When Philippe Ferland found out his fellow students elected him as the next president of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union, he was at The Cellar with friends, expecting a loss. An hour after he found out he won, he was still speechless.
“I’m kind of in shock,” he said. “I honestly wasn’t expecting it, I was so sick this entire week. By Tuesday after the debate I was like, ‘Yeah, I think that’s a loss.’”
Ferland said knowing his peers believe in his ability to fulfill the position is an intense feeling.
“I mean, I really don’t want to let them down now. I have a job to do.”
Ferland was born in Chilliwack, B.C., but has spent the last several years living 20 minutes away from campus with his family in Oromocto. The fourth-year student is majoring in Psychology and by next year will have a second major in Political Science. He’s also honouring in Great Books.
He’s humble, but considers himself to be a hard-working and passionate person who tries to help others as much as possible.
He said he got involved with STUSU in his second year as an off-campus representative. He was driven to get more involved with the school and contribute to the community. That drive earned him a spot as this year’s vice-president administration, an experience he saw as a chance to make a greater impact.
“I understood the job to be important because you have to deal with all the students’ money and governance and all these importance sort of administrative aspects to the Union,” Ferland said.
“So, I felt that was a really cool important job to do and I was like, ‘Hey, yeah, I totally wanna do that,’ so I would basically stalk [former vice-president administration] Ben Graham [and] go to all the finance committee meetings.”
Ferland said his proudest moment as vice-president administration was getting a new abortion pill covered under the university’s student health plan.
“It honestly felt great because it really showed that what I’d done that day was going to effect so many people in such a positive way. That’s the kind of stuff I want to do for students.”
Ferland said he felt this year’s election process went “pretty well, bumpy at times … chaotic and hectic, and overwhelming with so many people [running].” However, he felt this year’s turnout was a prime example of how engaged STU students are.
“I think it shows that it’s better than ever, because we’ve never had so many people run and so many people vote as well. In terms of students being involved and caring, it’s better than it’s ever been.”
Ferland said he is excited to start working with the newly-elected executive team this spring.
“I think they’re all great,” he said. “For the most part, I know them all pretty well. I’ve had classes with a few of them or worked with them before and they’re all people I totally trust with the positions.”
Ferland is confident he will achieve many of the ideas he proposed in his platform as he said he picked them based how realistic they were. He said he looks forward to just doing “the best I can,” with a fall reading week being the number one thing on his priority list.
Ferland said expects to continue running a smooth, respectful students’ union in the 2017-18 year.
“I think keeping the sort of calm, positive and sort of all-around ethical, respectful work, that has been the case this year with this year’s exec team, and just keeping it going well and smooth as it has for the majority of this year.”
For Brianna Workman, the reality of being elected as vice-president education for 2017-18 is still settling in. When she found out, she had been at the candidates party at The Cellar.
“It was a little surreal, there were a few tears,” said Workman.
Since coming to STU two years ago, Workman’s goal has been to be part of the executive team in her upper years.
During high school in Kemptville, Ont., Workman took part in student council in her Grade 11 and 12 years. It also gave her a chance to work as the student trustee for the school board which gave her a chance to represent 13,000 students and work with other student trustees at provincial and national conferences.
“The reason I was able to come to STU is because I got a scholarship here and I knew that I got the scholarship because [of my involvement],” said Workman.
In her first year, she said fellow student Book Sadprasid helped her engage with different aspects of the STU community. She began writing for The Aquinian, was elected for vice-president external for Rigby Hall and worked as a campus tour ambassador. This year, she became a residence advisor in Holy Cross and was hired as STUSU’s recording secretary.
“Knowing that St. Thomas was a very small and tight-knit and passionate, very active community, that really appealed to me and I was very excited about that. I wanted to get involved in that,” she said.
Workman, while undeclared, is pursuing a double-major in Political Science and Communications and Public Policy along with a minor in Journalism. She said campaigning allowed her to meet new people and hear their ideas about what they might want for STU. She also thought opening up the debate for the vice-president positions was a great idea.
