Meet the candidates
With the SAITSA elections getting into high gear, 19 student candidates spoke at a panel on March 8, 2016, at the SAITSA run Odyssey Coffeehouse. The room was packed with over 50 audience members watching as the candidates answered questions from moderator Jennifer Dotchin, CRO for SAITSA’s Political Committee.
Vice President Student Life
Goodfellow, a second-year architectural technologies student, introduced himself as “the banana guy,” referring to the banana costume he has worn throughout his campaign. For the past two years, Goodfellow has been running a club at SAIT and has sat on the Board of Directors. “One of the issues that students here at SAIT face is not being heard, or feeling that they’re not being heard,” he said. One of his goals is to connect the student body with the Board of Directors at SAITSA through mixer events. He addressed transparency at SAIT, saying that making a connection would be a really great thing for SAITSA to do. He also wants to improve social clubs because “students need a place outside of their programs to connect with other students.” Even though SAITSA has social clubs, he said that it’s very difficult to run one, which he knows from first-hand experience. He wants to make that whole process easier and promote social club growth to break that “nine to five” mentality that SAIT is surrounded with.
Hassan is studying power and process operations and was elected joint secretary of a culture association. He is also an active member of the Canadian Lions Club. Hassan said students face a lot of stress, which hasn’t been adequately addresses. He suggested expanding SAIT’s gym facilities and working towards more events, such as musical events, to help students relieve that stress. Hassan said that it’s all about giving back to the students through more communications and free food events. “It’s about you,” he said.
Lambert, a second-year hospitality management student, named his three main objectives as respect, recreation, and responsiveness. “The biggest problem that students face at SAIT right now is the existence of problems itself,” he said. Lambert emphasized that problems can change and that’s where responsiveness comes into play. “You need to be able to figure out what’s the problem with the students at that moment, at that time, and you need to be able to fix it.” Lambert said candidates need to be able to change their platforms and to respond to the environment around them. Everyone at SAIT deserves respect for just being here at SAIT and “that’s something that needs to be honoured.” He ended with his goal of having a gender-neutral bathroom somewhere on campus.
Alysson Torres-Gillet has been on the Board of Directors for the past two years and said she would be very good in terms of event planning and interpersonal relationships with students. One issue students face is maintaining their mental health, she said. Stressors can come from all directions – financial, relationships, academically – and she thinks students need to feel supported. “SAIT does have great programs,” said Torres-Gillett, but students don’t know how to find them and they should be more accessible. She also wants to lower the prices in the SAITSA operations. Increasing a sense of community around SAIT starts with the marketing department, she said. “SAIT students don’t know what’s going on most of the time, so they don’t have that opportunity to go to events and mingle with other students and get to know them.” She also emphasized the importance of one-on-one engagement with students and talking to them individually to find more about student life.
Lorie Tran, a second-year IT student and community assistant with SAIT Residence, said she has students knocking on her door every night asking things like how to study better, how to find a job, and where to find help for depression. She emphasized the important of mental health in her campaign and wanting to help students with depression by speaking to them and finding a solution. “If I am elected, I will have more training for student clubs and how to get a sponsor [and] how to get marketing for the events,” said Tran. She also wants to see more industry nights to help connect students, as well as free food events.
Vice President External
Daniel Caine is one of the youngest candidates running for this position at 18 years old but has experience talking to many CEOs and the Alberta Government about education. One of the issues Caine wants to focus on is “representation,” and going to the satellite campuses monthly. He also wants to find out what industries want, have more industry presentations, and have job fairs where people are actually hiring. “It’s a two-way street with industry,” said Caine. He suggested having the names ASAC and CASA, two student advocacy organizations, on cups so students see it up close and personal every day. He also wants a booth setup with free donuts to get information on the two organizations.
Mike Crosby, a second-year radio student, described himself as a great communicator that’s in a program all about public speaking. While all the candidates for VP External have similar opinions on most of the issues, Crosby said this position will have to take that message to the government and make change happen, which he feels he can do as the strongest communicator. “There’s a big challenge that all students face regardless of the school they attend,” he said. “The tuition is too damn high.” He wants to go to the government and advocate for a plan similar to one introduced in Ontario that allows low-income students to only pay $500 a semester on a student loan. “One of the huge problems that we face here is general student apathy,” said Crosby. He said there’s not much we can do in terms of initiatives to make students understand the value of these lobby groups apart from going out and actually getting tangible results.
Milena Goundar, a second-year student, started off by saying how SAITSA needs to really start marketing themselves to the students. If elected VP External, she wants to market “our brand,” market the opportunities that SAITSA has, be the voice for the students, and make things that are impossible, possible. Goundar said she is more focused on being the voice for students. While campaigning, she set a booth where students could come with their concerns and she noticed that most of their concerns had been resolved but it had not been communicated to students. “Your voice is being heard and all these concerns you have are being resolved,” she said. She wants to hear all the new concerns that students have and not the ones that have been resolved but not communicated to students.
Mikayla Schaffer, a second-year legal assistant student, has experience on the Board of Directors and the External Advocacy committee where she found her love for advocacy for students. Her biggest priority is making sure students have their voices heard. Schaffer said that one of the biggest challenges that SAITSA faces is the cost of modules in the school’s large trades community. Her solution is “open educational resources,” which would be subsidized by the government and would drastically decrease education cost since students wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket. Schaffer wants students to know what ASAC and CASA have already lobbied for successfully.
