You might want to remember Jasmin Fashami—she’s an emerging leader who may be leaving SLO soon to pursue a law degree in colder latitudes, but not without having made a difference locally.
In between her jam-packed schedule of meetings, we were able to chat with this third-year Cal Poly political science student. We discovered she is inspired by her refugee mother, by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, and by the right to vote, even though she is not yet eligible to do so herself.
Jasmin was born in the Netherlands, where her mother and family sought asylum following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Seeking opportunity and the American Dream, the family emigrated to the U.S. and eventually landed in Orange County. From there, Jasmin made her way to Cal Poly, where she became active in student government.
Having served as Associated Students Inc. (ASI) secretary of Student Advocacy in 2017-18, she ran for 2018-19 president on a platform she called ACT, which stands for access to voice, creating initiative, and together as one community. Putting her campaign promise into tangible action, Jasmin led Cal Poly to victory last fall in the statewide Ballot Bowl competition by registering more new student voters than any other California campus.
Obviously not one to rest on her laurels, she will be graduating one year early (not an easy feat at Cal Poly) and hopes to attend law school at Notre Dame.
What energized you to run for ASI president?
Well, when I held the student advocacy position, I worked with both students and city officials, including the mayor, chief of police, and Cal Poly’s director of government relations to advocate for student rights concerning local ordinances as well as university policies. I became very aware of the need for student empowerment.
What sparked your interest in the Ballot Bowl?
Being a non-citizen myself and having represented students at the city level, I have seen the importance and power of voting. When I learned about the Ballot Bowl competition last summer, I realized it was a great opportunity to increase student awareness and harness their civic engagement. They often don’t realize that they need to re-register every time they move, plus, their local voice is very important—city policies impact us here, where we live, however temporarily.
So, you’re not a citizen?
Not yet, but soon! I am a permanent resident of the U.S. with a green card. The process to become a citizen is long and expensive. Unfortunately, I turned 18 in the midst of filing the papers, and then I had to reapply. It’s in the works.
How did you plan and pull off the successful Ballot Bowl, in which you registered 3,178 students, beating CSU Fullerton (2,627 registrations) and UC Santa Barbara (1,857)?
I never stopped talking about it! My co-leads, Brett Raffish and Kabir Shahi, and I began planning for the campaign last summer. We met with student colleagues at UCSB and followed a campaign plan that involved 50 to 60 classroom presentations, social media channels, all kinds of announcements and tabling during UU Hour. This whole experience taught me the importance of consensus building — that’s a key takeaway for me.
Sounds like it was a blitz! You must be an extrovert to hold this position and undertake a campaign.
Actually, I’m an introvert, but I was really inspired by last year’s ASI president, Riley Nielsen. Plus, I receive a scholarship as president, which reminds me every day of my responsibilities, including overseeing ASI’s $16 million annual budget. That gets me up for early meetings!
What has your experience as ASI president taught you that you will apply in your own life?
The importance of time management! Plus, my recommendation to the next president is take care of your emotional well-being—don’t spread yourself too thin, enjoy your time at Cal Poly. Appreciate things like walking around campus or listening to music, whatever calms you. Right now as I’m preparing to graduate, I notice how much students care about campus. For instance, I came across a little garden tucked away that students had designed and planted.
But law school beckons?
Yes, I hope to attend Notre Dame (even though I know South Bend, Indiana, isn’t exactly warm!) because its Constitutional Law program is based on practicing law as a public service, to enact justice on a level playing field for all.
What music do you listen to?
I know it’s a little odd for someone my age, but I love old jazz standards from the 50s and 60s; in fact, I’ve collected a couple hundred vinyl records. My favorite artists are Coltrane, Armstrong, and Duke Ellington.
So, your inspirations: Mom and Amal Clooney?
Right! My mom was a refugee at 17, and she and my dad, too, worked so hard to create a life in first the Netherlands, and then the U.S. They really inspire me to work hard myself. And Amal does so much good work on behalf of human rights. Plus, she’s beautiful and married to George Clooney!