Bhandari to become ASSU financial chief

March 10, 2010, 1:10 a.m.

MS&E graduate student will oversee $14 million

Raj Bhandari, a graduate student in management science and engineering, is eager to step up as the new ASSU Financial Manager and CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE), the financial branch of the ASSU. Bhandari’s ascension will take place in July when Matt McLaughlin ’08 ends his two-year term.

Bhandari M.S. ‘10 will manage a staff of 50 student employees and oversee $14 million, including $5 million that constitutes the ASSU endowment, which is invested by the Stanford Management Company, and $7 million allocated to student groups.

Bhandari expressed enthusiasm for his new job, describing SSE as an organization “run off the energy of the students” and his staff as “some of the smartest and best students at Stanford.”

While he is excited to bring his experience as a graduate student to SSE, Bhandari sees his role as mainly motivational.

“I want to allow the student employees to define SSE,” Bhandari said. “My job is to allocate and motivate people to do what they want.”

Bhandari also praised McLaughlin’s tenure.

“Matt is like our Obama, coming into a business when the stock markets were crashing and keeping things running,” he said.

Bhandari commended McLaughlin’s efforts to expand interest in SSE and increase the number of applicants for SSE jobs, despite the difficult economic conditions the organization faced.

One ongoing issue that Bhandari will inherit from McLaughlin is the recent spike in refund requests from students, which has risen from an average of 500 undergraduates per quarter in two prior years to 1,132 undergraduates this winter. The spike pushed McLaughlin to enforce a 2004 ASSU by-law that allows up to 10 percent of the requested refund money to be covered by a buffer fund. Beyond that amount, refunds come out of the groups’ budgets. Prior to this year, the by-law never came into play, McLaughlin said.

Bhandari believes that more communication between SSE and the student body is needed in order to prevent further increases in refund requests.

“We are concerned when people use the refund policy not as a reflection of the great student groups, but as a reflection on the administration,” Bhandari said.

He hopes that students will discover another outlet to express their concerns. Bhandari also wants to see SSE reach out to more students and increase the number of services offered to them.

“Right now we run three businesses,” Bhandari said. “Why can’t we run 10 small businesses?”

Bhandari’s pet project, though, is the SSE-run Stanford Student Store. His favorite part of the job is stocking the store late at night with other SSE staff. Bhandari is working to increase traffic to the store, which is located in the back of Tresidder and is less visible than the Stanford Bookstore. He stressed that all the revenue from the Stanford Student Store goes directly back to the students through SSE.

“So if people have problems with student fees right now, they should go to the Stanford Store and buy apparel,” he said.

Before coming to Stanford, Bhandari completed his undergraduate degrees in finances and international relations in 2007 at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked for American Express before coming to Stanford for graduate school.

Bhandari is enthusiastic about his experience so far at Stanford.

“I think Stanford is a uniquely magical place,” he said. “Its atmosphere, collaboration, enthusiasm, hope, courtesy…are some of the things that make me realize that I made the right decision to come here.”

Currently, Bhandari acts as the assistant financial manager to the ASSU, training for his new job.

“In hindsight, this job has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life,” Bhandari said.

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