Sourced from @suo_ubco on Instagram,

This year's candidates for the Director-at-Large position in the SUO election for the 2023–24 academic year were announced on February 27. They are a diverse group of candidates, each bringing unique perspectives and experiences to the table.

For the student body to exercise its right to vote, they need to be able to make informed decisions. The Phoenix News spoke to these candidates, asking insightful questions to help students gain a better insight into the candidates’ visions, motivations and priorities for the role. 

In addition to exploring their qualifications and goals, we also asked the candidates about their plans for accountability and transparency, if elected to the position. It is crucial that the Director-at-Large is accountable to the student body, and maintains open lines of communication to ensure that their actions and decisions are aligned with the interests and needs of the students they serve. 

While we were able to speak to most candidates, we reached out to Varun Sawhny but unfortunately, did not receive a response.

The voting period begins on March 6 (Monday) and ends on March 8 (Wednesday). Read more about the candidates below, and make sure you vote for the one that best represents your voice to the Board. 

Mashal Narsi: What inspired you to run for the position of Director-at-Large on the Board of Directors for the SUO?

Twinkle Hora: My passion to continue being involved in my community and to make changes has inspired me to run for the position of Director-at-Large on the Board of Directors for the SUO. The skills I bring to the table are: leadership, teamwork, organizational and interpersonal skills. My previous experience with the SUO sets me apart from the other candidates running for this position. I started volunteering in September 2021, and helped out at every event throughout the year. I love giving back to the community by taking time out to volunteer. I also sat as a student-at-large on the campaign’s committee, and helped out with various plans. I was elected as the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Student Representative in the By-Election in October 2022, which has taught me useful skills to help me in this new role. My experiences with the SUO have made me grow as an individual, and made impactful changes in the community. I want to be able to continue doing that.

Aryan Arora: I believe that the SUO plays a crucial role in shaping the policies and initiatives that impact students' lives. Being part of that decision-making process inspired me to run for the position of Director-at-Large. In addition to my passion for advocacy, I gained experience in project management, public speaking, and community organizing during my tenure as vice president of my school’s congress. This experience has also brought me courage and accountability. My experience as a volunteer with the EngSOC [Engineering Society at UBCO] has helped me realize how essential it is to enhance students' experience, and I want to continue this by being the Director-at-Large.

Maziar Matin Panch: I am passionate about representing ALL UBCO students; building a communal change through the means of professionalism requires hard work and knowing exactly what students need. That is why I am willing to become a Director-at-Large to represent everyone at UBC Okanagan. My intentions are not just general promises, such as better student life or hosting events; I am trying to implement a thematic work! This means that once there are

VALUED THEMES in place, the positive changes will remain in place. The themes I will be using include research, collaboration, and setting policies. These are the three main steps of professional work.

Aziz Ali Khowaja: Being a first-year student at UBCO, I felt many difficulties. I missed the Jump Start program due to visa problems. It was hard for me to socialize and make friends, since there were not many events in which we could socialize with other students and make friends. Attendance at these events was also very little. I saw other problems, which motivated me to run for this position and bring a change. I was a Patrol Leader of the Pakistan Boy Scouts, which equipped me with leadership skills. I was always standing up for my patrol and voicing their problems on a higher level. I managed the Scouting resources, as well as bring a positive change for my fellow Scouts. I arranged events back home to increase interaction amongst people of similar ages and goals. 

Darsh Alamchandani: I was inspired to run for the position of Director-at-Large because of my passion for improving the student experience at UBC. My involvement in various student organizations and events has helped me develop strong leadership, communication, and organizational skills, which I believe are essential for this position. I am a dedicated and motivated student leader who is committed to working collaboratively with other student leaders, faculty, and staff to create a better future for all students. What sets me apart from other candidates is my diverse background, my ability to collaborate with individuals from different cultures and perspectives, and my experience in event planning, team management, and communication.

MN: The SUO's Annual Action Plan and Annual Operating Budget require approval by the Director-at-Large. How do you plan to ensure that the budget reflects the needs and priorities of the student body, while also being financially responsible? 

TH: I plan to ensure that the budget reflects the needs and priorities of the student body by being inclusive and considerate of everyone. My top priority will always be students’ needs. I have had many interactions with students, so I am aware of the current concerns they are facing. Some of them are: having more food options available with longer hours, affordable parking fees, more resources for mental health services, and more study spaces. I will ensure that every student’s university experience is catered to their needs. Being financially responsible is extremely important, and I will always focus on the most important needs that come first.

AA: I plan to reach out to the student body and get a concrete quantifiable understanding of their needs, and wishes. To accomplish this, I will communicate with the general student population via multiple avenues. I will then conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that an outcome — which is acceptable for all — is reached. Furthermore, I will ensure that the priorities of the students take precedence in the budget by establishing a concurrent monetary pool that can be adjusted to meet any immediate concerns.

