Friday, January 23, 2009

More interviews: David Nogas, Tim Chu & Sonia Purewal

More candidates for various positions have gotten back to me with their interview responses. For your reading pleasure, here they are!

David Nogas

1.) If you had to choose one thing from your platform that you would work on, which would it be and why?

First year education reform. There's a lot of things that can be done, the university realises there are fixable problems, lots of great new ideas floating around(that work great in other uni's) and the AMS can help. You have to make sure first years(especially commuters) are aware of the opportunities here and make information available and meaningful.

Specific academic things that can be done are organising speakers to talk to undergraduates(with a recommendation system and social aspect), giving non academic credit as incentives for UBC supervised leadership and participation, reforming worthless tutorials, introducing the P/F system to eliminate the discouragement of broadening horizons by potentially bad grades, video podcasting lectures, etc. Its critical to show them what they are working for, making them aware all the cool and interesting things being done in upper year classes so they don't get too discouraged by a boring or bland first experience, thinking thats all there is to the field. There's nothing sadder than hearing a friend say "I would of loved to be in cognitive systems if I knew it existed"

You got to get these kids early, the cigarette companies know it, the drug dealers know it, and now you know it too. Once they see the possibilities and are interested in learning and getting involved good things happen, no sense it opening their eyes when they are out the door

2.) How would you describe your leadership style?

Lofty and King-like. The job is all about delegation and communication, you have to tap qualified and motivated people and trust them enough so you don't have to micromanage their responsibilities, they'll do a better job for it. People will impress you if you give them time, as long as they want to impress you.

I believe in workarounds, the visible result is all that matters, not how you get there. The best ideas can come at the oddest hours, sometimes more progress can be made when sharing beers and stories than when sharing documents and soundbytes at meetings.

When talking to people who have different int rests than myself, its important to keep that in mind. In a negotiation you always need to look at the big picture. You can't make concessions that are detrimental to students unless they are absolutely necessary to gain value, and its ok to pause _everything_ while you figure it out.

Everyone deserves to be treated like fellow human beings,
Nobody likes fancy titles thrown in their face.

Finally, the presumption of knowledge is dangerous. If you assume you know everything you will be less receptive to reality and will make more mistakes

Oh, and I don't mind a bit of disorganization, the wiggle room makes things run more smoothly

3.) If you had to select another candidate, other than yourself, for your position, who would you select and why?

Tough question. I can't give you a reason that will make you'd want to pick them over me, backhanded compliments are lame, and I can't just slander them and ignore your question

Honestly theres no one to get excited about in this race
Jeremy - Passionate but uninformed
Sonia - Informed but ineffective
Johannas - Motivated but seems to care about himself more than others

I think Johannas or Sonia would do fine, but candidates next year will be talking about the exact same things. Johannas would prop ably do the best job with academics, but I wouldn't trust him to make the right descions on campus development.

Sonia as a caretaker, Johannas has more upside but more risk

4.) What experience have you had leading a team?

Nothing too impressive. When I was in high school I led kids in a stewardship program for the Vancouver Aquarium(making sure they didn't wander off), when I got my blackbelt I mentored the lower levels. With friends, I'm usually the person who gets the group organised to go to a movie or skiing

People were pretty lucky to have me in their lab group for most classes. I've been working in labs as a research assistant since my second year so I have alot of experience, many of the experiments that were completely new to most people I've done a hundred times. My groups were usually consistently the first to finish.

5.) How are you different from the other candidates running for your position?

I think the difference is personality and skill. I like talking with people, coming up with schemes, and have a good sense when people want something from me. You have to see opportunities and I think I have better vision. I see how things could work

One difference between me and and Sonia is that she works harder than I do. Johannas is living in the future, planning how he'll get there.

6.) What would you say is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now?

It will be the Olympics soon, but that's a short term thing that will pass(hopefully smoothly)

The SUB renewal project is the issue I can act on that will have the greatest effect on students. If its done competently, it could be the best part of the university for generations. Badly designed it could be an albatross hanging on our necks for the next 30 years. (I'm on the SUB renewal committee)

Thinking more holistically, the single most important issue is the changing role of university in society. The ground is moving underneath our feet. A degree doesn't mean the same thing as it did 20 years ago. Jobs that require a high school diploma now require a university degree, jobs that required a university now require a Masters. Its a discussion we need to have with the people in charge and with the people who will be affected. People are uncertain about what they are going to do when they graduate, what they got out of their years here

7.) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Too many to pick from, I love the whole world - all its sights and sounds

Recreating Project Excelsior would be something else, a 4 minute freefall over a gorgeous part of the world

If you don't mind a bit(lot) of cheating, if I could go anywhere in the world it would be the 1995 London office of Alastair Fothergill along with the rest of the "Blue planet" crew to celebrate the beginning of shooting.

