she said.

Through the Jepson School, Amaral attended the Hatton W. Sumners Undergraduate Student Leadership Conference at the University of Texas at Austin in February, where she learned about strengths-based leadership. She said she would like to incorporate StrengthsFinder into the government association so representatives could use the results to lead in the best way they can.

Amaral is also interning 16 hours a week in Governor Robert McDonnell’s scheduling office this semester, and hopes to either continue as an intern there this summer or to become a Governor’s Fellow. If she secures a position as a Governor’s Fellow she said she would like to be placed in the education department because she plans to teach for a couple of years after graduation before attending graduate school and pursuing her a master's degree in leadership or education. Later, she intends to pursue a career in public service either by running for elective office or starting a company that assists developing countries in establishing schools.

“That’s all thanks to Jepson helping me grow as a leader, and hopefully helping everyone else along the way,” she said.

Amaral is from Green Valley, Calif. and the eldest of four in a tight-knit family that took a six-month trip around the world in 2003. In 2009 she visited six continents, including Argentina, where she studied abroad during the summer, and Turkey, where she studied abroad during the fall semester. She has been a member of the Richmond Rowdies executive board since her sophomore year, served as an orientation advisor in August 2008, was recently initiated into Omicron Delta Kappa and is also a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.