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SU Elections 2024 Q&A: Students’ Council Candidates

These are the Students' Union 2024 election candidates hoping to represent their faculties on Students' Council for 2024-25.

In 2024-25, there are 19 available seats on Students’ Council. For the first time since 2019, there is a candidate running for agricultural, life, and environmental sciences (ALES) councillor in the general election. The current ALES councillor, Ellen Tam, joined Students’ Council in January 2023.

Students’ Council is responsible for fulfilling the University of Alberta Students’ Union (SU) mandate. Elected councillors are expected to attend the bi-weekly council meetings, consult with and advocate for their constituents, and participate in multiple council committees.

Voting will begin March 20 at 9:00 a.m. and will close March 21 at 6:00 p.m..

The following races have no candidates running: education; kinesiology, sports and recreation; law; medicine and dentistry; Native studies; open studies; and pharmacy.

While there are three available seats for science, only one candidate is running. After the election, there will be 10 councillors on Students’ Council and nine vacancies. The amount of vacancies has increased from the 2023 elections, when there were seven vacancies.

The following interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences (one seat)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Kate Tamsett

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Kate Tamsett was unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Arts (two seats)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Fardeen Chowdhury
  • Nathan Perez
  • Angelina Raina
  • Nathan Thiessen

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Nathan Perez was unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Why are you running for this position?

Fardeen Chowdhury: There are two reasons. Firstly, whenever I walk around campus and interact with other students, there are 100 ways to improve the campus experience for students. Still, they need someone as a representative. So here I am, trying to be one. Secondly, as I conveyed this idea to the current executives of SU, some of them have motivated and pushed me to be a part of student governance because they said that if you want to make a difference, you have to be a part of it.

Angelina Raina: I would like to encourage arts students to become engaged within university governance in a more meaningful way. We are a diverse faculty and all students deserve to feel represented, heard, and — most importantly — engaged. I wish to be the voice that represents the diverse population of our faculty.

Nathan Thiessen: I am not here for me. It’s repeated twice in the Students’ Council oath, and the words have guided my efforts on council for the past year. Frankly, Students’ Council is my way of contributing to our campus community, and advancing the welfare of students. It has been a privilege and honour to be an arts representative on council, and I am running again for the position to continue to work on behalf of my peers and advance students interests. Whether it be policy renewal and revival, financial review and auditing, or administrative reform and oversight, ensuring that the SU’s advocacy and operations work on behalf of students is work I want to continue to do.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a SU councillor?

Chowdhury:  I am a current patroller with Safewalk, which inspired me and helped me understand the value of helping people and making them feel safer. Putting a smile on people’s faces makes me so happy that I want to get involved with student governance and try to solve problems for many more students. Moreover, I founded an environmental club as a president in my high school and am currently vice-president (finance) with Engineers Without Borders, the U of A chapter. This experience has taught me a lot about leadership, team building, transparency, emotional intelligence, and — most importantly — the value of people.

Raina: In the past, I was engaged with the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) as a student trustee, where I worked as a liaison between my high school and the Board of Trustees. In this position I worked on developing anti-racist teaching materials for elementary school teachers to navigate conversations of race and privilege. I have learned to center lived-experience in the advocacy work I do, which is a skill that would transfer over to this position. I’ve also interned and currently work in a councillor’s office, where I have had the opportunity to provide policy advice, create budgets, and organize community engagement events. I look forward to combining my experience within governance structures with a willingness to learn in order to bring about positive change on this council. 

Thiessen: Being one of the current arts councillors, I have made sure to put in my all on behalf of students. It would not be an exaggeration to say I have been one of the more involved councillors. From reviewing budget principles in the finance committee to chairing the audit committee responsible for the annual SU audit, to writing and reviving advocacy policy through the policy committee, amongst other committee and board assignments, I have dedicated my time and effort to students. When it comes to actually showing up and representing students, I have a perfect attendance record on Students’ Council and speak up when needed. Outside of council, I have served as an executive for the U of A Debate Society, U of A Alberta Youth Parliament, and as a councillor for the Organization for Arts Students and Interdisciplinary Studies (OASIS).

