The St. Thomas University Students’ Union’s only returning executive member for next year has one eye on the future and one on the present as he heads into the final stretch of the university school year.
Vice-president of administration Ben Graham will have to be the steady hand that guides next year’s STUSU, which he said he can do best by holding the same position he’s filling this year.
“I’m certainly going to be there as support,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re a team. But I have no doubt that being someone with a year of experience – I won’t take a big leadership role – but I’ll be there to help the other executives through the first few months.”
Graham has said in the past that he didn’t want to become president, though he gave it some serious thought, especially when current vice-president education Sam Titus chose to pursue a study-abroad program next year rather than run in the presidential election.
“It’s not that I don’t appreciate the role of president, but for my own interests it wasn’t something that I thought I would be as happy in.”
Graham is excited to work with the new executive. He likes that president-elect Megan Thomson is now a second-year student who will have the chance to run for re-election next year, and likes her background serving as an off-campus representative this year.
“I think Megan… kind of sees the gap between off-campus and residences,” he said. “Being an off-campus student her entire academic career herself, I think it’s good that she’ll be able to bring in an insight on how we can make off-campus students feel more included into the everyday activities and student life.”
That issue of student engagement, especially for off-campus students, has become increasingly important for the university and its student union as residency rates dwindle. There were 472 students in residence last December, well short of the over-700 beds available and almost 150 fewer than there were two years ago.
Graham mainly oversees the finances of the students’ union, which are becoming increasingly strained due to declining enrolment and rising costs. Each STU student pays a fee with their tuition to keep STUSU running. This year it was $131 for full-time students.
He said he is considering the union’s renegotiated healthcare plan was one success he can hang his hat on, but he’s hoping to do more with what will likely be less funding next year.
“Now that I’ve got my toes wet, and understand the process and know what’s expected of me, I think next year will be a time to look at some bigger plans and really say, ‘alright, we know what we have to work with. Let’s follow through with that.’”
While he’s excited to meet and get working with the new STUSU, he says he’ll miss the old one for a while.
“I didn’t really know what to expect last April and May when we were getting into the swing of things. We didn’t know each other well, but we really became a team and a family.”