Vice President Academic
Faith Courtereille, a second-year business administration student, said she’s running for this position because she wants to give back to SAIT and the experiences it has given her. She’s also an entrepreneur with a small online business and has worked with finance, customers, and finding out what it is customers need and delivering it. She plans to have a proactive role if elected, and to be an advocate for students, ensuring their voices are being heard and something is being done about it. Courtereille spent three years on the Board of Directors for an organization in Calgary called AFCC (Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary), where she had to make sure all members of the organization were adhering to the bylaws and procedures in place. “It’s important that you’re accountable, that you’re responsible, and that you’re transparent,” she said.
Alex Dimopoulos, a business student majoring in supply chain management, introduced himself while playing the Pokemon theme song. “Historically with students elections, it’s always a beauty contest,” said Dimopoulos. “Who has the best picture, who’s the hottest person. I figure that’s not the way to do it.” He is wanting better transparency with the Weal and emphasized the need to embrace our clubs and to have more awareness with SAITSA itself. With his studies focusing on implementing policies and procedures, his approach is focused on due diligence and professionalism.
Justin Samuel, a second-year business administration student, has three main objectives as part of his platform: keeping fees as low as they are, working with the rest of the team to advocate for mental health, and pushing for better access to things like resources in classrooms. “This aligns with SAITSA’s vision of improving the student experience at every opportunity,” he said. He would like to set up regular surveys and utilize platforms like the Weal and different online social media platforms to hear these ideas and collaborate them all. “I want to set up a transparent, open drop-in schedule for the SAITSA office and the VP Academic office to make sure students can actually come into it without feeling hindered,” he said.
Claudia Siller is a second-year business administration student majoring in management and former member of the Board of Directors. She is also an international student from Mexico. Siller said she wants to create and utilize easier platforms for students to voice their concerns, targeting students where they are mostly present. She wants to ensure that every SAIT student has their voice heard using a proper communication channel. With Siller’s program at SAIT, she said she has taken several courses that go hand-in-hand with ensuring proper policies and procedures. “Even in difficult situations that may arise, the smallest details can make the greatest difference,” said Siller.
Kurt Stempfle, a mechanical engineering technology student, said he got involved in running for VP Academic because he saw the need for projects that would encompass multiple programs. “There’s been a forgetfulness about what students are capable of because we sort of bog them down with homework,” said Stempfle. He wants to promote more projects that could span multiple disciplines and allow for more collaboration. He also wants to address tutoring and the lack of tutors, as well as the inability to get a tutor that really knows what’s going on. “I have zero experience,” he said. “I’m not a lawyer, I’m not an accountant, I don’t read policy manuals for fun – I’d like to think though that that would make me a better candidate because I’m not so stuck in a book that I’m actually afraid or fearful of what might happen.” He wants to be a little bit more ambitious and take on some challenges that a lot of other students are facing.
Michael Benjamin, a second-year marketing student, would like to unite the school in response to the segregation that happens between departments. He would also like to address the apathetic environment. “If we unite the school, […] we’ll have a stronger student body,” he said. Benjamin said that while, “you need to communicate well, […] you have to listen.” He wants to hear people and talk with students to be able to understand people’s needs. “Your greatest strength will be your greatest weakness if you’re just up there talking or advocating for something that isn’t relative to other people,” he said. After asking students what SAITSA does and what they want to change about it, he realized that a lot of these things are being done but students just don’t know about it. Not only does he want to communicate these things, he also wants to promote the new resources that will be available in the new SAITSA building, like a study space, sleep centre, and bigger gym.
Gar Gar, a fourth-year Bachelor of Business student, addressed the high tuition right away and what we can do about it as students. A couple of his initiatives to off-set tuition were to do a book rental with used books and to designate a carpool area in the parking lot for only $5 a day. He acknowledged the distance between students and SAIT and suggested creating a web space or app where everybody could raise their concerns. Honesty is an important aspect of becoming a leader, as well as approach and understanding that everyone is coming from a different background. He reiterated his campaign slogan, “if you want something done, Gar Gar is the one.”
Alexander Ho, a fourth-year business administration student majoring in accounting, is a current member of the Board of Directors. “SAIT doesn’t have enough reasons to stay on campus,” he said. He wants to create more events and more engagements for students to stay on campus after class and become more involved. To him, a great leader needs to have a passion for being involved and working well with others and all different types of people. He wants to incorporate more videos as a way to reach out through an entertaining and engaging medium. With the new SAITSA building, Ho said it will “decrease [students’] fees because there will be operations in there which will alleviate the financial pressures of the organization.”
Denis Ram is in his last semester of journalism and currently on the Board of Directors. He previously took business and commerce at the University of Victoria. At SAIT, there are many different types of students, but despite all these different programs, Ram said they all have one thing in common: tools of the trade. This is unique to SAIT and Ram wants to have these tools more available and accessible, as students don’t usually have the money upfront. Ram also wants to work more in collaboration with other post-secondary institutions in the city. “Together, we have a stronger voice,” he said. He believes amazing leaders inspire more amazing leaders, and Ram also has a caring aspect that would benefit him in a leadership role. “A lot of students aren’t focused on our student association,” he said. “They don’t understand the value behind what we bring.” His solution is to create a full PR strategy that fits students.
James Vy is a second-year petroleum engineering technology student (PET) and on the Board of Directors, Board of Governors, and current VP of Communications with the Student Petroleum Society, which was the recipient of the President’s Award. A challenge he sees students face is finding computer lab space and study space. He wants to push to see where students can gain more space. “It’s really important that you’re in this environment at school and if you have that space where you can study and keep on with your day, we can be productive and just be better students as a whole,” he said. As a leader, Vy said empathy is the most important quality, recalling how upset he felt about student fees when he started at SAIT. “One way to get students to see the value is to build a really big sense of pride and pride in SAIT and our students’ association and pride in just being here and celebrating our success,” said Vy.