Nikos Liodakis ’16, a management science and engineering major, and Dottie Jones ’16, a history and psychology double major, decided to run together because they represent different sides of campus and different Stanford experiences and hope to bring those together in achieving their goals next year. They have three main goals: redefine mental and sexual health, reform funding for student groups and restore campus unity.
The Daily sat down with them to talk about these goals and their perspectives on Stanford.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): What are some of your favorite things about campus?
Dottie Jones (DJ): The thing that I like about Stanford is that every person has their own story. Whenever you meet someone — and this is true of life in general, but especially somewhere like Stanford that’s so difficult to get into and has so many amazing people — if you just take a second to ask someone, “Where are you from?” or “What are you interested in?” you can be shocked… I’m constantly inspired by people that I meet.
Nikos Liodakis (NL): I think the biggest thing that I would say is that Stanford creates a really strong community. I think regardless of where you look, even if you just take a look through the ASSU lens, our student funding and the way we support our organizations here doesn’t compare to any other campus throughout the United States. We do an amazing job of making sure that student groups have an ability to make an impact and are supported financially in a way that you wouldn’t believe.
It even goes beyond student groups. Our RA program has changed my life… That type of program you don’t really experience at other universities. The way that they put you in there to help students, being like an ally rather than a rule enforcer, is really different.
Regardless of where you are, there’s always a place that you will fit, and there’s always a group trying to make sure you feel comfortable on campus, which I think is amazing.
TSD: What is one favorite class you’ve taken?
DJ: My favorite class at Stanford has been Cultural Psych, which I took last spring with [Davis-Brack Professor in the Behavioral Sciences] Hazel Markus. I didn’t realize I would like it as much as I did. I love psychology; I think everything is psychological. But it’s something that made you realize where people come — the different interactions you have with people, people’s families, everything, can really shape who a person is.
It just really opened my mind to… how everyone has a story.
You can never judge someone from even a first meeting, because you never know what a person’s gone through. And it just made me that much more aware of how everyone has that story, and [it made me want] to listen to that story more… It just made me really happy, and it made me have confidence in the world and in people.
NL: I took Engineering 145. It’s an intro class for entrepreneurs who want to do their own startup… You work in a team, and you come [up] with an idea, make a prototype, present to VCs… You actually meet VCs who mentor you through the program, and then you’re actually presenting to them at the end.
I think that goes back to the Stanford community and how they really push you. I think start-ups in this area are huge, and I had never been in a class that was so industry-related that you could actually take our idea and go apply to a VC and get funding for it. So I thought it was amazing… Even coming from high school and all the other classes I’d taken, you never really have a class that’s so applicable to your life, especially if you’re interested in startups, which I am, being [an MS&E] major.
I think that class really showed you that if you sit down and you identify what the problem is, you can really create a solution that, one, would make a lot of money and, two, would have an impact on the greater world, which was awesome.
TSD: What are a couple of the things you’ve struggled with at Stanford?
DJ: I think something I’ve struggled with at Stanford is trying to figure out who I really am… Coming here, when there’s so much thrown at you, it’s really hard to be like, “What do I want to do?”
You can be interested in a lot of different things, but trying to think about those things that you can really put your energy and passion into and make an impact in is so much more important than trying to spread yourself thin where things may not be making you happy. So just trying to keep into perspective what things I enjoyed doing and where I could really help people and make an impact on campus was something I struggled with.
And that was just in terms of figuring out what I wanted to major in. I came into Stanford thinking, “I want to be a HumBio major. I’m going to go pre-med.” And having that identity crisis, “Maybe I don’t want to do that, but I want to do this” — I think that’s something a lot of people may struggle with… especially at a place where everyone is so talented.
NL: Similarly, I would say that the biggest struggle that you can take from being at Stanford — just being an RA and seeing a lot of our residents — it’s very easy to get overwhelmed in the now. And a lot of people start stressing out about what they need to do, what internship they really want for the next year, what classes they need to get into, how much work they need to do, how many units they need to do, when are they taking their MCAT, when are they taking their GRE. And I think, being someone who likes to have a detailed calendar and sitting down and planning all my things, I think it’s easy to sit down and let the future consume what you want to be doing right now.
I think having a checklist is really dangerous. And I think taking a step back, looking at the now, walking on a nice day, relaxing and being like, “We’re at Stanford! This is awesome!” is something huge.
Anyone who struggles with that definitely should remember that we’re in an awesome place, having an awesome time and just living in the now.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Contact Abigail Schott-Rosenfield at aschott ‘at’ stanford.edu.