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Chowdhury: Firstly, the executives of SU should make sure that they have a vivid image of the issues the current students face and advocate for every student. Secondly, I will create a platform where students can provide feedback on the current services offered by the SU. If they want any new services to improve their campus experience, they also include them in that platform. Thirdly, I will increase transparency and open community among students, SU executives, and councillors. 

Raina: My platform revolves around community, collaboration, and creativity. It’s important to encourage financial transparency and communication with the student community which can only be done through creative collaboration. I look forward to engaging with OASIS and departmental organizations to create pathways for communication from which a more overarching structure would hopefully emerge. Collaboration also means keeping up-to-date with municipal and provincial policies to see how meaningful relationships can be made with structures outside the university that will benefit students. Creativity involves cementing decision-making in a community to come up with solutions that are nuanced and sensitive to the diverse arts population.  

Thiessen: There are three fundamental pillars to my efforts on council for the next year. First is continuing to renew and revive political policy to ensure that the SU’s advocacy on behalf of students remains robust. Students need good policy to ensure that their needs are being advocated for when engaging with the university and the municipal, provincial, and federal government. Second, financial transparency and performance needs to be pursued. As chair of the audit committee, I successfully passed the SU yearly audit as well as taken steps towards undertaking a performance review of the SU business units. I would like to continue that work. The third, and most existential platform point, is democratic reform. There needs to be a discussion as to whether the current seat distribution faithfully represents the students the SU serves, and how we can involve those who are often left out of student governance.

What would your number one priority be as a SU councillor?

Chowdhury: My number one priority as an SU councillor would be to ensure that all the students have a smooth campus experience. I will try to make myself more accessible through email, Google forms, and face-to-face and online meetings. 

Raina: Centering the community in the decision-making process. By looking at campus issues through an intersectional lens, we should be able to make meaningful decisions that students support. However in order to do this, it is important that students are aware of what is happening in these council meetings so that they can then engage meaningfully. I would focus my efforts to center the community by first engaging them through bite-sized content, consultation sessions with departmental organizations, and an anonymous survey platform.

Thiessen: Representing students. The fact of the matter is that issues regarding students is an ever evolving environment where-in students are impacted by internal university affairs and external developments. In the face of adversity and challenges, ensuring that students are effectively represented through SU efforts and advocacy is core to my mission as a councillor. But to be specific, we have to ensure the university makes good on their promises to students. A new academic year means new goals that the U of A wishes to undertake, specifically outlined in the Indigenous Strategic Plan, Student Experience Action Plan (SEAP), and other strategies and plans. We need to ensure that the university is committed to all of its students and serves to uplift all. To do this, we need to hold the university accountable through engagement with the people we represent and hold the SU accountable in its efforts of student advocacy.

Augustana (one seat)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Allie Behiels
  • Nate Goetz

Why are you running for this position?

Allie Behiels: I love Augustana and all it has to offer, so one of the main reasons I wanted to run for this position is because I want to get more involved in the decision-making processes of this university, specifically that of Augustana. I am proud of my leadership skills, but I also know that everyone can learn something from different experiences and I want to heighten my skills. I want to give Augustana the representation it deserves, and I will do everything in my power to accomplish that. 

Nate Goetz: I am running for this position as, in the past, Augustana has lacked a voice on North Campus. While this has changed in the last few years with effective Augustana councillors, I want to continue this positive trend to ensure that Augustana has a vocal advocate on the SU. I am running for this position to be a voice for Augustana students and to ensure that the Augustana perspective is shown, no matter how big or small an issue is. Augustana is a vibrant campus of about 1,000 students, and they need effective representation on the SU.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a SU councillor?

Behiels: I was involved for seven years in 4-H, which is a non-profit agriculture-based organization that helps teach children leadership, public speaking, and administration skills. Four of those years I was in an executive position. Something important that that organization taught me was to learn how to do a job by starting and learning along the way. I now have an unwavering tenacity to learn and accomplish whatever I put my mind to.

