The Directors at Large are part of the Board of Directors within the Students’ Union Okanagan (SUO). With four Director at Large positions, the Directors at Large have many significant responsibilities in the SUO. They “support students, and support the executive team with their initiatives and events… interact with course unions and clubs, as well as staff and admins… attend board meetings, and stay current with communications channels,” among other responsibilities. This year, the candidates for Director at Large include Chanidu Gamage, Cade Desjarlais, Priscilla Uribe, Kai Rogers, Harsimar Singh, Jaanvi Shah, and Ayush Pratap.

The Phoenix put Chanidu Gamage, Cade Desjarlais, Priscilla Uribe, Kai Rogers, Harsimar Singh, and Jaanvi Shah on the hot seat by asking them three important questions related to their platforms and goals. Significantly, we asked each of these different candidates the same question: How will you implement tangible change within the SUO, specifically concerning key student issues (such as mental health supports, job opportunities, or the online learning environment)?

Priscila Uribe

The Phoenix: Why did you apply for this position?

Priscila Uribe: During my experience as a Student at Large in the campaigns committee, I realized the potential of the UBCSUO when making decisions that allow for real change. I am very passionate about three things: climate change, social campaigns, and economics. In my experience as a climate ambassador for UBC’s Climate Emergency Research last year, I had the opportunity to explore what students demanded in terms of environmental sustainability. I want to use my knowledge combined with my passion to advocate towards more achievable environmental goals. I want to keep working towards provincial campaigns related to free course materials and more affordable education. I decided to run for Director at Large because the students’ and their voices matter to me!

TP: How will you implement tangible change within the SUO, specifically concerning key student issues (such as mental health supports, job opportunities, or the online learning environment)?

PU: When UBCO elects me I will work on the following platform points to ensure there is tangible change and the students’ voices are heard. I’ll advocate to:

1. Bring more vegan food options to on-campus businesses. Ban single plastic use on campus and discuss related students’ suggestions such as bringing composting to residence life

2. Raise awareness on free learning resources on campus and encourage faculty members to use those

3. Sexual assault awareness and discrimination: I want to increase online and in-person safe spaces. I’ve been having meaningful conversations with the SVPRO related to my further collaboration in their Sexual Assault Awareness campaigns.

4. Building a stronger online presence for the UBCSUO to feature the students and encourage freedom of expression and respect, while keeping our diverse community connected!!!

TP: What do you think the person previously holding this position should have done differently?

PU: I can highlight that the previous Directors at Large did a great job advocating towards more affordable education, mental health, and campus life. However, in terms of the campaigns committee, there is always room for improvement. I haven’t seen much involvement in climate change advocacy apart from the Water Bottle ban, at least from last years’ directors.

Chanidu Gamage

The Phoenix: Tell us about yourself. What qualities make you fit for this position?

Chanidu Gamage: I’m an extremely determined and committed young man. Before COVID-19, I was a taekwondo fighter at the international level. Through taekwondo, I learned the lessons of respect, integrity, perseverance, and self-control the hard way-in the ring. I was always very extroverted and have held many leadership positions in my community. I currently stand on two bipartisan youth councils at the federal and municipal levels of government. There we discuss policy and issues facing Canadians.    

I’m a Buddhist. I uphold and apply the principles of loving-kindness and compassion in every aspect of my life. I have also been told by many teachers that I have a very high emotional intelligence.

TP: How will you implement tangible change within the SUO, specifically concerning key student issues (such as mental health supports, job opportunities, or the online learning environment)?

CG: The most significant change I want to make in the SUO is with regards to jobs. I aspire for the leading companies in every discipline to host more recruiting and informational events on campus. Currently, the SUO does not have a standing policy on external sponsorships, and community partnerships. I will advocate to amend these procedures and make them more comprehensive. This will help the SUO, and future directors, foster a more robust environment for jobs and opportunities at UBCO.

TP: How will you streamline communication in the SUO and with students/organizations?

CG: On a personal level, I will keep my Instagram (@votechanidu) open and active. It will be used to highlight the work I am doing on the SUO. This will help open the perceived closed door the SUO operates under. Furthermore, it will be an effortless way for students to reach their representative on the SUO. I want SUO social media to display comprehensive updates on opportunities and events on campus. My vision is to provide a useful one-stop destination for all things UBCO.