I always wanted to go backpacking in untamed Africa.

Tim Chu

If you had to choose one thing from your platform that you would work on, which would it be and why?

First of all, I intend acting on every single issue that is on my platform, not just one. Having said that, I think one priority I feel very passionate about is the issue of AMS representation. Women and ethnic minorities are grossly underrepresented. It is not acceptable that at a university where more women graduate annually than men, less than 25% of council is female. Yet paid student services positions are overwhelmingly composed of females. The fact that AMS Council is not truly representative of the student body is very frustrating and pressing because those groups who are underrepresented, their interests are often overlooked in AMS Council. I want to not only examine the reasons why this is the case but work with campus clubs, resource groups, and Council to ensure that VP Externals don’t have to worry about this issue. By making AMS Council truly representative, we would shift the direction of the AMS towards the way that students actually want. And I intend on doing so.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Very inclusive. I believe in including all the stakeholders before making a decision. For far too long, the AMS have always neglected certain groups on campus. I also believe in listening and addressing the concerns of the various groups on campus. However, I am also very realistic. I understand that not everyone’s concerns and needs can be met but certainly the AMS can.

In my work with the AMS and the AUS many leadership opportunities have come up, and my colleagues all agree that I am a capable leader who knows how to combine inclusivity with effectiveness.

If you had to select another candidate, other than yourself, for your position, who would you select and why?

Fire! In order to survive in the AMS, you need to have a fiery passion for the job. The AMS can be very tedious and frustrating. I certainly have the fiery passion, I think Fire as well.

What experience have you had leading a team?
The experiences I had in leading a team include when I was an AUS councillor. When organizing FrAUSh, I was responsible for coordinating and leading the volunteers. Furthermore, I was the Assistant to the Academic Coordinator of the AUS. However, during the period between the resignation of the Academic Coordinator and the appointment of a new Academic Coordinator, I had to step up to the plate and lead the Academic Committee to do various tasks, including the planning of the Performing Arts Showcase.

How are you different from the other candidates running for your position?

There are two major distinctions between me and other candidates running for my position.

The first is that I am very serious about this position. I understand that students turn to the AMS when they need help and I understand that this position entails a fair amount of pressure to perform. I am very serious about this position.

The second is experience. Of all the candidates running for VP-External, I have the most experience to do the job. I have been involved with the AMS and I understand how it works. And I work well with the staff and other councillors. I sat on a total of five committees of the AMS, two of which were the External Lobbying Committee and the Equity Committee chaired by the VP-External. Furthermore, I worked for the AMS in the External Lobbying Committee and led the AMS through two elections, a municipal and a federal election. I know what techniques work and what methods don’t. A provincial election is coming up and my experience is essential. That is what makes me distinct from other candidates. Furthermore, to truly work to change the status quo you must know and understand what the status quo is, and why it is flawed. I know and understand the problems facing the AMS because I have been actively involved in the AMS. I am the right person for the job because I understand how to go about making the necessary changes.

What would you say is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now?
The upfront cost of education is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now. Students are struggling with the cost-of-loving, are burdened with the increasing tuition fees and are faced with rising student debt. This is the single most important issue concerning UBC students and I want to work with students and the government to address this concern.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to the centre of the earth. ‘Cause if I start digging a tunnel to China, well, I’d already be halfway there right?

Sonia Purewal

1.) If you had to choose one thing from your platform that you would work on, which would it be and why?

I would work to consolidate the academic services offered by the AMS, AMS constituencies and UBC so that students know exactly what is offered and how to access them. I want assess the quality of these resources, rank them in terms of usefulness by faculty, year and major and create a webpage that would allow students to do a custom search so that they only get services that would be most useful/applicable to them. I feel that many services are accessed by a small subset of students and many do not even know that they exist. So I would heavily publicize these services and ensure students can easily access them to improve their academics at UBC. I would choose to focus on this because this is an area of the portfolio I have complete control over. Achieving this goal doesn’t depend on lobbying the University but rather on whether I decide to dedicate myself and thus any failure to implement changes would be on me. I want to take action and see tangible changes that are going to effect current students. Too much time is spent creating policy and writing reports, its time to implement those policies.

