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Posted on Jul 11, 2016

Quincy grad heads ASUI at University of Idaho

He’s not a college freshman or a high-schooler anymore, but in a sense, Austin Karstetter has only just begun.

The former vice president of the Quincy High School Associated Student Body is, as of last May, the ASUI president at the University of Idaho. And he’s already set sights on his ultimate goal in elected politics: the governorship of the state of Washington.

Not for a while, though, he added.

“I want to establish myself as someone in the business world in Washington state before that,” he said, adding that he also wants to live abroad after college. “I have a lot of goals, a lot of plans and I don’t think politics will be there for a while, but, eventually, it will come up.”

A self-described shy person in high school, Karstetter wasn’t interested in attending the University of Idaho; however, some persistent lobbying from his family (he is the son of Kent and Lisa Karstetter of Quincy) persuaded him to visit the campus. He eventually fell in love with it and what he called the campus’ “personable” feel.

An incoming senior at U of I, Karstetter said he knew one person when he arrived in Moscow his freshman year. Nevertheless, he said, he knew he wanted to be involved in campus life.

“I just had no idea what that meant, what position,” he added. He began by running for office as a university senator and was surprised by his own victory.

After two years as a university senator – including a year as president – he served a year as chairman of the ASUI communications board before deciding to run for ASUI president.

“If you had told me eight years ago I would be the president of the student body at the University of Idaho, I would have been laughing,” he said. “I would have been crying, I would be laughing so hard.”

It was his parents’ continued involvement in the community that triggered Karstetter’s desire to mimic them and begin seeking ways to participate in the community, first at the high school level and later at the college level. His mom was once the executive director of the Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce and now, as ASUI president at U of I, Karstetter sits on the Moscow Chamber of Commerce board.

A former page for onetime state Sen. Janea Holmquist-Newbry, Karstetter has been interested in politics for a long time. He said that in the two months he has been president he has completed all his campaign promises.

“It will all be solidified by the time school starts in August,” he said. “My goal was to accomplish things that students can physically see.”

Examples include a free shuttle service for U of I students to get around Moscow. Seventy percent of U of I students live off-campus, Karstetter said.

Running the ASUI of the flagship college in Idaho and its multimillion-dollar budget comes with challenges, even more so when you’re not from Idaho.

“It was definitely a little weird,” he said of being a Washingtonian running a state organization in Idaho, when he can’t even vote there.

And that doesn’t begin to touch the deep divide present in Moscow and in plenty of campuses elsewhere, between fraternities and sororities and the rest of the student body.

A member of a fraternity himself, Karstetter said he wants to reach and help every student at U of I. At the same time, he credits his “60 best friends” at the fraternity for helping him along the way.

“I couldn’t be where I am now without the advice and the networking I have gotten from the Greeks,” he said.

He ran on a pledge to “bridge the gap” between Greeks and non-Greeks, Karstetter said. For three years, he said, he has helped implement programs that bring both sides together and “there hasn’t been much change, and it’s kind of sad.”

There has been plenty of change in Karstetter himself. The reserved student from Quincy High School is gone, and the one who’s there now wants to be governor someday.

“Never not be yourself,” he offered as a means of advice to high-schoolers waiting to break out of their shells like he did. “Be involved.”

 

— By Sebastian Moraga, sports@qvpr.com

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