Tempe students, get to know your 2016-17 USG executives

ASU Tempe Undergraduate Student Government had a hard time protecting its reputation this year.

A bloody campaign trail, accompanied by allegations of a broken system, alcohol at campaign events, plagiarism and a whole host of Associated Students of ASU Supreme Court Cases left two tickets standing: Brandon Bishop and Aundrea DeGravina.

Following a close election and even closer runoff, Bishop emerged victorious, prepared to govern a student body left disillusioned and confused. 

However, the political science junior says he is the remedy to what ails student government. 

"I really like fixing things that are broken," he said. "I like to see people being helped. There's a really genuine feeling of happiness there."

Along with DeGravina, Bishop represented the establishment front in an election that oftentimes diametrically opposed USG veterans and up-and-coming outsiders. He came into Tempe USG as an intern his freshman year, was unable to get a position as a sophomore and serves as chief of staff in the Isaac Miller administration. 

His vice president of policy, Kenzie Johnson, serves as director of community and local affairs and interned within Tempe USG's policy department last year.

Also a political science junior, Johnson met Bishop as a freshman and they were united by a shared love of politics and equally dry senses of humor. The two became fast friends.

This left a need for a vice president of services. Wanting someone who was more of an outsider, Johnson recommended John Lauro, a finance sophomore who serves of treasurer of his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha.

By recognizing Lauro's leadership experience — and experience dealing with a significant budget — Bishop took Johnson's recommendation to heart.

Meet Brandon Bishop

Brandon Bishop is a man of complicated origins and simple motivations. 

With two parents in the military, he's lived all over the world. Though he was born in Japan, he has called everywhere from Las Vegas to rural Illinois home. 

He said these experiences were important to him — he learned how to be outgoing, independent and flexible. Plus, he said he picked up a fact or two about nearly everywhere he's lived.

"I'm great for trivia teams," he said.

However, his travel is not paramount in his life. The items to which he grants that distinction may come as something of a surprise. 

"I live by my two B's: I love Beyoncé, and I love burritos," he said. "I remember the first time I had Chipotle was like meeting my first love."

That said, his veneration of the R&B superstar is more than celebrity worship.

Bishop said he likes her for more than her music. Her determination, image, her approach toward marketing, social issues, politics and feminism are all incredibly influential, he said. 

"I told myself when I was younger, 'You have to be the Beyoncé of whatever you do,'" he said. 

It seems he's taken that advice to heart. When he wasn't able to land a USG position as a sophomore, Bishop coped by becoming involved in other areas.

He founded the ASU chapter of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity in 2015, and took the reigns of the ASU section of Dance Marathon, a prolonged dance party held to raise money for children's hospitals. 

He said he hopes to use those same leadership skills in his executive position. 

Bishop's love of burritos is not quite as noble. Rather, he just loves rice and beans. 

Meet Kenzie Johnson

Scottsdale native Kenzie Johnson said she is a political junkie in spite of herself. 

She watches the news religiously, campaigned for President Barack Obama in high school, did grassroots organization to register voters and has now spent two years in Tempe USG's policy department. 

However, her parents are fiercely apolitical, and there was little about her upbringing that would suggest a propensity for politics, she said. 

Everything changed when she saw the broadcast of former president George W. Bush announcing his decision to invade Iraq. The announcement piqued her interest, and her political passion blossomed in the 2008 presidential election, further growing as she came to ASU.

"I see politics and policy as the best way to change the status quo," she said. 

Therefore her appointment to the vice president of policy position should not come as much of a surprise. 

However, Johnson insists on rejecting the moniker of politician. She said she much prefers to be thought of as a student advocate and representative. 

In fact, one of her main interests growing up was far from political. 

"I did theater for seven years," she said. "I did it all through middle school and high school. It's a really interesting bonding experience to be with all these people, creating something out of nothing. It teaches you a lot about other people because you have to become other people."

Johnson acted in more plays than she can count, but she is particularly fond of her performances in Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables and as the titular character in Cinderella, she said. 

But theater was more than a diversion. It taught her leadership and commitment, and gave her a knack for public speaking she said was instrumental in the campaign — all skills Johnson is excited about taking into office. 

Meet John Lauro

Vice President of Services John Lauro has an irrepressible love for competition. 

"I like the competitive mindset," he said. "You decide the outcome based on how much effort you put in and how much effort you put in in preparation."

It's hard to discern from where the finance sophomore's competitive nature came.

Perhaps it was from being a quadruplet, which he said meant growing up with three siblings that did not always see eye-to-eye.

"It was a blast," he said. "I couldn't imagine having any other childhood. I learned how to deal with different types of people. Even though we all have the same birthday, we're very different people.

Maybe it comes from a life's worth of sports — four years of high school football, preceded by basketball, baseball and all the rest. 

It could be derived from his parents, two New Yorkers who worked in finance, his father as a stockbroker and his mother as an accountant. 

Regardless of origin, Lauro's competitiveness served him well in a fiercely contested executive race. 

"Once we got into the runoff election, it was really an adrenaline rush," he said. 

However, Lauro used his competitiveness more for personal betterment, rather than to impede others. 

He is a member of the W.P. Carey School of Business Dean's Advisory Council, which serves as an intermediary between business students and administrators to improve the business program. He also wielded a significant budget as treasurer of his fraternity, and hopes to take all of these skills into his role as VPS. 

That said, Lauro concedes it would benefit him to temper his competitiveness a little.

"Honestly, I can become better at collaborating," he said. "I've been very self driven in the past."

Meet the Tempe USG Ticket

Bishop is well aware of his goals for his presidency. 

He said his administration will prioritize enhancing the safety escort service, implementing his frequently-touted textbooks tax rebate program, enhancing first year intro classes like ASU 101, fixing the elections system and, as was promised by many a campaign, increasing student outreach. 

Plus, he's optimistic about the feasibility of these goals. 

"Moving forward, I think we're gonna see a lot more student engagement," he said. "We'll also see higher interaction with other campuses and a higher turnout of student leaders."

Related links:

Downtown students, get to know your 2016-17 executives

Polytechnic students, get to know your 2016-17 executives


Reach the reporter at Arren.Kimbel-Sannit@asu.edu or follow @akimbelsannit on Twitter.

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