When Justas Klimavicius was a kid, he was dead set on becoming the president of the United States. Lithuanian-born Klimavicius was heartbroken when his mom told him he could never fulfill that dream.
His mother reminded him of that conversation this year, when he was considering his candidacy for Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG).
“She said why don’t you become president of the organization, I was like ‘Wow mom, you’re right.’”
Klimavicius has spent the past year serving as executive assistant to Vice President of Student Life Jaliel Amador. He won this year’s USG presidential nomination with 70 percent of the vote (864 votes) and was a part of the HOUSE party, which swept the elections. Though he is happy about the party’s victory, he said it is a reminder that student involvement in USG is lacking.
“[USG is] a 3 million dollar organization on campus, and I feel like this should be a bigger focus for students, whether you work in the organization or not, whether you go to the concerts or if you care what the artist is, because that is not all we do,” Klimavicus, a junior business and political science double major, said. “We fund 130 clubs, so I feel like USG is a bigger part of campus life than campus realizes.”
He hopes to increase involvement in USG by collaborating with the department of student engagement and activities to create what he calls a quasi-social media for clubs and organizations on campus based out of SB Engaged, a university-sponsored website for campus clubs, which he says will allow students to get involved in organizations as well as allow organizations to connect with one another.
Perhaps Klimavicius’ greatest priority is making Stony Brook more eco-friendly. He first became interested in sustainability after taking an entrepreneur class last summer that stressed sustainability in business practices. He plans to have USG set an example for the rest of the campus.
“Until USG itself shows that it can use sustainable practices, only then can I use that as leverage against other departments or organizations on campus to do the same,” Klimavicius said. “Fixing the problem within before going elsewhere is important.”
Stony Brook was named the fourth most “environmentally responsible university” in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges in 2015, but has since dropped out of the top 50 on the list. In order to encourage clubs and organizations to be more sustainable, Klimavicius intends on requiring all USG-funded clubs to submit waste management plans when they apply to get a budget as a way to show that they are able to be sustainable and cut down on waste.
“Sustainability is the future and that is what society is really focused on, and to not see sustainability as a forefront on a liberal college campus is kind of odd.”
In addition to a year of USG experience, Klimavicius is bringing to the position leadership skills from being the president of the National Honor Society at Longwood High School, the director of membership for the Youth Lithuanian American Community and the former philanthropy chairman of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi. But to him, being president of USG is not just another thing to add to his resume.
Current USG President Ayyan Zubair is confident in Klimavicius’ ability to lead.
“He always kind of struck me as someone who was very personable,” Zubair said. “He is able to connect with people at a very deep level and at the same time, when it came time to doing work, he was able to flip a switch and get into the doing work kind of mode.”
Klimavicius is shadowing Zubair in the final weeks of the semester, but come commencement on May 18, he will officially assume the position.
“Something that my entire party talked about was this isn’t something we are doing as a resume builder, this is purely to improve student life on campus,” Klimavicius said. “Ensuring that that energy is maintained throughout the year is important, because I feel like that’s something in certain positions may get lost.”