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Anagha Kikkeri, UT21 Senior

Student Government President Anagha Kikkeri talks about overcoming leadership challenges and making an impact on the Forty Acres.

UT21 Senior Anagha

Anagha Kikkeri entered 2020 with a plan. First, alongside her vice president running mate, Winston Hung, she planned to run for president of University of Texas Student Government. Next, if victorious, she would make history as the first Indian American woman to be elected to lead the student body. And finally, she would aim to improve the student experience at UT Austin by creating a more inclusive, supportive and healthy learning environment.

Although Kikkeri, one of our outstanding graduates from the class of 2021, did accomplish the goals she set out for herself, the road to get there looked very different from what she had initially imagined. The 2020 Student Government elections were held in March a few days before the coronavirus pandemic prompted UT Austin, along with many businesses and institutions across the U.S., to go into lockdown.

“We found out we won on a Friday, and then the Tuesday right after is when the whole world exploded,” she says. “The coronavirus pandemic fundamentally changed everything. And that was my first taste of a leadership challenge.”

During normal times, the newly elected Student Government officers would begin their terms at the start of the following school year, but since this past year was anything but ordinary, Kikkeri and her team began their terms early.

“In the first few months, six days a week, we were all on the phone making calls intermittently from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. with administration and students,” she says. “There was so much that we needed to address.” Some of the issues the team worked on addressing were concerns about student housing, COVID-19 testing and the nationwide protests for racial justice that began in May.

“It was a very intense few months. But because we worked so hard over the summer, we felt like we were able to accomplish so much because we already had about four months of building a foundation,” she says.

Building upon that foundation, Kikkeri led her team to accomplish various initiatives, including increasing the number of pass/fail courses students could select, distributing 20,000 masks to students on and off campus, and advocating for widely available mental health resources.

Another achievement for Kikkeri was leading a fundraising campaign, where she partnered with Texas A&M University’s student body president, to raise emergency relief funds for students affected by “Winter Storm Uri.” Both student leaders created a friendly competition to see which school could raise the most money. The UT community raised over $160,000.

Kikkeri’s grit and ability to work exceptionally well under pressure have helped her excel as Student Government president. She cites this past year as the most significant growth opportunity she’s ever had. “Being in this position, I am not exempt from criticism from students and others alike, so I’ve definitely developed a very thick skin,” she says. “Additionally, as a woman of color in a leadership role like this, it’s been a unique experience. I’m very aware of the space I’m taking up by being in this role. I feel like a big theme of my life has been pushing the envelope just a little bit further and pushing the limits. I honestly feel like I’ve done that a ton at UT.”

Elected student government officers of 2020.
Elected student government officers of 2020.

During her time at UT, Kikkeri was awarded the Hyperion Award for her efforts in improving sorority and fraternity life and the Rapoport scholarship, which recognizes liberal arts students interested in volunteerism, community service and service learning. She is also a recipient of the Texas Exes Harley Clark scholarship. And she’s served as the inaugural vice president of diversity and inclusion on the University Panhellenic Council executive board and as a board member of UT NAACP.

Kikkeri’s passion for politics runs deep. She attended her first political rally at the age of 4, holding her father’s hand with one hand and a homemade sign decorated with candy in the other. She says attending UT Austin and studying government was a no-brainer as she holds up her left hand to show a Texas-shaped ring she wears regularly. “I feel very connected to being a Texan,” she says.

Anagha Kikkeri with her family.
Anagha Kikkeri with her family.

Her parents, who emigrated from India to the U.S. before she and her siblings were born, have helped her stay connected to her Indian culture, something that she holds dear. She says culture can bring people together. “I’m Hindu, so whenever there’s a big Hindu holiday, I’ll have a prayerlike ceremony in my apartment, and I’ll invite all of my friends, Hindus and non-Hindus alike, so that everyone can learn and celebrate together. I always try to be inclusive,” she says.

After a roller coaster of a year, Kikkeri says one of the simpler things she’ll miss about her time at UT is sitting on the South Mall lawn in front of the UT Tower as students bustle up and down the sidewalks to class. “It’s so inspiring looking at the Capitol and then looking at the institution I attend right behind me. There’s just something very special about that.”

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University Communications
Email: UTMedia@utexas.edu
Phone: (512) 471-3151

The University of Texas at Austin

Hyeonseung “Shawn” Lee, UT21 Senior

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