Members of the 2018-2019 student council reflect on their experiences serving as leaders of the BCIT Student Association.
An executive position at the BCIT Student Association comes with a number of perks. These include, but are not limited to: a monthly honorarium, an office, free part-time courses, invitations to special events, as well as discounts at BCITSA stores, at the Habitat pub, and on parking! Yet, these are mere added bonuses to a rewarding leadership role.
As a BCITSA student executive, you act as an emissary for a collective of students’ interests. This means you get to have a hand in getting changes made. Representing the rights of students across BCIT can be a lot to juggle, but the current BCITSA council members can attest that it’s all worthwhile.
The council members of the 2018-2019 school year come from many walks of life, but together, they contribute to a thriving ecosystem of student collaboration. We’ve interviewed some of the BCITSA’s board members to find out more about their successes and challenges, their hopes for BCIT students, and what it takes to take on an executive position at the BCITSA council. If you’re thinking of filling out a nomination package later this year, the current slate of council members are happy to lend their wisdom.
Timothy David – BCITSA PRESIDENT
Timothy David says he has a strange dynamic with leadership. As BCITSA President, his job heavily involves building team relationships, but ironically, he feels that the role can be isolating at times.
“[Being president] definitely strengthens your character, but it’s a heavy weight,” says Tim. The BCIT student body relies on him not only to head a multimillion-dollar student association, but also to represent their rights.
Before he assumed the presidential seat, Tim served as the BCITSA’s VP of External Affairs for two years. This allowed him to make some first-hand observations of how his predecessors, Matthew May and Sergei Bukharov, ran the show. “I got to see a different kind of leadership from both of them. From seeing that, I really wanted to seek out my own form of leadership.”
In his time at BCITSA, Tim helped pass significant initiatives, including enacting BCIT’s online counselling services, as well as launching the IxL Conference—a TED Talk-esque event where speakers share their innovative ideas. The point of IxL, according to Tim, is to get students to think about their education more broadly, beyond what they’re taught in textbooks. IxL focuses on how to build networks by developing power skills—social and personal attributes that enable effective impact and communication with others. “You can make an impact in your own way and I strongly believe that if you want to do that, you need to be surrounded by people who are also passionate about impact.”
Tim strongly recommends anyone to run for the role of president. He says the job comes down to possessing relationship management skills. “You’re creating an environment where people can grow, and creating a safe environment where all suggestions are accepted—that’s really your role as president.”
Pre-BCIT, Tim was a collections and lending manager at Scotiabank, but he recalls that stepping up to be the BCITSA president was a different beast. He says this role can teach self-confidence, time management, and humility.
“Coming from a background of privilege,” he reflects. “Or even coming from a corporate background where you’ve been told ‘yes’ all the time, this role has taught me that there are things bigger than yourself.”
More than any of his contributions as president, Tim says that his greatest accomplishment was his team. “It’s fulfilling in the ways that you get to shape a team in the direction that you want. And not only that, you get to be able to support people, and to help them build themselves to get to where they want to be.” For him, whether it’s juggling heavy-handed decisions, presiding over executive meetings, or dealing with all kinds of hot-button issues surrounding BCIT, part of being a successful SA president is to find accomplishment in being part of successes beyond your own.
Henry Vo – VP of Finance & Administration
Henry Vo says “The learning curve is pretty high when you first begin.” Now a second-year financial planning student, Vo says his term at the SA has been “an amazing experience.” “You’re actually working at a real company with real numbers.” He was able to gain experience in handling budgets, producing monthly financial reports, and making sure the funds are distributed evenly. He also has a crucial role in supporting his team. On top of arranging executive and council meetings, Henry also acts as the go-to guy if any of his colleagues have questions about finance.
Henry took part in BCITSA initiatives such as opening a student association investment account and arranging for a barber to cut hair on campus.
“You have to be very organized,” he advises. “You have to know what you want to do and what you need to do.” For Henry, what it takes to be the VP of Finance is having a vision and not being afraid to ask questions. He commends the BCITSA council for motivating him. In describing his dynamic with the board, he echoes an old adage—“Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Sasha Voznyuk – Chair: School of Health Sciences
Sasha Voznyuk represents around 1,200 health science students at the BCITSA. Sasha gathers students’ insights and brings them forth to the many meetings and committees she participates in, one of which is the committee that oversees the construction of the Health Sciences Centre for Advanced Simulation (HSCAS).
“I’ve also been involved in several committees tailored towards health and wellness towards students,” cites Sasha. Currently, she is working on launching a new PR wellness program at BCIT.
As part of her role in the BCITSA, she also attends executive and council meetings. She gets to collaborate with students from other faculties like business, computer science, and engineering. Sasha says her busy schedule as a nursing student does not give her as much opportunity to work with the others, but she is grateful for every chance to interact with students outside of health sciences.
“Getting to know them and finding people outside my social circle has been very rewarding,” she describes. “I learn a lot from their leadership style.”
Justin Cervantes – Chair: School of Computing & Academic Studies
When Justin Cervantes began with the BCITSA, he set out to solve problems that plenty of students accepted as normal. As the tech industry continues to grow, intermediate-level workers are more in-demand, and this poses a huge hurdle for students looking to secure positions after graduation.
To address this, Justin presented a business proposal to the CIO of BCIT. He requested that they implement summer internships where students could obtain high-level industry experience. “When you’re in this position, you’re able to speak with people like the CIO,” asserts Justin. “They’re able to open their doors a little more favourably.”
Another concern he undertook was supporting women entering STEM fields. “The great opportunity for me and the exciting part is when I get to have these challenging discussions.”
Addressing the job market, ensuring safe spaces for women in STEM, and representing his faculty at the BCITSA is a juggling act. Justin advises that time-management is key, and that accepting this role involves plenty of sacrifice.
Chris Samra – Chair: School of Transportation, Construction, & the Environment
Chris Samra’s main goal at the BCITSA was to increase sustainability. Some of his initiatives include installing more charging stations for electric cars and implementing courses in passive design, where students can learn to design buildings that produce as much energy as they are consuming.
Chris’s role requires him to advocate for students’ rights. He says the most common grievance has to do with strained student-instructor dynamics. These ordeals are not unique to trades students, but as their representative, Chris makes sure that their voices are heard. “There is room for improvement (among instructors), but word still has to get to that professor on how to improve.”
In order to successfully tackle his role in the student association, Chris stresses time management and efficiency. He does not hold back when he describes his role as a tough balancing act, but it can also be rewarding.
“My biggest complaint going through school was that I didn’t have a voice,” says Chris. “This position helped me get changes made.” This is what made him run in the first place.