By Cade Desjarlais, SUO President 2023-2024
What’s it like being the President of a Students’ Union? What does a student union President even do? Why do I pay student union fees?
When I first got involved with the students’ union almost three years ago, I also had no idea. I was a fledgling undergraduate doing my school in my parent’s basement, hiding from COVID-19 when I saw an ad for Student Union elections. I was keen to get involved in my university as I had been very involved in my high school grad council and enjoyed giving back. While my grad council was an important stepping stone, it would never have prepared me for the breadth and depth of my involvement and experience at the SUO. It’s been truly life-changing!
While I can say the Student Union has been an incredible experience, I still haven’t answered the question. All responsibilities of each Executive and director position are outlined in our Bylaws and Regulations, but that’s just the starting point.
As President, along with my team of four Vice Presidents, am tasked with the day-to-day operations of the Students’ Union as well as our external affairs, institutional relations, lobbying, and engaging with the student population. Our guiding vision is the student experience, and how to make that better than how I found it three years ago.
Some of the roles I fill are managing staff relations (the SUO has 15 full-time staff and over 45 part-time staff), advocating for students to university leadership, and chairing the Board of Directors. Our Executive team looks after contracts, creates bursaries (the Transportation Subsidy will be launching soon!), administers the U-Pass, manages student health and dental benefits, and looks at how to address students struggling (the SUO is a major partner in our Picnic Food Hub in the UNC and operates the Pantry Foodbank).
The list of responsibilities can feel at times endless, but it has provided me with an extensive level of personal and professional experience.
Finally, I have made many invaluable connections and expanded my network. I regularly speak with our MP, Mayor, and Provincial Ministers, and have learned how UBC operates, which is a task in itself.
Running in the SUO elections and serving in various elected student leadership roles has been one of my most rewarding experiences and I encourage everyone to get involved where they can!