In March, Gurvir Gill was elected to student union presidency with 58.5 per cent of the vote. “G,” as he’s known around campus, had gained popularity as a work study for student engagement and a student ambassador for UFV. Through those roles, he’s developed a passion for the university’s community.
When G first came to UFV, like most new students, he didn’t know much about the campus or campus life. But through volunteering with UFV International, Athletics, and working as a dorm resident assistant, G became embedded in the UFV culture. Now as president, G plans to work towards building further into campus culture, creating more programming, and focusing on the student experience.
He’s a fourth-year student in the business program — this year he’s making students his business.
How do you feel about presidency?
I feel pretty good about it, now that I’m here. The transition stuff is always interesting, that includes learning everything new which happens every day. I’m excited — that’s the coolest feeling. People are constantly asking me, “Hey, you feeling stressed yet?” No, I’m feeling excited. This is an opportunity to grow my personal skills as well as to do something really good.
People generally have been supportive so far?
Yup, everyone has been supportive, everyone’s excited. And I think, again, there’s a big changeover with the university; departments are changing up, new people are coming in. This is that transition period for a bunch of places. Everyone I talk to is excited to see what 2017/18 is going to hold for us
In this term, is there anything major that you want to work on?
A couple major things — but my one biggest thing starting out is the [student union] building itself. It may not be a massive change but I want to make sure that everything is up and running. So that would include our services are up and our centres are operating. I’m kind of just wanting to tick off the building so we can look at bigger projects and things like that throughout the campus. Sometimes there are empty spaces or there’s a space that maybe we can utilize in a different way to better impact students. So my biggest thing that I’m hoping to finish by the end of 2017 at least would be getting the building checked off. But long-term I’d love to implement more programming with the student community.
So you’ll be listening to students; will you hear what they want?
Yeah, at the end of the day I feel like it’s really important to get the students’ voice and opinions. Because I’m elected in, myself and my team, we’re elected in to represent the thousands of students we have. Sometimes we’ve got to make decisions based on how we impact the greater good and the many. As an example, my biggest thing when I’m doing a task is asking, “How can I cater to everyone’s needs?” I want to see smiles across the board. That’s the best way and the way I want to approach every situation, asking myself, “Hey, what can I do to benefit the majority of students?”
Do you have two or three or five other major goals or set things you want to do?
I guess for major goals, definitely one big thing in my platform was getting more of a culture going. So one thing we’re looking at once we get up and running for next year is orientation. We’re planning on doing a revamp with welcome weeks and doing something with the orientation itself. We’ll definitely see if we can partner with a different department on campus or do our own thing for orientation. I think it’s important because it’s really our kickoff for the year and for new students. So that’s really important.
Another thing would be doing a leadership program or conference. I think those soft skills are really important to learn and develop; because it’s long-term, right? Students are here in the classroom for a couple of years, so it’s like, how can we give them a few things that they can use day to day or at their workplaces, whether off-campus or on-campus. How can we really develop students more personally?
So those would really be my two big things to focus on in order to create a culture. Breaking it down into a leadership aspect as well as an orientation aspect. Things will be come up but again, it’s still early, when I have my first executive meeting with the VPs, it’s going to be focused on, “How do we entice all of our goals together to see if we can do our best to meet all of our individual objectives?”
How will you think about student involvement?
Student involvement, I think is a huge, important thing — it’s a really big thing on campus. Because if students aren’t involved, I feel like they may not be getting the max experience. For some students they may just not be able to if they’re commuters and coming from a long ways or if they’re crazy busy with classes — we totally get it. But through our programming process, it’s about how we can get more students involved, or just engaged. Whether it be that they’re volunteering with us, that’s awesome; if they’re not, if they’re attending events that’s cool too. Everyone’s then at least gaining the experience that we can offer.
But involvement is huge, I encourage more and more students to get involved, either with SUS or any other organizations we have here on campus.
I think it would be fair to say that SUS has been seen negatively by some students in the past, what are you going to do to change that?
I think the one big thing I want to focus on is just being out there and outgoing for students, and being open to students. I know everyone has their own personal opinions. When I was a first-year student I didn’t really know a lot about SUS, so now that I’ve slowly been working my way through campus and being involved, it’s kind of just building positive relationships with students, again tailoring to student needs. That’s the best thing we want to do. I feel like if we can give them awesome programming and awesome events and give them a great year, that will really shape their decision on whether they like us or not.
You know, some students just may not be into politics, that’s totally cool for them, I never thought I would be. I mean, you can’t change everyone’s mindset but hey, if they’re still able to come out to an event and have a good time, they don’t have to like us but I hope they’re still able to get their student experience. That’s what it is at the end of the day for me.
What should students expect from you?
Students should expect good vibes and positive energy. That’s a big thing I want to bring to the table. I’m tailoring my classes to be more available on campus, so for the summer I’m taking evening classes so I’ll be free all day and here on campus. One big thing I’m pushing to do is having set office hours, and cycling them. So I’ll do my best to have office hours say, on Friday for a month. Then changing that up so other students will have opportunities on Tuesdays for a month or a couple of weeks. I really think it’s important for students to come on in and voice their opinions. I want them to know SUS has open doors. We’re here to help you, we’re here to represent you.
As well, being a commuter campus, I want to create that home away from home feeling. Especially for me, I’m a student that’s not from the area, I came here and it was totally a new environment for me, so I needed to find my home away from home and I did that with the university. I want students to be able to feel that too. So one big thing I want to let students know is I’m going to be here for them, in all ways I’ll do whatever’s possible. Whether it be walking around campus, or open doors in the office, or letting students know, “Hey G’s here, let’s grab a coffee,” or we’ll sit and talk. If you want me to wait in line with you, call me over, I’ll do it. I feel like that’s the other part of the job — I’m here to represent students and in order to represent them I need to know my students. A big thing is getting to know more of them.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.