Sunday, January 14, 2007

An Interview with Sophia Haque

AMS VP Finance Sophia Haque

Throughout this schoolyear I've communicated with Sophia Haque (VP Finance) on a weekly basis, which was convenient as her office is located right across from mine. It was a pleasure to once again sit down with her and chat about her term in office.

SH: I feel like it was just yesterday that I was doing this whole campaigning business and here you are asking me to reflect on my year.

GE: What skills that you had did you find most valuable in your
capacity as VPF?

SH: Knowing how to deal with people/conflict management. A lot of the students the VPF deals with are students angry over student fees, frozen accounts, or a budget that hasn't been approved. This may seem minor but these students are amongst the most active students on campus and it's important that the interactions they have with "the AMS" don't perpetuate the belief that the AMS is a slow, bureaucratic organization that's out to slow them down.

GE: What skills did you wish you'd had, in order to be a better VPF?

SH: More/better organized. I'm pretty anal retentive but it's the end of my term and I still haven't figured out what would be the best way to organize all the information. Having a better understanding of university issues (particularly those surrounding development) at the beginning of my term would have been very useful to aide in my role as an executive as well.

GE: What was the biggest challenge you faced as VPF?

SH: Very related to the comment above. There are the specific duties and responsibilities that come with the position but, as VPF, you’re also a member of the executive team and council so it’s important to stay informed about campus/university issues. Coming into the position I had to play catch up to come up to speed about some of the key issues in, for example, the VP External and VP Academic’s portfolios which I felt were important to understand in order to do my job more effectively.

GE: What would you identify as the biggest issue for an incoming VPF?

SH: A potential fee referendum. Athletics is looking to hold an October referendum and the AMS will need to look at the trade-offs created by running an Athletics fee referendum that will, in the eyes of students, increase the amount of money that the AMS collects from students.

Also, there’s still lots of work to do on continuing to make AMS financial systems and businesses more efficient/relevant.

GE: What advice would you give the incoming VPF?

SH: Your year is going to go by really fast so be sure to set priorities and timelines to separate your short term goals (those achievable during your term) from the long term ones (those that will require the support of future VPFs to implement). Having this distinction clear in your mind will help you keep your focus (and sanity) throughout your term. And, have fun –you’re in for a very exciting year.

GE: What did you learn from your experience?

SH: So much. Everything from internal business and financial operations to how to most effectively work and deal with the university. I’m definitely coming out of this year with a deeper understanding of how the AMS does what it does, and why the AMS hasn’t been doing what many feel it should be doing. At the end of the day, the AMS is a large organization that is often constrained by by-laws and issues of turnover when it wants to make changes. But, while this change takes time, it’s not impossible. Small changes (such as making financial procedures easier for clubs, introducing debit cards at AMS Businesses) have a large impact on students lives. It’s important to not discount the small changes that we have the capacity of making while working towards the larger changes.