Goetz: This last year, I have served as one of the social science representatives on the Augustana Students’ Association (ASA). This role has given me insight into what it means to be a student representative and to advocate for student needs. In this position, I ran a very successful mixer for students to get to know their professors, advocated for free proof of enrolment at Augustana, and ensured that the student academic experience was the best it could be at Augustana by sitting on the Social Science Department Council and the Curriculum Committee. In this role, I have also gotten to know the outgoing SU executive team and the outgoing Augustana councillor, so I have a good idea of the SU’s role and what can be done in this position.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Behiels: I have a few things in mind that I would accomplish, and most of it has to do with advocating for the students in the right areas. I want to amend the lack of plug-ins available in the Ravine student parking lot, because during the cold snap in January, many cars were unable to start. I would also like to start to highlight the strong community that is in Augustana and the City of Camrose. There are so many wonderful people within different cultures and religions that would love to share their stories, and I will help bridge that gap between the students and the community. I will make sure buildings and areas of worship are accessible and known. 

Goetz: I am focused on attainable and realistic goals that can be done on the SU. First, I want to be a liaison between the SU and ASA, so the ASA is aware of proposals on North Campus. This would include attending all ASA meetings. I also want to work with the SU executives and the ASA to solve the long-standing transportation issue at Augustana through a bus or a ride-share service. Next, I want to update the UASU Cares website to have more accurate information about Augustana so students can get the support they need. I want to expand the UASU Perks program to Augustana so students get a say in surveys and receive perks. I want to help secure Council of Residence Associations (CORA) funding to upgrade dorms and parking facilities. Finally, I want to advocate for Augustana’s issues and ensure that Augustana’s voice is always heard.

What would your number one priority be as a SU councillor?

Behiels: My number one priority as will be to use my strong will to be a representative that my peers would be proud to have voted for. The knowledge and enthusiasm around religious events and areas on campus is a large detail I would address as councillor. I will put in the work and effort to make sure that the majority of this faculty is as proud as I am to attend this campus. I will always be open to taking criticisms and I will ensure that people know how to reach me if they have concerns.

Goetz: If elected, my number one priority would be to work closely with the ASA to ensure that they are always in the loop when it comes to proposals and issues that are being proposed on North Campus. At Augustana, the ASA can effect the most change. However, they do not always hear about every issue since we are far from where these proposals are made. I will make sure they are aware of anything that might affect Augustana students so that they can advocate for or fight against any issues that would affect students. I will also do this by ensuring that I can set up frequent meetings between the SU and ASA executives, spreading the ASA’s advocacy even beyond Augustana.

Business (one seat)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Mohit Makhija
  • Owen Pasay

Why are you running for this position?

Mohit Makhija: Over the last two years that I have been on campus, I have heard from students and seen first-hand as tuition prices go up, student governance participation goes down, and student mental health becomes worse. I have had several peers tell me about how they have to work two jobs to afford to go to university and that they can’t adequately focus on their classes or extracurriculars because of this. All of this inspired me to decide to run for Students’ Council. I believe that students need to be more involved in student governance and better represented at the university. By getting students more involved and directly listening to their concerns, we can form a better SU.

Owen Pasay: I want to give a voice to the concerns of students that previously did not have an outlet. Over my two years in the Alberta School of Business, I’ve talked to many of my classmates, and have heard numerous concerns and frustrations expressed. Among their concerns, there seemed to be no way to make their voices heard to the SU and university administration. I’m running for this position to give my fellow students a voice that will never hesitate to advocate for their concerns above all else.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a SU councillor?

Makhija: I have been involved in student governance since high school, where I served as a student council member. In this role, we would reach out to students to see their feelings about the school and what could be done to make their lives easier. At university, I started my own club, which has allowed me to become a leader. As co-president and co-founder of my club, I have had to work with a diverse group of people to set-up events, and then receive feedback from attendees to improve for next time. I also worked on the Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) campaign during the last provincial election. This job gave me the opportunity to directly talk to voters, listen to their concerns, and share these concerns with higher officials in the party. I believe that this combination of experience has prepared me to properly represent students as a SU councillor.

