By Kristy Koehler, September 20 2019—
In an effort to introduce new — or even continuing — students to representatives in the Students’ Union and in the Students’ Legislative Council, the Gauntlet is running the series, ‘Who’s Who in the SU.’ We introduced you to the executives, now let’s meet the Faculty Representatives. Faculty of Science Representative Manpreet Sahota tells her story.
The Gauntlet: What do you do in your role?
Manpreet Sahota: As a Students’ Union Faculty of Science Representative, I play an advocacy role in SU committees, Faculty of Science committees and work on my own initiative — which is inspired by my platform goals. One of my responsibilities as a board member of the SU is to be involved in the process when it comes to higher-level decision-making for the organization. Besides attending SLC meetings and voting on motions, I participate in programs and events related to the SU, especially during the beginning of the school year so we are able to promote services to students. Additionally, I have the opportunity to participate in SU Committees. My primary focus in SU Committees is to be prepared for meetings and provide the student perspective on policies, procedures and future planning. For example, I sit on Clubs Committee — chaired by VP Student Life Alisha Gordon — where we discuss any changes to the club policy and approve upcoming club projects. My role here is to ensure the decisions we make are in the best interest of students that are involved in the large diversity of clubs we have on campus.
In the Faculty of Science ommittees, I represent the interests of all the undergraduate science students. These committees are usually chaired by Associate Deans — Wendy Benoit, Nancy Chibry and Steve Vamosi — and have a focused agenda that is followed for each meeting. Each committee has its own set of goals and initiatives — like a strategic plan — for the upcoming academic year. For example, the Curriculum and Academic Review Committee discusses and approves changes to the academic calendar as well as all undergraduate science courses. I enjoy being involved in these meetings and providing the student perspective on how a major or minor change will impact degree progress, course enrolment and overall well-being. My work in Faculty of Science Committees helps me foster a connection with the Associate Deans, which is essential to ensure that our science-specific event/workshop ideas can come to life. I work with the Associate Deans along with my co-reps to advocate for more resources for students and ensure that student interests are communicated to the faculty. For example, we appreciated the input from the Associate Deans when deciding the logistics and framework for our Pancake Breakfast event, which is meant to engage students and inform them on our goals for the upcoming year. One of my platform goals is to ensure undergraduate science students receive useful information when it comes to entering the research field. The Associate Deans can help me with this goal in terms of feasibility and suggest ideas to make sure I achieve my goals.
Lastly, the most challenging, yet rewarding part of my role is to work on my platform goals/initiatives. I work in collaboration with my co-reps to come up with event ideas and resources for science students that we specified in our platforms. We want to make sure we deliver on our promises and know what the students want. It takes months to plan certain student engagement events so we are trying our best to plan early and remain prepared.
G: Why did you run for your role?
MS: I truly believe that this role was meant for me. Ever since my first year in university, I have been growing as a student and as a human being. I learned a lot of new things about myself and one of those revelations is that I am passionate about student advocacy. I enjoy leading conversation when it comes to change and I often find myself in an intermediary position between the students and the faculty. My prior experience with the SU President’s Consultative Task Force and Science Advisory Council prepared me for that intermediary role. Furthermore, I was inspired by the previous Science Representatives to run in this year’s election. The previous representatives took the time to educate me on the role and the astounding impact you can make within the campus community in a one-year term. After getting some advocacy experience and information about the responsibilities of a Science Representative, I decided to run in the election.
G: What do you specifically plan to do within your role?
MS: I am striving to advocate for more resources for students in my faculty to succeed academically and organizing engagement opportunities to foster a sense of community within my faculty. In terms of academic resources, a major focus of my platform was access to research opportunities and help outside the classroom. I am currently working on planning a Research Workshop that will take place in conjunction with the Undergraduate Resource Symposium to help students take those first few steps towards entering the research field like writing emails, CVs and research proposals.
For student engagement opportunities, I would like to host accessible events throughout the year with my co-representatives to give students an informal space to connect. Some examples of these events include the annual Faculty of Science Pancake Breakfast and an informal Wellness Day during stressful exam season. I think events and workshops will give us a chance to connect with students in our faculty and understand their perspective when it comes to issues that affect them. In terms of organizing and executing events, I hope to collaborate with my team of co-reps to ensure that we do the best we can for students in our faculty. Most of the major events hosted by science representatives in the past have required a team for successful execution. Therefore, collaboration is a major component of our roles and we hope to continue working as a team with our faculty to ensure we accomplish our goals.
G: For someone who doesn’t know what Students’ Legislative Council is, how would you describe it? And how would you describe what it does?
MS: Students’ Legislative Council is a body of elected students that make decisions with the students’ interests in mind. There are five executive members — president, vice-president operations and finance, vice-president student life, vice-president academic and vice-president external — along with 19 Faculty Representatives. The executive members and faculty representatives conduct SLC meetings every week in the Fall/Winter semester. The proposed changes or items of discussion that come to SLC every week could be from the students and/or in conjunction with the SU Bylaws. Our overarching goal is to ensure that we understand and represent student interests while making higher-level decisions for the organization.
G: A year from now, when you are done your role, what do you want to look back on and see?
MS: I want to leave a legacy that reflects the passion, work ethic and grit it takes to become a successful science representative. I hope students are able to recognize all the planning and detail-oriented work that goes into successfully executing faculty-wide events and programs. Furthermore, I want to be proud of the way I understood and represented the interest of science students in SLC and all the faculty committees that I was able to participate in. I hope to see other students inspired to be leaders in science and bring their ideas to student government. I believe that a scientist brings a unique perspective to governing procedures and policies. It is essential for our students to participate in issues that impact them as it encourages them to be active members of the community and I hope my term as science representative inspires students of all years to raise their voice on multifaceted issues.
G: What’s one thing that you’ve learned now that you wish you had learned in the past?
MS: I wish I learned more about the various ways to get funding for our events and how to negotiate funding with my faculty to ensure the successful execution of my event. Although I have experience with personal budgeting, this is the first time I will be working with larger sums of money that will be put towards our platform goals. Currently, I am learning as I go and I feel extremely fortunate that the previous science representatives have cultivated a healthy relationship with our faculty. I am grateful that I have my co-reps Michael Nguyen and Angie Hu by my side so we can synergize and ensure we all serve our students in the best way possible. So even though adequate budgeting seems challenging, I know I have a lot of trusted sources to reach out to if I need help.
G: How can students get in contact with you if they need you?
MS: I would love to hear from science students! They can reach me at email@example.com . I check my email every day so this will be the fastest way to reach me. I am here to listen to each and every concern and I will go the extra mile to ensure that student needs are addressed. I am currently working on accessible office hours where students can drop by the SU office and discuss anything with me. I will be sure to communicate these office hours to students once the fall semester commences.