Cade Desjarlais

The Phoenix: What makes you different from the other candidates?

Cade Desjarlais: Hopefully I’ll get to know three of the other candidates when we’re elected, but currently, I do not know many of the other candidates personally. However, what I can immediately recognise that they seem to lack some understanding as to what the Director-at-Large position, truthfully, is responsible for. I have seen candidates expressing anything from ‘eliminating interest on student loans’ to installing bans on single-use plastics on campus. Firstly, UBC and UBCO have already committed to single use bans, and have started doing so as of 2019, but that’s neither here nor there. Many of these promises are under the portfolios of municipal, provincial, and federal governments, and the VP External and Executive Board are tasked with this lobbying, not Directors at Large. Another quick aside: No candidate for the VP External, let alone the director at large position, could responsibly claim they can reduce student debt and interest rates. I mean, unless they have some serious connections.  

A Director at Large is supposed to advocate for the needs of Clubs, Student Faculties, and all students to the Executive Board. While I do have some priorities myself, like Mental Health Awareness and Advocacy, I feel what sets me apart from the other candidates is that I can admit I do not know everything about what the UBCO community wants and needs. The policies, events, and funding I advocate for should be based upon what the Student Body shares with me; it should not be based strictly off some of my personal beliefs frankly because that is not how to properly and effectively represent the creative, unique, intelligent, and diverse students here at UBCO.

TP: How will you implement tangible change within the SUO, specifically concerning key student issues (such as mental health supports, job opportunities, or the online learning environment)?

CD: The foundation of my campaign, and the reason I’m running, is for the purpose of advocating for increased mental health resources as well as education and awareness. I currently sit on the Youth Advisory Action Committee at the Foundry here in Kelowna and have been a part of the national mental health awareness organization for the last two years. It was places and times like these where I was equipped with the knowledge to make permanent change to the state of opinion on mental health. To put it bluntly, what is needed is more funding. We need access to more mental health funds, especially now more than ever, to make a long-lasting impact on the students here at UBCO, and for the years to come. My primary goal is to expand partnerships with these many local organizations, like the Foundry, the CMHA, and Third Space coffee among others to develop tools and resources for mental health supports specific to students enrolled in classes at UBCO. To compliment any expansion of resources, I would like to spearhead a mental health awareness and education campaign to make the support we have students known, understood, and easily and thoughtfully accessible.

TP: How will you adapt to the pandemic?

CD: I think we have all been adapting from the very start, and the fact that we are running an exclusively virtual campaign is a testament to that. As for right now, I want to take the approach of planning ahead. Currently, students are zoom fatigued and exhausted of the online world and I feel more virtual events than necessary would not be beneficial for the morale of students (I could be wrong!!! If students really enjoy virtual events and want more, I’ll represent all of those ideas to the community!). With that being said, I want to actively plan in a collaborative way with all students for events so that as soon as some form of in-person gatherings, we can hit the ground running. Working with all students to design their university experience is a priority of mine because each individual student knows exactly where the gaps are as a result of the pandemic and engaging with the student body for event planning can ensure all of this isolation and quarantining was worth something more than just safety, but memorable and exciting experiences. There is no sense in waiting to start the organization of the best few years of our lives. I am committed to doing the hard work now so we can all have fun later.

Kai Rogers

The Phoenix: Since you are aiming for reelection, can you tell us about what specific changes you have already enacted within the SUO? What exactly do you mean when saying that you have increased accountability in the SUO?

Kai Rogers: Over the past year, I worked closely with the Policy Committee to revamp policies surrounding executive oversight, reviewing and revising our pay structure, and developing a procedures manual. Through my work as a member of the Oversight Committee, I personally conducted performance reviews for the executive directors, reviewed their monthly work summaries, and reviewed and approved their pay. After each performance review, reports were written outlining the executives progress, areas they excelled in, areas for improvement, along with constructive feedback on improving their performance. In keeping with our member’s demands for accountability and transparency, these reports are publicly available on the SUO website. This was the first operational year for the Oversight Committee. I know that my involvement was integral to the committee's success, and because it is a new committee, I believe my presence next year will be vital in ensuring its long-term success.