Pasay:  I have six years experience on my high school’s student council, including serving as president during my grade 12 year. During these years I advocated for my fellow students to our school’s administration, planned fundraisers that raised support for causes such as funding for refugees from Ukraine, and organized events such as pep rallies and various holiday-themed events, aimed at making the student experience more enjoyable. At the U of A, I currently hold the position of vice-president (internal/external) for the Indigenous Business Students’ Association. In this role I’ve gained experience advocating for Indigenous students in the Alberta School of Business, and providing them with supports and opportunities to make their university experience more rewarding and enjoyable.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Makhija: My platform is based on communicating with students to make sure that they feel that their voices are being heard and the issues that matter most to them are being addressed. I want to do this through direct contact with students by hosting more town halls, talking to them in-person, and creating feedback forms. Increasing communication and transparency with students will increase student governance participation, leading to a better SU. Some specific policies that I would like to implement are increased funding and expansion of the Campus Food Bank (CFB), pushing to re-open the U of A Sexual Assault Centre (UASAC), creating more accessible career support programs and services, and expanding available mental health resources. I also want to push to find ways to provide financial aid to students who are struggling with paying tuition. I believe these proposed policies will help students with their day-to-day lives and provide critical support.

Editor’s note: the UASAC is open, and currently offers limited drop-in hours.

Pasay:  My platform for my campaign is built on three pillars. Passionate advocacy, ease of student life, and trustworthy representation. I will always put the concerns of the students I represent first, and I will passionately advocate for initiatives that my fellow students care strongly about. I know just how stressful the life of a university student can be, and I want to do everything in my power to make my fellow student’s lives as easy and stress-free as possible. This includes prioritizing initiatives and support for mental health and wellness, such as the CFB, which many students rely on, and increasing access to academic support for struggling students. Finally, I firmly believe that business students deserve trustworthy and honest representation. If elected, I will commit to keeping students informed about all decisions being made, and the process behind them.

What would your number one priority be as a SU councillor?

Makhija: My number one priority would be to increase communication between students and Students’ Council. By being able to listen to students and hear the issues that matter most to them, we can more effectively make sure that they are being heard and represented. If councillors can better hear what students need from Students’ Council, then they can better implement policies that actually help students. We have seen student apathy towards student governance increase, and I want to change that. I would do this by making sure that town halls are held at least once a month and attended by several council members. I would also have feedback forms so students can submit feedback or suggestions anonymously. I would also make an effort to talk to students in the Students’ Union Building (SUB) and see what problems they’re facing and hear what they think the SU can be doing better.

Pasay: My number one priority is the cost-of-living for students. Between tuition, rent, and food prices, being a student right now is becoming increasingly unaffordable. It is a pillar of my campaign to ease the lives of students, and it is my number one priority to advocate for initiatives that will reduce these extreme costs of living. If elected, I will bring forward initiatives to help students find more affordable housing closer to campus, lower and freeze extreme tuition costs, and support programs such as deals with local businesses and the CFB, to try to make groceries more affordable and food more accessible to my fellow students.

Engineering (two seats)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Michael Chang
  • Madiha Maroof
  • Hasseen Yaqub

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Madiha Maroof was unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Why are you running for this position?

Michael Chang: I’m currently running to ensure that engineering students’ voices are heard and issues are addressed in policies including academic, tuition, and experiential learning. Through students attending social events and discussion with our board of directors and the student body, there are many concerns that students have and my goal is to represent all these concerns and to get them heard and discussed at council. I’d also serve to be the bridge and gateway of communication between the SU and engineering students.

Hasseen Yaqub: I am running for this position to make a tangible impact on our student community. I believe that every student deserves to have their voice heard, and I want to be that bridge between the student body and the university administration. My goal is to foster a more inclusive, supportive, and dynamic campus environment where every student can thrive.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a SU councillor?

Chang: Through my four years in engineering, I’ve been thoroughly involved in event planning and contributing to student life. While it might seem that social events is the furthest thing away from advocacy, I’d like to argue that it isn’t. Through my vice-president position with the Engineering Students’ Society (ESS), I’ve built multiple connections and relations with the faculty while raising awareness on various issues impacting the student body. I’ve also consulted the various engineering clubs and student body to learn more about the struggles that students face outside of academics and tailored events that the ESS has hosted towards fulfilling the gaps that students might have. These included networking events through various mixers, problem solving through escape rooms and design challenges (during GEER Week), and even presenting skills through debate and one-line horror stories. 

