Meet Fresno State’s ASI candidates for the 2023-24 election


Vendila Yang/The Collegian

The Collegian will moderate the Associated Students Inc. Presidential Debate on March 16 in the Resnick Student Union.

By Jiselle Cardenas, News Editor

The Collegian will be moderating the Associated Students Inc. Presidential Debate for the 2023-24 election at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 16, in Room 207 of the Resnick Student Union.
Petitions to run for the executive and senator positions were made available in January, and the campaign season began on Feb. 27.
The responsibilities of ASI president include serving as CEO and the primary representative for universitywide committees, directing ASI activities and affairs.
Two candidates have applied to run for ASI president this year: Karen Carrillo and Sami Natafji. Here are their goals and messages to Fresno State students on why they should be elected.

Karen Carrillo is the current ASI executive vice president and is majoring in Chicano Studies. (Courtesy of Karen Carilllo)

Candidate Carrillo
Carrillo is a first-generation college student who is originally from Fresno. She is majoring in Chicano Studies, with aspirations of becoming a defense attorney for the criminal justice system.
“At age 12, my parents separated. When I was 16, my mother made the difficult decision of moving back to Mexico with my younger brother,” Carrillo said.
She told The Collegian that her parents’ separation and her mother’s return to Mexico left her heartbroken because she knew she had to stay in the United States to pursue an education and career.
“What would look like freedom from parents to every 16-year-old was really a test on my resolve and fortitude,” she said.
Carrillo has been involved with ASI since her freshman year, serving as senator at-large for two consecutive years. She is currently the appointed executive vice president.
She said her position as executive vice president and the experience of overseeing 17 senators, helping them with initiatives and special projects, has given her crucial guidance. Carrillo also served as ASI interim president at the beginning of the fall semester after a former elected ASI president was forced to resign.
“My experience in ASI has taught me how to lead, advocate and speak for myself, my fellow colleagues [and] also the student body at Fresno State at every level of governance,” Carrillo said. “Next year will be my last at Fresno State, and my work is not done yet, which is why I feel compelled and called to run for ASI president,” she said.
Carrillo said she wants to focus on three core values if she gets elected: transparency, accessibility and representation.
She said students should be informed about the conversations ASI has that directly affect them. She also wants to connect students to resources on campus and wants to give all students a platform to be represented.
“I have used my involvement in ASI to pursue initiatives that enhance the student experience at Fresno State, uplift often overlooked and disadvantaged population groups, as well as speak on behalf of students to campus organizations, administration and beyond the campus community,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo told The Collegian working under the previous interim president, Hisham Qutob, and current president, Caroline Alvarez, has positively impacted her academic career and ASI experiences.
“I hope to embody a combination of all leadership traits from them. As a student, as an advocate, and above all else, a leader. Because of their mentorship and guidance, I feel I am ready to take on the role of ASI president,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo said that Alvarez’s leadership has inspired her because of her willingness to lead when called to serve as ASI president, and her consistency with pursuing leadership initiatives while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. In addition, she said serving under Qutob has taught her dependability.
“I feel my life experience reflects many students who attend Fresno State, which is why I want to continue representing them as ASI president. I believe that I have the experience, drive and dedication to represent students and Fresno State as the next ASI president,” Carrillo said.

Sami Natafji is a candidate for the 2023-24 election with previous governing experience in high school. (Courtesy of Sami Natafji)

Candidate Natafji
Natafji is also a Fresno native who attended school in the Clovis Unified School District, graduating high school with a 4.1 GPA.
Natafji told The Collegian that he was a National Honors Society Scholar for three years during high school. He was elected as student body president for five consecutive years, serving two years as an Inter School Council member and earning awards such as the “Hope of America” award and “James S. Fugman” award.
He said he is running for ASI president because of his passion for improving students’ experiences on campus.
“I believe that the student voice is important and deserves to be heard. I want to be a strong advocate for the needs and concerns of my fellow students, and I want to work with the administration to make meaningful changes that will benefit everyone,” Natafji said.
Natafji told The Collegian he believes in personally listening to student concerns due to their vitality to campus life. He launched a website where students can ask him questions or bring up concerns, also informing students of his background for his candidacy.
He said he wants to collaborate with student organizations and clubs to ensure all their needs are represented and addressed for consideration during decision making processes.
Natafji said he wants to keep students regularly informed through The Collegian, social media and other means of communication.
“I would like to increase awareness of social injustice issues on campus, and I’m committed to promoting inclusivity and diversity by supporting events that celebrate cultural differences,” Natafji said.
Natafji told The Collegian he wants to build strong relationships with administration, faculty and staff to effectively communicate and collaborate.
“I am approachable, honest and committed to representing student interests. I understand students’ needs and concerns, and I believe in transparency and open communication,” he said.
Natafji said one of his best characteristics is that he is proactive by identifying potential obstacles and appropriately addressing them, rather than waiting for others to solve them.
One example that he shared was before deciding to run for president, he began speaking with students to gain insight of their concerns and attended every open forum to see where students want change on campus.
He named this as one of the main reasons for launching his website so he can directly listen to students’ concerns.
“While others might seek this position because it will look good on their resume. I am not seeking this position for fame or power. I just want to make Fresno State a better place for you and all the students that attend this reputed university,” Natafji said.
The election will begin at 9 a.m. March 21 and end at noon March 23.