SUO Governance; screenshot from

With the SUO elections fast approaching in March, the Student Union is looking for interested UBCO students to sit on the Board of Directors for the upcoming term from May 1st 2021 to April 30th 2022.

As of February 1, nominations are being accepted for 17 board positions, among them are the positions of Vice President Campus Life, Vice President Finance, President, and more. To be eligible for nomination, candidates must collect 15 student names, ID’s and phone numbers by the deadline of February 12, in addition to filling out the election nomination package. To also be considered eligible for nomination, students must attend a mandatory candidates meeting on February 12.

These elections are significant to both students and candidates alike as the SUO has a fundamental role on the university campus. The Board of Directors constitutes a major part in representing student needs to make university life more enjoyable, accessible, and easier to manage. For example, the Vice President External’s role is to lobby on the behalf of the student union to external bodies on matters that impact the student population, such as advocating for a needs-based grant.

In addition to being a part of an essential part of the university community, joining student governance allows students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in skills such as communication and being a leader. It also allows for networking and making connections, among numerous other benefits.

Some of these benefits are highlighted in an interview with Ali Poostizadeh, current President of the SUO. Within this interview, Ali discusses working for the SUO and the experience and skills he has gained during his term as president.

1) What motivated you to become involved in the SUO?

I originally became involved in the SUO because I saw many issues on campus which I was incredibly passionate about. The SUO was an opportunity to address the concerns I had about campus life, and also those of my friends and peers, in order to ensure those who come after us have a better experience at UBC than we did. The SUO also provided me with an opportunity to make bigger changes through lobbying and public opinion campaigns which can better the lives of thousands of students in BC.

2) What is the best part about being president and working for the SUO? Least favourite part?

There's definitely lots of great parts; I've built close friendships with administrators at UBC and learned more from them than I could possibly imagine. I also get to work with a team of passionate like-minded students who I know will make huge changes in the world. I'd say generally the people you meet, work with, and interact with are what makes the SUO amazing.

The hardest part is definitely pleasing everyone. With a campus population of 12,000 students, as well as constituents you make promises to during elections, it makes it incredibly difficult to please everyone. Our student body is so large that there is always going to be someone who is passionate about a specific issue and wants to see the SUO address it, and it's challenging to juggle all of these priorities to ensure you're serving everyone. Despite this, I've learned that students are both patient and understanding of the constraints we face and are always willing to work with us to make change at UBC.

3) What is the best skill/experience/lesson you have gained from being president and/or working for the SUO?

That's a tough question. In my role, you work with government officials, high-level UBC administrators, and other important leaders, as a 20 or 21-year-old student, this often makes you feel a bit like an outsider. When you're in those rooms with individuals like that you definitely end up having a bit of imposter syndrome at times. That aspect of my job has given me the most experience, taught me the most lessons, and definitely where I've gained the most valuable skills. Carving out a space for myself and the students I represent in those meetings, speaking freely on their behalf, and fighting for their interests has taught me how to stand up for those who don't have a voice, and more importantly, it taught me how to do it respectfully in a way in which real progress can be made for the people you represent.

4) You are the first president to work for the SUO during a global pandemic and a transition to online classes, what are some of the challenges this has posed to your presidency and how have you overcome these challenges?

I think like most students the pandemic has had a huge impact on my life. I'm a full-time student taking 9 courses this year, working two jobs, and trying my best to succeed at them all. The transition to being online has had a huge impact on not only the ability to juggle all of these, but also ensuring that all are receiving the attention they need. I'd say the biggest challenge is one which many of my colleagues would relate to. Sacrificing areas of my private life, academics, etc., in order to serve our students at a time where they needed us most. Of course, I'm disappointed that I didn't get the experience past officeholders had, and had to give up many of the goals I came into the role with, but I am incredibly proud of the work I've done this year despite that. We rapidly established a bursary with nearly a million dollars available to students in financial distress, worked with UBC to bring students home during the lockdowns, charted a cohesive plan for the SUO's next few years, begun work on a capital project to address all student space concerns and still provided students all the services they depend on us for.

5) Is there any advice you could give UBCO students who would like to be in your position one day?

I think it's important for students to know that it really is more than a title or a position. This position is incredibly challenging, it’s hundreds of hours of work a month contributing to projects that you most likely won't be around to see, it’s giving up aspects of your personal life to better the lives of your members, and it’s fighting for progress within systems which are often unwilling to change. Being involved in the SUO is a labour of love. It's long nights and hard work with little recognition, but it's an opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives, ensuring that those who come after you have pathways to success which you didn't have.

To those who are passionate about change and are willing to put in the work, once you take that step, I guarantee you will never have a single regret about your decision. There is no higher honor than public service, and serving our membership has been one of the most amazing experiences and honors of my life so far so I have no doubt it will have a huge impact on you as well.

As highlighted by Ali, there are many reasons to join the SUO for the coming term as the personal benefits are invaluable. However, most importantly, joining the SUO allows individuals to make positive contributions to student lives and experiences. To learn more about the nomination process and for further information, please visit the SUO website.