Incoming USSU Execs share their ambitions for the upcoming academic year.
The members of the new Executive Team of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU) look forward to the start of term and the opportunity to turn many campaign goals into realities.
Ishita Mann (she/her)
Ishita Mann, SVM, is currently in her fourth year at USask, working towards a Bachelor of Science degree focusing on cellular, physiological and pharmacological sciences. She has founded several international non-profits as a social entrepreneur, and is currently managing leadership roles in multiple non-profits in addition to her upcoming term as USSU President.
Mann is an award-winning changemaker. The non-profit organizations she has founded are based on what she terms “a collective mission of helping students navigate their futures with clarity and confidence.” Her awards include being the youngest recipient of the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal, Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal, YWCA Women of Distinction 29 & Under Award, TED Speaker, Governor General Bronze Medal and more.
“I hope to continue using my platform and community standing to elevate young voices and bridge the information accessibility gap for all young people globally,” Mann said.
On her values, Mann said, “I believe in empowering the marginalized, in mental health advocacy, and in ensuring equitable opportunities. These values have been the driving force behind my initiatives and the motivation of the non-profits I’ve founded.
Mann went on to say that she felt the pull to address these issues on a larger, systemic scale, where she could do the most good possible. She described her decision to run for the USSU presidency as “a natural progression of my ongoing advocacy work to make a real, tangible difference.”
The three main goals and priorities for Mann and her Executive team are Empowerment, Wellness and Accessibility. These are further broken down “to ensure discussions are held regarding supports, sustainability, anti-racism/oppression, EDI [equity, diversity and inclusion], safety, and affordability.”
An important next step for the USSU, in Mann’s opinion, is to “eradicate the ‘no pain, no gain’ mindset students often have coming into post-secondary.” She believes that the Union needs to “help students pay attention to their physical health, mental wellbeing, emotional intelligence, and social skills, in addition to their academic achievements.”
“Our job, as an institution, is to prepare some very real people for a very real world.”
Mann is excited to launch two personal projects with the USSU in the upcoming months. The first is an entrepreneurship program that will help to nurture skills such as creative thinking, problem solving and resiliency, as well as highlight local entrepreneurs and foster peer-to-peer learning.
The second project she looks forward to working on is bringing the “Be There” certificate from Jack.Org to USask. Mann described this as “a program designed to educate individuals on how to support themselves and others struggling with mental health.”
“In simple terms, you know, I just really want to shine a spotlight on the amazing work happening at the USSU and spark that leadership flame in the up-and-coming generation. So, when election day comes around, if I see a bunch of eager faces ready to take on the executive roles, I’ll know I’ve done something right!”
Another subject that Mann hopes to promote during her tenure with the USSU is the significance of community involvement and civic engagement. She said that getting involved with clubs, unions, and more can help to enrich a student’s university experience, learn valuable skills and work toward the betterment of the campus culture and community.
Mann believes that university experiences can be essential in shaping who you are. With this in mind, Mann wished to share the following tenets with her peers:
“Embrace curiosity with an open heart. Balance ambition with compassion – for others, but also for yourself. Seek connections, not just with knowledge, but also with people. Acknowledge uncertainty. It’s okay not to have all the answers.”
“Finally, remember that this journey is uniquely yours. Comparison is the thief of joy. What works for others might not work for you, and that’s perfectly fine. You’re here to create your own story, not to replicate someone else’s.”
Nishtha Mehta (she/her)
Vice President, Operations and Finance
Nishtha Mehta is currently in her fourth year pursuing a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and she hopes to continue her education with a master’s degree in the future. Outside of academics, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her pets.
During her time at USask, Mehta has been an active member of the Pre-Med Club and World University Service of Canada, as well as founding the South Asian Association. Mehta said the connections she has made through these campus groups have greatly enhanced her university experience.
The biggest piece of advice Mehta has to share with her fellow students is how impactful an experience it can be to join a campus group.
“There are so many campus groups that it’s almost impossible to not find one that you’d like,” Mehta said. “It’s the best way to make friends and find people who have the same interests as you.”
Mehta said that being a part of these organizations drew her to run for office in the USSU.
“As a campus group leader, I saw the gaps and need for improvement when it came to funding and communication between the USSU and campus groups,” Mehta said. “I felt that if I ran, I might be able to help bridge those gaps.”
One of the main events that Mehta is looking forward to this year is Campus Club Week. She shared that she is “very excited to see all the different campus groups come out and participate.” According to Mehta, student participation on campus is a crucial next step as the university transitions out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the USSU is actively working on encouraging this.
A large focus of Mehta’s campus is the communication and collaboration between the USSU and students, especially various student groups. “When students are able to reach us and communicate [with us], it allows the ability for us to work together and provide the necessary resources that will make their life on campus easier and better,” she said.
Mehta encourages students to take advantage of the resources and spaces that the USSU and the campus has to offer: “Whether it’s going to the library to study or going to Louis for some food, there are some great places to get work done or to take a break with your friends. I know as someone who had to do my first two years of university online, I would have loved to be on campus instead and to be able to use those resources.”
Mehta also plans to continue strengthening the relationship between the USSU and the city, as well as advocating for students’ needs regarding transit during her tenure with the USSU.
Mehta shared that she is very excited to be a part of the USSU and everything they are doing.
“We hope that our work can help students and that we can accomplish a lot together!”
