Lehigh’s Student Senate is an organization of more than 60 individuals, responsible for allocating funds and creating change on campus. With Victor Cochrane, ‘22, serving as president for the 2021-2022 school year, Student Senate gained a new sense of purpose.
Throughout middle school and high school, Cochrane served on a student council. Yet, after arriving at Lehigh, Cochrane said he didn’t plan on running for Student Senate because he wanted to try something different.
“College is about trying to find new things and not doing the same behaviors as high school because how would you grow?” Cochrane said.
Soon, he said he realized Student Senate was a space for people to come together and voice their opinions on different issues on campus and in the community.
Cochrane has served on Student Senate since his freshman year at Lehigh. Last year, he served as the vice president of communications and this year was president on the executive board.
In organizations beyond Senate, Cochrane said he was able to participate in broader conversations about big issues. However, Cochrane wanted a place to not only voice opinion and debate, but an environment where people asked “how can we solve this issue?”
“We build a college to this elite dream level status our entire life and then when we do get here, there’s some things that surprise us and make us happy, and then there’s some things that disappointed us,” Cochrane said.
He saw what the leadership positions demanded, how serious everyone took the positions and the sacrifices that had to be made. Cochrane said if it was a decision between an important meeting or going to class, nine times out of 10, the meeting would be attended.
During the pandemic, Cochrane said Student Senate consistently held Zoom meetings, which was radically different than being in person.
Cochrane said the biggest challenge faced by students this year was finding a way to bring back student life after the pandemic and reinstating an approachable, supportive community in Student Senate.
“I knew I wanted it to be a very honest and open vibe,” Cochrane said. “Sometimes I just had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t fear vocalizing that. But I also wanted it to be a more inclusive environment than any Senate before … I want to recognize where we have failed and also aspire to reach the successes we have reached in the past.”
For Cochrane, he said it was important to be approachable as president, but also as a student and friend to create a strong and impactful community.
“It is weird, because sometimes your academic life is on the backburner,” Cochrane said. “But we all came to Lehigh for academics. So it’s a very weird, tricky balance.”
Aarsenio Perry, assistant dean of students and director for the Office of Student Engagement, advises Student Senate and works closely with Cochrane.
Perry said he recommended Cochrane for president because of his phenomenal leadership skills in representing the entire student body. Perry described Cochrane’s leadership as empathetic.
“He’s very daring and challenges things, while still remaining diplomatic in his approach and listening to everyone involved,” Perry said.
Through his time as president, Cochrane hosted two town halls with the intent to make Student Senate more transparent. He also created a tracker linked in the Senate Instagram bio for students to see all the projects Senate is working on.
Perry said he noticed a difference in Student Senate since Cochrane took over as president as he met individually with students, which had not been a focus in the past.
“Victor has made students centered around other people, and not just about himself and his resume,” Perry said.
Perry said Cochrane also shifted students’ perceptions of Student Senate and successfully connected people in a way that improved relations with the Lehigh administration.
Perry said he is confident that Cochrane’s legacy and remnants of his leadership will remain in Senate next year.
Sean Davis, ‘25, a senator on the First-Year Constituency and a member of the Public Relations Committee, expressed his admiration for Cochrane as president and a friend.
“Victor was the best president I could’ve asked for, he was super genuine and really cared about each senator,” Davis said.
Davis said he believes Cochrane’s legacy is an important connection between the administration and student body, where the Senate is an integral part of campus life.
Reflecting on 2021-2022, Cochrane explained what this year meant to him as President and as he approaches graduation.
“At the end of the day, I really just wanted to make other people proud,” Cochrane said. “That was my mission, throughout the entire year, was to be real to the students I’m of service to. It’s easy to get dissuaded with other obligations, but I had a duty to the students and didn’t want to fail anybody in that sense.”