Bobby Moakley, Rochester Institute of Technology’s new Student Government president, thinks every student should feel welcomed at RIT, regardless of what their interests are, where they are from or their beliefs.
That’s one goal Moakley, a fourth-year environmental science major from Boston, and Vice President Corinne Mendieta, a fifth-year mechanical engineering technology major from Olney, Md., have for the coming year. They also plan to make sure students have the tools they need to succeed, including transportation, resources such as the free textbook library and finding funding for projects.
“We want to enhance the culture of creativity and innovation at RIT,” Moakley said. “We want to enable students to create what they came to RIT for, whether it is artwork or a new medicine.”
Other ideas planned for this year include adding two more vans for club and organization use, a bike sharing program in the fall, and a charging station installed in the Student Government office to encourage students to drop by if they need to charge a phone or laptop. Free popcorn will still be available to visitors.
And he wants to have more direct communication with student organizations representing international students, ALANA students, student athletes, LGBTQ students, and deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
“Student Government never had a formal working relationship with them. I’d like to work closely with those representative student organizations,” he said. “They are representatives for entire groups of demographics on campus.”
Two years ago, Moakley first joined Student Government as the cross-registered senator from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and last year served as Student Government vice president.
He’s not worried about representing more than 18,000 students on RIT campuses or giving a talk in front of thousands of people.
“I’ve taken a few public speaking courses, so I know how to maneuver the nerves,” he said.
Born deaf, Moakley received his first cochlear implant and began learning sign language before he was 2. He knows there’s a wide range of communication preferences on campus among the students supported by NTID.
“People should feel comfortable using what communication they prefer, and everyone should respect people’s choices,” he said. “That’s one reason I wanted to come to RIT, there is this open and accepting feeling and a good mixture of deaf and hearing students. Here is a place I could have both of those.”
Moakley is the third deaf student to become RIT’s Student Government president. The first two were Lizzie Sorkin in 2006-2007, and Greg Pollock 2010-2012.
Moakley is uncertain what he’ll do after he graduates. He’d love to become a photojournalist for National Geographic, or work with the United Nations in international affairs.
“People now are unwilling to cooperate with other countries and are letting imaginary boundaries dictate the way they live,” he said. “How do you expect to fix an issue when you don’t talk with the people living next to you? We’re all living on one planet.”
He’s spending his summer working on a fellowship for Project HOPE (Health Outcomes Through Participation, Education and Engagement) and the Genesee Valley Land Trust, helping residents in northeast Rochester make connections to improve their community and finding ways to preserve the environment.
His great uncle was Joe Moakley, a popular Boston Congressman for 28 years who died in 2001 and had several buildings in Boston named after him. Bobby Moakley said he hasn’t ruled out a political career in the future. “I guess there’s a little inspiration from him behind it.”
He said he uses time management effectively to juggle his work, classes, volunteering and Student Government responsibilities. He usually has several meetings a day and stays up late into the night to make sure everything gets done.
“Some days I may be tired and feel fed up with it, but then I realize I love all the work I’ve been doing,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything better I could be doing with my time.”
Regardless of what lies ahead for him, Moakley wants to make sure he leaves behind “a Student Government that is efficient for students in the future.” He hopes more students decide to become active by joining a committee or attending just one of the meetings the Student Government cabinet holds from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. each Friday in the Bamboo Room, beginning the last week in August. The meetings are open to everyone.
“I hope students feel they can contact Student Government if they have anything on their mind,” Moakley said. “No issue is too small.”