Running for the SU executive can be a daunting decision. For me, I did not make up my mind about running for Vice-President (Academic) until early February. With the late-February and early-March election, the turnaround had to be quick. Now that we are in January, you might be thinking “What does each position do?” or “What is being an exec like?” Maybe you are concerned about the effect that being an SU exec will have on your life: “Will I maintain my friendships? Will I be able to see my family? How much time per week should an exec work? Can I make time for other extra-curricular activities on the side?” Maybe you’re wondering just what goes into an election campaign. These are all great questions.
Choosing to run for the exec certainly affects the course that you degree takes. And it does affect your life in a number of different ways. From what I have seen over the last year – and certainly in my case – it is a life-changing experience. Moreover, it can be a healthy one. I feel that if you choose to run for the SU executive, you open yourself to the potential of making meaningful changes to your university in a very positive environment. The intent of this blog post is to provide some personal reflections on the questions posed above, so that you, the potential candidate, make the most informed decision possible.
Will I run myself into the ground as an SU executive?
In the past, I have seen SU executives leave their terms rather bitter and disappointed about the year that was. This can be a reality of working in any high-pressure environment. But from what I have seen, this year has been strong for executives maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and the road only looks smoother in the future. I will make this point clear: you DO NOT need to work 75+ hour weeks. Frankly, if you do that, you are likely inefficient and getting very little done. People that put in those kinds of hours also tend to be boring and tunnel-visioned. As an exec, you will need to work hard; that is beyond question. But when you’re passionate about what you do, work does not feel like work. Going into SUB 2-900 each day is fun. Moreover, when you put boundaries around the job, you do not run yourself dry. My goal for the year has been to be in at work by 7 or 8am and work hard until 5 or 6pm. When 6pm hits, I almost always leave. The only exception was the Undergraduate Research Symposium, where I acknowledged long in advance that the week would require non-stop work.
Basically, you can maintain a 50-60 hour week within the SU and do a bang-up job. It’s not difficult doing this, getting 8 hours of sleep each night and maintaining an active social life. Some of my other rules have been spending quality time at home most nights each week, going for coffee with a different person each day, and running marathons and ultramarathons (which requires about 100 k of running per week). You can do all of this no problem being energetic and positive throughout the year without burning out.
Can I maintain my social life as an SU executive?
This question is closely related to the first one. The answer is yes, but you will have to make some tough decisions. I made sure to keep in close contact with as many people as possible, but at the same time, I fell out of touch with my fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji). In the previous year, I lived at the house and spent a lot of time with my brothers. This year, I have only been to the house on a handful of occasions, and have not met many of the new members. This led to the discontent of many of my brothers, and I feel like some relationships that were strong beforehand have faded over time. I’ve heard of other previous execs that have fallen out of contact with many of their friends. Ultimately, it comes down to your priorities. You can prioritize running and meeting people for one-on-ones, or you could spend a few nights per week with your fraternity or sororities brothers/sisters. I know that I’ll be back full-tilt next year in Fiji and will spend a lot of time with brothers that I have not seen over the last months, so I’m content with the time away from Fiji this year. But it was a difficult decision to make, and you’ll have to make it too. Can I maintain my physical health as an exec?
Yes, without a doubt. There are a lot of meetings, and you have to be careful not to frequent RATT, Subway or any of the other restaurants too much. But it’s no problem choosing to walk/run/bike to work and home each day or training for running competitions, triathlons, soccer, or whatever else it is that you do.
What are elections like?
The SU elections are characterized by high intensity. If you’re considering running, I encourage you to take no more than four courses during the Winter term. I was uncontested last year, but made a point of campaigning as if I were up against the best possible competition. Consequently, I did not go to class for three weeks. If you put everything you have into running, you’ll be up early each morning to do class talks at 8am, and you’ll be at different forums and talking to students throughout the week. By the end of elections, you’ll be tired, but no matter the result, you will have earned an unforgettable experience.
I never served on Students’ Council. Does that mean I shouldn’t run?
Not at all. Being on Students’ Council is a valuable experience, but you do not need to be a Students’ Union “insider” in order to run. As long as you feel passionate about improving the student experience, and comfortable about dedicating one year to achieving the goals that you set out at the beginning of the year, I strongly encourage you to run. The executive transition is strong and the work environment is top-notch. Because of this, you could run for the SU with a vague idea about what exactly it does, and over time become a stellar executive.
OK… so I feel like I’m ready to run, but I want to learn more about the different positions. What should I do?
Speaking for the rest of the executive, we are always open to talking about our experiences at any point. The positions are all similar in that you serve as one of the managers of the Students’ Union, but they are also quite different in many ways. Take a look at some of my blog posts below in order to get a better idea about Vice-President (Academic). But posts only explain so much – we can go for coffee in person if you want to know more.
I hope that sharing some of thoughts has provided more clarity about your decision to run for the SU executive. You should take my comments with a grain of salt, and ask other execs – past and present – about how they see their term. Overall, I think that you should consider running if you are passionate about working to provide life-changing opportunities to other students. There will be ups and downs during your term, and maintaining an active social life and your fitness takes consistent work, but you can definitely do it if you set your mind to it.