MMP: The essential theme is to consider students benefiting from the budget. Ensuring that the budget will be spent on useful subjects is an important factor. If I represent all of the students as a Director-at-Large, I would ensure to be a direct voice of students in the SUO and ensure that the budget will be used to serve the students in the way they deserve. The budget is student money, and thus I would have to be responsible in a way to make sure that no amount is wasted and the budget causes students' needs to be met.

AAK: I will be devising a plan around which events should be held, in order to fulfill the needs and priorities of the student body. After taking a survey amongst the students, the events with the most votes — in order of priority — would be given the most importance and allocated a budget. Extravagant expenditures would be avoided, and I will ensure no overspending is done on budgets. The budget should fulfill the events that are a must, and some other events that will allow students to exercise their hobbies and skills.

DA: As Director-at-Large, I plan to ensure that the budget reflects the needs and priorities of the student body, by engaging with students and student groups to understand their concerns and priorities. I will work closely with the Board of Directors and the Finance Committee to review the budget, ensuring that it is financially responsible while also meeting the needs of students. I believe that transparency and communication are key to ensuring that the budget reflects the priorities of the student body.

MN: The Director-at-Large is responsible for providing the Board of Directors with student perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are a part of marginalized groups. How would you ensure that the voices of marginalized students are heard and represented within the Board's decision-making processes?

TH: I will ensure that the voices of marginalized students are heard and represented within the Board's decision-making processes by communicating with as many students as possible. I will always be open to having conversations with students, so I can ensure that I am bringing forward every student’s unique perspective. I want to make my presence on campus, so students can always approach me to voice their concerns. I will be there to listen to their concerns and the changes they would like to see. My top priority will always be the students and their needs.

AA: As Director-at-Large, the principal objective of our role is to best represent the wishes of the student population. Having said that, the key to maintaining an inclusive and encouraging environment is to establish accessible and effective channels of communication with any student. I plan to conduct polls, and establish a weekly check-in system to make sure that the student union is always adapting to the student’s needs and wishes, and conducting these checkpoints electronically by integrating the polls into the SSC will allow for every student to have a participatory role. 

MMP: There are several actions to take. The most important one is to respect the value of DIVERSITY. Considering that value, there are three major steps to take. I will provide support for different events, such as cultural, religious, and social. By hosting these events, more students will be represented. Also, creating opportunities for more leadership from marginalized groups is in my agenda. By establishing these communication channels, everyone can feel [a sense of] belonging to the campus community.

AAK: I wish to create a platform where all students can send in their complaints. The voices of marginalized students will not only be addressed within the Board but they will also be provided with active status on their complaints. They would be given feedback as well on their complaints. Monthly research and interviews would be taken, in which students could address their problems. A list of the problems would be created, and the one that a lot of people provide emphasis on would be fast-tracked so that a decision can be made as soon as possible.

DA: As Director-at-Large, I believe it is essential to ensure that the voices of all students are heard and represented within the Board's decision-making processes. To do so, I plan to engage with all student groups to understand their concerns and priorities. I will work with these groups to develop recommendations for the Board of Directors and ensure that their voices are heard in decision-making processes. I will also work with the Board to ensure that their policies and programs are inclusive, and reflect the diversity of the student body.

MN: The Director-at-Large is responsible for serving on at least one committee of the Board. Which committee do you think you would be most interested in serving on, and what specific contributions do you plan on making in that role?

TH: The committee that I would be most interested in serving on is the Campaigns Committee. I have been involved with the Campaigns Committee for the past year. I love being involved, as we get to host fun and interactive events for the students. I love seeing everyone smile and be happy. I already have previous experience being on the Campaigns Committee, and I can continue building on the different plans that are already in place. The contributions I plan to make in the role are always giving my insightful opinion on the discussions that we have as a committee. The Campus Life Committee interests me a lot as well. I love being present and helping out at the events we host on campus for students. I have always given my best efforts, and will continue to do so as the next Director-at-Large. 

AA: The committee that I would be most interested in serving on is the Campus Life Committee. As the committee focuses on the events held on campus, I will advocate for these events being more inclusive by representing all communities equally. It is also important to shape the social and cultural experiences of students on campus by fostering an environment where the learning of other students’ cultures and experiences can take place. And thereby, establishing a more aware and inclusive community, where each student can flourish.  

MMP: As a Director-at-Large, I would be more interested in serving on the Campaigns Committee in order to come up with new initiatives for all of the students. This committee provides the opportunity to add what is needed in place as a form of action. Action is my main goal!!!

AAK: I think that I would be most interested in serving on the Campus Life Committee. This is because I have past experience in arranging events and raising funds for social causes. I feel as if I will be able to bring innovative ideas and events to the table, which will ensure that students on campus have a good time. I wish to make the campus [events] happen enough, so that students do not feel the need to go off-campus looking for entertainment. 

DA: I am interested in serving on the Student Life Committee, as I believe that this committee is instrumental in improving the student experience at UBC. In this role, I plan to work closely with other committee members to identify areas for improvement, and develop solutions to address student concerns. I will also work with student groups to ensure that their perspectives are represented in committee discussions and decisions. Finally, I will strive to create initiatives that foster a sense of community and inclusivity on campus.

*Responses have been edited for clarity.