Welcome Suman Randhawa, IGNITE’s Las Vegas Fellow

IGNITE is pleased to announce that Suman Randhawa is joining us as our Las Vegas Fellow. We caught up with Suman to learn more about her journey to IGNITE. 

IGNITE: Welcome, Suman! We’d love to hear about what motivated you to become an IGNITE Fellow. 

I Stand with ImmigrantsSR: What motivated me to become an IGNITE Fellow is that growing up there was no such thing as IGNITE for me.  I found politics daunting and it was often a dirty word. I didn’t believe I was able to make a difference nor did I  envision myself in an elected position, especially without the representation of women of color.  As I got older I realized the importance of being civically engaged and the importance of representation. I want to see America as the America it truly is, diverse and representing the people living in it. 

I got involved with IGNITE in early 2020 and fell in love with the mission and knew right away I wanted to be involved. I co-founded and co-chaired the first college chapter at Nevada State College. During this time many women shared that they are passionate about making a difference in their communities but don’t know where to start. Being an IGNITE fellow will give me that platform to motivate the next generation of women leaders to fight for things that matter to them. I hope to use my power and leadership to make a positive impact in my community. 

IGNITE: Thank you for being an advocate for young women in your community. What is one thing you want to change in your community and why? 

SR: Nevada has always been one of the top-ranked states for domestic violence nationwide.  Since the pandemic there has been a huge surge in incidents. There’s a lot of stigma revolving around domestic violence and a lot of misinformation about who it affects and who it supposedly doesn’t. There needs to be more awareness and education in order to end domestic violence. 

IGNITE: Can you tell us more about your political leadership experience?  

SR: I’ve served as a Domestic Violence first responder and volunteer for SafeNest, which is a local non-profit that supports victims and survivors of domestic violence. I’ve advocated and helped raise awareness on domestic violence to demystify who is affected by it. In my previous role as student body president, for NSSA, I was the liaison between the students, faculty, campus leadership, The Chancellor, Board of Regents, and staff.  During the 2020 elections, I held a virtual event to encourage college students and our community to vote, how to be more civically engaged, and minimize the confusion with mail in ballots. I’ve also spoken up to give public testimony/statements against budget reductions in higher education and in support of bill Assembly Bill NV AB384, which revises provisions governing sexual misconduct in institutions of the Nevada System of Higher Education.   

During the social unrest that occurred after the murder of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, it really unmasked many of the existing disparities and divides. This was a time to stand up for change. We called on campus leadership to offer programming, initiatives, and education on anti-racism that would help support the Black students on campus. We called on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to ensure that members in the community could rally, mourn, and protest in peace. 

IGNITE: You seem to be very politically and civically engaged. Why is civic engagement important to you? 

Screenshot 2022-02-04 135218SR: Civic engagement is a way to ensure that you are active in the democratic process. Being informed and involved is very important because it means that we can make educated and informed decisions for ourselves, our families, and those in our communities. In the summer of 2019 I studied abroad. It really challenged the way I viewed civic engagement and politics.  Being around activists, scholars, and students from over 17 different countries gave me so much perspective on social issues around the world. I’ve always voted and volunteered but beyond that, I didn't think I needed to know much about politics. But politics is everywhere, from the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the land we are on. We are all interconnected and all these parts affect us whether we realize it or not. We can't afford to wait until we lose a right or another person falls through the cracks of our systems. We all need to do our part and be informed and involved beyond our civic duties. 

IGNITE: Thank you for that powerful answer. Politics really does affect every single one of us. That's why we want more young women to become political leaders. How will you mobilize your community and get them excited about IGNITE? 

SR: In many ways the pandemic has made it challenging to bring people together. However in many other ways it created space for innovation and using technology like we never have before. Prior to the pandemic we could expect people joining events locally, maybe nationally, but with the use of technology it’s really connected us worldwide. I’ve had the great fortune of inviting friends and family to Zoom events I’ve hosted from around the globe whereas before they wouldn't have been able to attend. Coalition building is key to mobilizing your community.  I plan to use Instagram and Zoom to bring the community into the conversations in a fun, interactive way. 

IGNITE: Knowledge is power, and helping young women feel more informed is a huge step towards political involvement and leadership. How would you define leadership? and how you exemplify it in your work. 

SR: I used to think leaders had to have definitive qualities that made you a good leader. Although I do believe that is true, for me, my leadership style is eclectic which means I pull from different types of leadership styles. As a leader you encounter many different types of folks, my philosophy is to treat people the way THEY want to be treated. I believe everyone is different and has different needs, so it’s important to me to take on a holistic approach and meet people where they are. To me, a good leader is someone that knows who they are, courageous, flexible, manages their time well, has the ability to work with many different types of folks and personalities, is an active listener, confident, accountable, innovative, resourceful, intuitive, collaborative, ability to delegate, honest, have good communication skills, empathetic, assertive, inclusive, practice acknowledgment, respectful, goal-oriented, supportive, and have the ability to empower their team.

IGNITE: How do you personally exemplify those qualities of a leader? 

SR: Anytime I am making a decision, I ask myself this question, “Why am I here”?  It helps put things into perspective and guides me in my decision-making process. This informs how I operate as a leader as a sort of compass. I lead by example and do my best to serve as a good role model by being consistent, I show up and do my best (your best may look different every day but show up as you are), if I make a mistake I own up to it, show appreciation and recognition, I give credit where it’s due, practice empathy, I take time to reassess and reflect, and during brainstorming sessions/meetings I ensure everyone is given an opportunity to provide input. I listen and communicate effectively with my team. Treat everyone with respect and treat them the way they want to be treated. I value collaboration so I encourage and love to plan social gatherings outside of work for fun.  

IGNITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

SR: I am thrilled and honored to be a part of the IGNITE family. Let’s go NEVADA!  Let’s step into our greatness and represent NEVADA, HARD! We’re here for it! 

More about Suman: 

Suman is currently serving as IGNITE’s Las Vegas Fellow. She is pursuing a double major in Psychology and Communication with a minor in Social Justice. She recently served as the student body president of NSSA and co-founded the first IGNITE College Chapter at Nevada State College. She is also a member of the Psi Chi Honor Society.  She is the proud daughter of Indian immigrant parents, from whom she gets her drive, perseverance, motivation, and resilience. She is an activist, advocate, and organizer who is passionate about social issues that affect women such as economic, gender-based violence/discrimination, and reproductive rights. Suman is dedicated to supporting and preparing young women to build their own confidence and leadership skills by starting IGNITE College Chapters throughout Nevada. She believes there is power in women working together to tackle challenges. Suman is a proud mom, loves fitness, traveling, meeting new people, and reading. For Las Vegas inquiries, contact suman@ignitenational.org

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