TP: How will you continue to implement change if you were to be re-elected, specifically concerning key student issues (such as mental health supports, job opportunities, or the online learning environment)?

KR: I think it is going to be important that the SUO not just ‘implement change,’ but that we

implement the right kind of change. I believe that no one director can tackle these complex

issues on their own, it takes a strong team effort. But, a single director can be the person to

make sure that the right kind of change is being implemented, and if re-elected, that is exactly

what I plan to do. By engaging with the students I represent and collaborating with my fellow

directors, I will ensure that the SUO is focusing on actionable items to directly combat the

challenges students face today as well as issues that students may face in the future. I am

interested in improving supports for mental health, increasing job opportunities, and increasing

study space at UBCO by listening to students’ needs, learning about opportunities from

community mental health organizations, local businesses, and by working with UBC directly. As

well, ensuring that we have funding for these supports and other student issues is critical to their


Harsimar Singh

The Phoenix: What makes you different from other candidates?

Harsimar Singh: What makes me unique is the way I think. I believe in setting achievable goals and adhering to them. Hard work is appreciated but in order to achieve your goals you need to work smart. My platform points are simple yet very practical and realistic.

TP: How will you implement tangible change within the SUO, specifically concerning key student issues (such as mental health supports, job opportunities, or the online learning environment)?

HS: I plan to help the students by promoting events that involve career guidance, mental health and tips and tricks for a better university life. With the help of these events I would try to connect the student body with the alumni.

TP: How will you adapt to the pandemic?

HS: Prevention is better than cure. I would consider the safety of the students as my top priority and would ensure that measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus at the university.

Jaanvi Shah

The Phoenix: Why did you apply for this position?

Jaanvi Shah: Being a student myself, I understand the stress that comes with balancing your personal and professional life, especially with the ongoing pandemic. Truthfully, when I first came to Kelowna, I had a hard time connecting with others. After making friends, I still find it a challenge to create real connections among the student body, and an even bigger challenge for the UBCO administration to reach this student body. This is the reason why I decided to run for this position. My core objective would be to listen to what we as students are facing and act on that.

TP: How will you implement tangible change within the SUO, specifically concerning key student issues (such as mental health supports, job opportunities, or the online learning environment)?

JS: To put it simply, I have a few ideas that I would like to implement. My main focus that I am extremely passionate about is Mental Health. University students like me have faced enormous challenges related to the pandemic which includes feelings of isolation and mental health issues. For that I would like to advocate for easier access to the counselling services by having services through a phone app. This would make things a lot more efficient and easier for the students. Secondly, I would like to advocate for a free subscription of headspace for all the students. Headspace is an app where it teaches you about meditation and mindfulness skills in just a few minutes a day. It changed my perspective and attitude and I know that it would definitely help other students as well. Thirdly, I would like to create a platform for students especially during this pandemic for job opportunities. Students that are graduating right now are probably facing a hard time in concern to that. I would too.

TP: How will you adapt to the pandemic?

JS: I would say the first thing to do is to accept things. It is a pandemic so we are going to have to social distance and have everything online. As cringe as it might sound, in my opinion, acceptance is one of the key components to endure happiness. Secondly, as the director at large my responsibility will be to stay in touch with the students and voice for them. With the pandemic, that becomes difficult, of course. Given the diversity on campus, I plan to have a good base to have discussions with the cultural groups on campus and they represent each individual section. I will make sure to have a good relationship with them and always ask for feedback.

Clearly, these Director at Large candidates offer many different valuable goals and perspectives. The Phoenix encourages students to learn about each platform before voting. Director at Large candidates Cade Desjarlais, Chanidu Gamage, Jaanvi Shah, Kai Rogers and Priscilla Uribe also answered questions about their platforms during their Candidate Debates, which you can access here. The voting period for these elections open March 1 at 8 a.m. (PST) and close on March 3 at 11.59 p.m. (PST). Students can exercise their right to vote using WebVote on the SSC.

These interviews have been edited for clarity.