“I think I learned a lot from the debate and I’ll take a lot of it into my term.”
While she’s looking forward to all of her own duties, Workman said what excites her most is working with other student-leaders on council who are also passionate about their communities.
“One of my big goals is to really engage council and have them be really active and creative in their own roles.”
Workman is particularly excited for the opportunity to work with the executive team next year.
“I learned this year as an RA, having a good team is essential … I think the team that’s been elected is a really, really great team. I think we all have different backgrounds and different experiences and when we put them all together, I think it’ll be really great.”
Vice-president student life-elect
Now that the craziness of the campaign is over, Jimy Beltran is grateful for the support of his friends, girlfriend and fellow students who supported him through the process. Already, he’s eager to get to work and carry out his platform.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to have a real impact in my community and St. Thomas,” said Beltran. “I have learned so much in this place, I feel that I have to leave something behind … On the one hand, I want to help students, on the other I want to give something back to my community.”
Beltran is pursuing a double honours in Economics and History, major in Catholic Studies and a minor in Business. When he started at STU three years ago, he’d never visited the school before hand. He had been encouraged to attend through his high school in Ecuador, which has a strong partnership with the university.
During his time in high school, he was treasurer of his student council. They managed to take a $5,000 budget for 1,200 students and grow it to a $7,000 surplus by the end of the year.
“I was so happy with helping students in their student life,” said Beltran.
Last year, Beltran was elected as an off-campus representative and became more familiar with STUSU. He also works with Global Brigades and Development and Peace.
He said lot of his work prevented him from sitting down and talking with students during his campaign as much as he wanted to. However, he looks forward to engaging with students more next year.
Overall, he was quite happy with the election. He appreciated the debates as they gave candidates and students a chance to interact during the Q&As. The one aspect he would like to change is the waste of paper during the campaign.
“There was so much waste of paper on this campaign because of posters and pamphlets … and if you don’t do it, you’re at a disadvantage,” said Beltran.
He’s hoping to change the constitution and bylaws next year, along with vice-president administration Matthew LeBlanc, to encourage candidate use of social media instead.
While he’s had a chance to work with LeBlanc and Ferland in Global Brigades, he hasn’t had a chance to work with Workman. But he’s very excited to get to know her and work with the entire team next year.
More importantly, he’s looking forward to bringing new ideas and programs to STUSU while making student services more visible.
“I want to bring a new spirit to STUSU.”
Matthew LeBlanc has never been involved with STUSU before, but he is doing a double honours in Political Science and Great Books, which is mainly political philosophy.
“So, I’m super into politics,” he said. “I’ve always stayed up to date with what decisions are being made but I’ve actually never been in a position at student politics to be making these decisions.”
The Frederictonian said his passion about certain issues motivated him to get involved.
“As I’m sure everyone knows, there’s only one mental health counselor. So I’ve been doing some research and I found out that there’s a way to add a counselling services through our health plan Campus Trust. And a few other ideas that really propelled to really get into it.”
Aside from his interest in political science, LeBlanc has had extensive experience in the threatre community in Fredericton. He’s starred in productions such as Trudeau and the FLQ and this year’s Trickster of Seville.
He said two of his goals this year are more event turnout for students and better connections to student services through an app. He also would like to foster better communication between STUSU and clubs and societies.
LeBlanc said this was the only election he’s ever run in.
“I think it’s so weird to post your face up everywhere … For me, it was kind of overwhelming to throw yourself out there but I really enjoyed meeting a lot of students going door to door. I met a lot of really passionate students,” he said.
He said this new council has a lot of innovative new ideas, which paired well with Ferland’s platform, and are going to make a lot of good much-needed changes to STUSU.
“I see it as a very formative moment as STUSU where we, as a team, are going to make it a lot stronger and a lot better,” Leblanc said. “I’m thrilled to have them all … I think the four of a us have a really great dynamic.”
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