2.) How would you describe your leadership style?

I love working with others to solve problems. I like facilitating discussion and allowing individuals to take initiative and pursuing issues they are passionate about when possible with oversight. I am ultimately responsible so I ensure key tasks are completed on time with a set date for deliverables to ensure that work is done and we are on track to completing whatever it is that we are working on. I find individuals do there best work when they have ownership and know that they have a responsibility and obligation to ensure that what needs to be done, is done. I am not controlling in nature and recognize that I am not an expert in all areas. So I find it extremely important to recognize the skill and knowledge of those who work with me and thus encourage collaboration. But most of all, I am reasonable and realistic and respect those around me which creates an excellent working environment which is the first step in accomplishing anything.

3.) If you had to select another candidate, other than yourself, for your position, who would you select and why?

I would choose Jeremy Wood. With respect to the other candidates, he is most genuine and that is an important quality if AMS executives are going to connect to the student body. There is no question that he cares about issues with respect to sustainability and the Farm and if that passion extends to the rest of the portfolio, tangible change can happen.

4.) What experience have you had leading a team?

This is what I do. I began my involvement as Philanthropy Chair of Phrateres UBC. I was responsible for the coordination and organization of the Terry Fox Run for the UBC Community along with a multitude of charity events. That required effective communication and organizational skills. I was a SUS councilor and executive. As Director of Sports, I coordinated and managed 13 intramural Rec teams involving over 150 students, created a series of activity workshops to get students active and engaged in a healthy lifestyle and organized events such as Science Olympics. I am also a Computer Science Student Society Executive. I work to engage Computer Science students and create a network that provides them with the support to get through a strenuous program. I have been involved in Imagine and Gala…

5.) How are you different from the other candidates running for your position?

I am the only candidate with any AMS experience as a counselor. In order to be an effective VP Academic and University Affairs, you need to know the structure of the AMS and how it works. You need to know what’s broken and what the AMS is doing well in order to accomplish anything tangible. There is a process in implementing change within the institution of the AMS and the university and that has not been addressed. I have noticed how easily experience has been dismissed in the VP Academic race as the other three candidates have none. Citing experience within an AMS constituency or advocacy group is not good enough. I have been involved at the constituency level and the process in getting anything done and the politics are vastly different. If the other candidates were elected, they would spend more time learning how to do the job than actually doing it whereas I could hit the ground running. This is really important when you only have a short amount of time in office to accomplish anything.

Furthermore, the other candidates have great ideas, but many are unrealistic or infeasible as they require massive amounts of funding which is not available. They expect the provincial government to contribute but this is unrealistic as the provincial government has just cut funding and any funding received will need to go towards areas that lost that funding in the first place. They offer no short term solutions to address current needs of students.

Finally, I genuinely care about this position and have no other reason for pursuing this opportunity but to improve the student experience because I feel cheated that I did not have the experience I expected. No one would put more of themselves into this job to make things happen. When I reflect on my time in student government, I want to be able to say that I made a real difference and took action rather than draft policy and write reports. I understand the role and responsibility of the VP Academic and University Affairs and will not make empty promises and say I will do something that I know I can not accomplish. I refuse to use buzzwords and issue sound bytes. I am not good at spewing rhetoric. I try to honestly address answers and I hope the electorate can see that. I may not always be eloquent but it’s the truth. It would be easy to speak in generalities and simply say I will support and lobby the university to put student interests first but these are empty statements. It’s more important to address how this will be done and the approach that will be taken. I hope the electorate will recognize that

6.) What would you say is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now?

I would say that it is the disconnect between the students and the university campus and the AMS. Many students are being cheated out of an amazing university experience us because there is very limited communication. The onus is currently on students to find out what’s happening. Although, it’s important for students to take initiative in this regards we need to make an effort to inform them. Students need to recognize who they are being represented by and what issues are being addressed. Once this happens, students will see the positive work the AMS is pursuing will want to be involved or at least informed of the continuing efforts and utilize the services and resources the AMS provides.

7.) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why

I would want to go to France. It’s a beautiful country with a rich history and unique culture that I would love to experience.

Stay tuned for more!