Yaqub: In the past, I’ve held leadership roles in various student organizations, where I successfully organized events, spearheaded campaigns for charity, and advocated for initiatives. These experiences have equipped me with the skills necessary to effectively collaborate with others, navigate administrative channels, and champion student needs and concerns. My ability to listen, understand diverse perspectives, and act decisively will be invaluable in serving as an SU councillor.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Chang: My platform focuses on raising awareness on key issues such as accessibility, transparency, rebuilding a sense of belonging to the community, and increasing engineering student engagement on campus. Through the events that I’ve hosted as part of the ESS this past year, it’s been tough to get students out to different events to connect them with colleagues and to have students learn various skills that go beyond the classroom. It is important to note that with rising tuition costs and inflation, students are more focused on their grades and finishing school earlier instead of getting involved with extra-curriculars and building other important skills. Therefore, my goal is to increase both the feeling of belonging to the engineering community, and student engagement on campus without having students needing to sacrifice their grades and personal life to achieve this.

Yaqub: My platform is centered around two core pillars: enhancing student well-being, and improving academic support. I plan to introduce initiatives that create more spaces for cultural exchange and dialogue, and advocate for flexible learning options. By focusing on these areas, I aim to create a more supportive and enriching university experience for all students.

What would your number one priority be as a SU councillor?

Chang: My number one priority as SU councillor is to keep students informed about updates to various policies and changes that could impact students. Engineering students are very focused on their studies and it’s important to ensure that any major changes to policies that the SU does can be digested easily. While Canada is in preparation for the 2025 election year, it is important to start bringing up advocacy concerns that impact engineering students now. 

Yaqub: My number one priority as an SU councillor would be to meet the needs of students on campus. I will ensure that students not only succeed academically but also thrive personally and socially during their time at the university.

Faculté Saint-Jean (one seat)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Joachim Bony

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Joachim Bony was unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Nursing (one seat)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Precious Majekodunmi

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Precious Majekodunmi was unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Science (three seats)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Angelina Botros

Why are you running for this position?

Angelina Botros: I am running because I feel that sometimes, students can view the science faculty as being a bit disembodied. Although independence is critical for furthering one’s career, the sciences are unique in that every bit of research is followed by massive amounts of peer review, seminars, and conventions to have others contribute to your efforts. Science, in and of itself, is a team effort and is very reliant on your network within the community. My goal is to help those who are pursuing sciences to get their foot in the door and to push this view of ‘everyone for themselves’ out of this narrative.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a SU councillor?

Botros: I am currently serving as a science representative on the General Faculties Council (GFC), in which I am entrusted to represent the science student population in terms of academic and student affairs of the university community. Within GFC, I am also serving on the University Teaching Awards Council, where I sit and adjudicate the grants and awards for professors in terms of incorporating Indigeneity, student excellence, and student learning and engagement within their classrooms. I am also involved in student advocacy in the SU network. I sit on the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, which provides me with the opportunity to contribute to the university’s strategic plan redesign. My role is to ensure that the new strategic plan for the next five years is grounded in the needs and aspirations of the student body. I do this by surveying the student population via tabling, SU Perks surveys, and directly interacting with students.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Botros: My platform is primarily based on a few main focuses: portals for internal and external opportunities in summer research; advocacy of equity, diversity, and inclusion; a push for more faculty-wide events; and expansion of the OneCard access initiative.

What would your number one priority be as a SU councillor?

Botros: My number one priority is to bring a sense of unity and trust to our science faculty. By bringing transparency and attentiveness to student concerns, I hope to foster engagement and a sense of confidence among students. Not only faculty-wise, but also in their representation to the SU council.

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

Dylana Twittey

Dylana Twittey is the 2023-24 News Editor. She is a second-year student studying history. In her free time, she enjoys watching 90s Law and Order, cooking, and rereading her favourite books for the fifth time.

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