During your educational journey here, you may need to juggle very demanding course loads on top of other responsibilities. But you have support: the Student Council at the BCIT Student Association (BCITSA or SA) strives to advocate for you—a dedication that shines through clearly in all the work they do to enhance student life in this community.
To learn more about what Council is like, I chat with Yael Zachs, Executive Director at the SA, to put into perspective the work that these student leaders take on.
What do Council members do?
The Council consists of 12 elected Executive Board members and 30 Councillors who are selected by Executives, all students involved in governing and strategizing the goals of the SA. As Yael says: “Each position plays a very different role, but they’re all extremely important—we can’t do [what we do] without every person on the board.”
The Executive Board (voted in by students during the annual election period) consists of various roles:
- President (head representative of the SA) leads Council, chairs both Council and Executive meetings, and sits on the BCIT Board of Governors
- VP Finance & Administration chairs both the Bylaw and Finance Committees, overseeing financial matters of the SA such as health and dental fees
- VP External chairs the Advocacy and Policy Committee, responsible for external affairs as well as public relations
- VP Student Experience chairs both the Clubs and Selection Committees, overseeing student concerns and enriching student life
- VP Equity & Sustainability chairs the Equity and Sustainability Committee, ensuring fair treatment, inclusivity, and equal accessibility for all students
- Chairs lead Set Rep meetings and address issues pertaining to the areas they respectively represent: School of Business + Media; School of Health Sciences; School of Energy; Schools of Transportation, Construction & Environment; School of Computing & Academic Studies; Downtown Campus, or Specialized Transport Campuses
All Executives are also responsible for overseeing the operations of the SA: they approve the annual budget, sanction clubs, and review external or student life policies.
On the other hand, Councillors are appointed by Executives and serve as a direct link between students and Student Council, gathering questions and concerns that arise from their respective schools or campuses, and then flagging them for discussion during Council meetings.
“There’s always lots of opportunities during Council meetings for Councillors to bring forward issues or questions that they’re hearing from students,” Yael explains, highlighting the collaborative nature of Council.
“Sometimes this leads to conversations and resolutions within the group [as they] share ideas with each other, or it creates a process for [us] to explore further and come back with more information and answers they can take back to students. It’s a really great conduit of information between students and our executive team.”
What kinds of initiatives do executives take on?
Each Executive has role-specific initiatives, which are goals they set for themselves to tackle during their one-year term. Some examples current members have worked on include:
- Remodelling and opening a new Student Patio, with a vegetable garden that supplements the BCITSA Food Pantry (Liam Lauren, President)
- Setting up a tax clinic for students with BCITSA Wellness (Mia Bui, VP Finance & Administration)
- Retaining $1.8 billion of Canada Student Grant funding (Nolan Nordwall, VP External)
- Organizing BCITSA’s first annual Winter Fest (Tanya Fuchs, VP Student Experience)
- Liaising with BCIT Respect, Diversity, and Inclusion to bridge gaps and issues surrounding accessibility (Amanda MacKearney, VP Equity & Sustainability)
- Passing a motion to ensure better representation of Specialty campuses (Cody Pallin and Theo Robson, Chairs)
Certain initiatives can be difficult to accomplish within the allotted timeframe, so Executives are often encouraged to work together. For additional guidance, resources, or input, they can also connect with designated mentors (in the mentorship program), BCIT stakeholders, and SA staff on teams spanning marketing, business systems, finance, and more.
With all these initiatives and other contributions, it’s clear that students in Council—and all those involved in leadership—are hardworking and passionate people who consistently demonstrate personal growth. It’s something Yael can attest to, having collaborated closely with these students every year:
“One of the most rewarding experiences for me has been seeing Executives and Councillors evolve and grow in their role. I see a huge change in the students from the beginning of their term to the end. [And] by the time they complete their term, I’ve seen students increase their confidence, develop leadership skills, and truly make a significant impact on the experience of all students at BCIT.”
“I’m always so impressed by the students I work with,” she continues, smiling. “They always find the time to be there for their peers, and it’s really rewarding to see the passion and just how much these students care.”
How to get involved
All BCIT students, including you, are members of the SA, meaning that you have a say in how the organization uses your fees to support you and other students. To voice that say, get involved in the work that Council does. You can try:
- Joining the Executive Board
If you’re interested in taking on a leadership role, consider running for the Executive Board or starting out as a Set Rep or Councillor. These are all great ways to step out of your comfort zone, strengthen your skillsets, make new friends, get the most out of your BCIT experience—and, of course, advocate for your peers.
“Being a part of the Executive Board and Council is a very rewarding experience,” says Yael. “I really encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved to reach out to myself, the Executives, or any of the current members of Council to learn more.”
- Checking out a Council meeting
All BCIT students are welcome to join Council meetings, which occur on alternating Mondays from September to May in a hybrid format: you can participate in person or through Microsoft Teams. To request a link to an upcoming meeting, contact Minnu Bennichan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Voting in the elections
Take some time during the election period to learn about those running for the Executive positions, such as what their objectives are and how they will best represent students’ voices, then place your vote.
As Yael puts it, “[The SA] can’t exist without our student government, so [while] it’s important that students take on these positions, it’s equally important to vote and to be informed about who the candidates are.”
You will receive a link to the voting poll in your myBCIT email by March 24. When you do, click through to indicate which candidates you would like to support for each of the chairs, VPs, and for the role of president.
No matter how you choose to get involved, remember that Student Council members—as well as the rest of the SA—are always here to listen to your opinions and concerns. As you continue through your journey at BCIT, you have the power to voice the changes you want to see happen, happen.