Elisabeth Bauman (she/her)
Vice President, Academic Affairs
Elisabeth Bauman is a fourth year student in the College of Arts and Science. In addition to her honours major in English, she is earning a minor in classic, medieval, and renaissance studies. Her interests include reading, playing piano, baking and spending time outdoors (but not sports!).
Bauman’s journey with student politics began when she joined the student union at her high school and went on to become the school’s first female student-body president. She expressed a deep care for schooling, as well as the students and faculty that make it up, which goes beyond politics.
“I care about the dynamics between the student body and the faculty and staff, and I think that’s a really important relationship to maintain,” said Bauman. “So for me, getting involved in a student union was sort of a logical next step in doing my part of building good relationships between [the] student body and faculty.”
Bauman has previously been a member of the St. Thomas Moore Student Union as a Member of Student Council, as well as representing the council at the USSU.
By the end of last term, Bauman was looking to challenge herself further and push herself out of her comfort zone. This, combined with her passion for academics and relationships, pushed her to run for the VP of Academic Affairs with the USSU.
Bauman said that her campaign was composed of three main themes: academic awareness, academic integrity and equipping students with knowledge. She feels that these ideas all tie into one another. These themes also mean answering a lot of questions that students might have.
“Do students know their academic rights? Do they know their scholarship opportunities? Do they know why it’s important to fill out their SLEQ quizzes at the end of the courses? Do they know what a syllabus is?” Bauman said. “What does it mean to work with integrity? What does that mean in the world of AI? How can we use that?”
As the VP of Academic Affairs, one of Bauman’s key duties is student support, which involves heading the USSU Academic Advocacy Office and being available to students for complaints, concerns, appeals and more. Another aspect of her role comes through engaging with the university’s academic committees as the student voice. After that, she has some USSU-specific duties such as leading the USSU Undergraduate Symposium, the Teaching Excellence Awards and serving on the student council.
Lastly, Bauman gets to make an impact through several academic projects. It is through these projects that she hopes to address some of her main values, such as building relationships, academic awareness, integrity and helping students to be informed.
One of the projects that Bauman is looking forward to this year are Academic Awareness weeks (taking place in September and January), where activities, quizzes and prize-giving will take place at the USSU table in the Place Riel Student Centre. She is also working on “academic policy translations to help students better navigate academic regulations at the university, [and] campaigns to help students feel equipped to communicate with professors and other support people.”
Bauman also hopes to work more on communication and building many strong relationships. She has been working on making a network across all the student unions, and has had many meetings over the summer with prospective high school groups, representatives of various colleges and student groups.
Some main issues that Bauman hopes to tackle include getting a student voice involved in how assessments are done or changed, and to keep a focus on academic integrity. She also feels that there are some broader concerns for the USSU to work toward practical solutions for, such as food insecurity, housing concerns, issues with public transit and EDI.
Bauman believes that one of the most important pieces of advice she could share for fellow students would be to get involved.
“University is big and scary to begin with … but also we’re seeing a shift since the pandemic. People are more isolated [and] struggling with mental health,” Bauman said. “Find a student group, find a club, find a union to get involved with and somehow get plugged in. And know you’re not alone; your experiences are not isolated experiences.”
Gurbaz Singh (he/him)
Vice President, Student Affairs
Gurbaz Singh is a third year student in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in computer science. Aside from his duties with the USSU, Singh shared that he loves to play badminton and is “a big sneakerhead, always looking for new shoes around the market.”
Singh was introduced to the USSU in his first year at USask when a friend decided to run for a role in the organization. Singh said that he enjoys meeting new people, as well as building relationships in order to bring about change, which encouraged him to campaign himself.
Singh also shared that the COVID-19 pandemic played a large role in his decision to make change through the USSU. He felt that the pandemic had an impact on the campus and people, and he wanted to help with the process of returning to normal.
“Engaging [people] on campus with various fun stuff and activities became one of my goals that led me to the USSU,” Singh said.
The major action items of Singh’s campaign are engaging more students on campus and creating a sustainable environment. Another of his main priorities is mental health, which he described as “self-care while coping with studies and work.”
“As an international student, I pay a large sum of tuition fees, and to not overburden my parents for it, I worked alongside my studies to contribute to it,” said Singh. “Keeping oneself physically and mentally fit is very important to survive as an immigrant.”
One of Singh’s plans for the upcoming year that aligns with these goals is to host “wellness fairs.” These will aim to promote physical activity and keep students aware of their health.
Singh said that it is necessary for the USSU to work together as a team. He believes that some important next steps for the university to take include “bring[ing] back the offline culture and student presence on campus, and defeat[ing] the post-COVID impact via social media, campus activities, in-person socials and get-togethers.” Singh looks forward to many such fun events beginning this fall.
One of the main pieces of advice Singh wishes to impart to fellow students is to avoid burning yourself out. He recommends being involved in extracurricular activities that make you happy, and try to “stay recharged for a new week with new challenges.” In addition to this, he emphasizes the importance of not hesitating to ask for help or guidance when needed.
“Asking questions and learning to get answers from them helps you grow. Nobody is going to judge when you achieve your goals.”
The USSU executive team is excited for all the opportunities that the upcoming year will hold. You can contact them at ussu.ca, or you can meet the Execs yourself at Welcome Week in the bowl and around campus at various events this term.