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Keeping up with the USSU: Executives share experiences at the middle point of their term

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Executives of the USSU, VP Operations & Finance Jamie Bell (left) and VP Academic Affairs Carlos Muñoz Pimentel, posed for a photo on the staircase of the USSU office, located in the U of S Place Riel on Jan. 8, 2020. | Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

Now at the halfway point of their term in office, University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union executives Carlos Muñoz Pimentel, vice­president academic affairs, and Jamie Bell, vice-president operations and finance, are ready to share the progress they have made so far and their plans for the new year.

What progress have you made on your election platforms so far?

J.B.: “With financial reporting, my vision was to create an infographic on what’s going on. What we basically decided to do is the monthly accountability statements. Every month we go through and see what our spending is like in both our revenues and our expenses, [and] if they’re above or below our budgeted target amounts. All that information is going to be posted on the website so that way, people can look over it and get a more general sense of things.”

C.M.P.: “Scholarships usually have very set dates within the school year that they need to be applied for… My idea is that we will try to promote the university website for scholarships because there are so many scholarships and they all have different deadlines, but it’s just a matter of promoting it at the time that most of them are available.”

What has been your favorite part about being on the USSU executive?

J.B.: “My favorite part so far is being able to interact with such a huge number of students and student groups. I think that I’m really fortunate that I have so many touch points and that I’m able to act as a mentor, as an administrator and as a support person for campus groups, which are, in my potentially biased opinion, the most vibrant part of this campus community.”

C.M.P.: “My favorite part of my job, and as gross as it sounds, are the meetings. I really enjoy sitting in meetings and trying to figure out big concepts and try to find a way in order to better the student experience here at the university. And that’s usually what I enjoy the most, sitting here and seeing what sort of changes we can make.”

What has been the most challenging part about being on the USSU executive?

J.B.: “I think the work is sometimes romanticized and it’s really difficult when you’re so passionate about something and you want to do the best always. But working so much exhausts you, and I didn’t realize this until the holidays after finals when I basically slept for two weeks because I didn’t know how exhausted and how burnt out I was until I had the opportunity to be exhausted.”

C.M.P.: “With this job, it’s so busy all the time and then you go home and end up just wanting to go to bed. Because of that, my work ends up taking over my life in such a big way that it just ends up becoming who I am as a person, pushing all of my relaxation into my holidays. So that’s why I [think] Christmas was important. [I just realized that] I really was going at it for eight months without really realizing how hard that was.”

How have you been incorporating the USSU’s “The Path Forward” into your positions?

J.B.: “When it comes to “The Path Forward,” I’m mostly in the ‘Facilitate Leadership’ and ‘Revitalize Community’ side of it. Last summer, I spent a lot of time interacting with student groups either in person [by] going to their meetings or just being super receptive to … answer their emails and help out.”

“And then I’m also looking into doing different ways to encourage collaboration through financial mechanisms. One thing that we were able to do to really facilitate leadership at our last Annual General Meeting was pass the bylaw amendments for removing financial barriers, making the deposit and campaign expenses more affordable.”

C.M.P.: “Mine lands more in the ‘Promote Education’ part of “The Path Forward” and it ends up being more about allowing students to know what their rights and responsibilities are. As well, I am the chair of the Saskatchewan Students Coalition advocating for all post-secondary students here in the province.”

Do you have anything important planned for the 2020 winter term?

J.B.: “I’m looking forward to term two because I have a fairly large Campus Club Week going on, which is going to be nine days and involves two conferences and a number of sessions that we’re hosting here. The sessions are on our website and range from succession planning to a bunch of different things that should be talked about. I’m super pumped.”

C.M.P.: “The Undergraduate Project Symposium is on Jan. 30 this year. There are two sections, you can do a poster presentation or you can present a paper. It’s a great opportunity and there’s lots of cash prizes available for students to win. And I’ve also just been busy doing Teaching Excellence Awards surveying, so there’ll be a second wave of that coming up.”

Final question: Have you made any new year’s resolutions?

J.B.: “I’m now a morning person. I’ve been in the office at 8 a.m. everyday, which is not characteristic for me. And I have had maybe one pot of coffee so far in the first week of January, which is significantly less than any other day.”

C.M.P.: “For me it is actually starting assignments on time. I always feel like I’m drowning and trying to finish my assignments at the last minute and then I’m suddenly like, ‘I should have definitely started two days earlier.’”

Noah Callaghan/ Staff Writer

Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

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