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Meet Jasdeep Gill: VP of External Relations Candidate

The voting period to choose the new SFSS Board of Directors is just around the corner, and there are definitely some strong campaigns this year.

One of the candidates running for the role of VP of External Relations is my very own friend and classmate, Jasdeep Gill! I met Jasdeep back when we were volunteering for SFU’s Student Marketing Association (SMA). Since then, I’ve seen her speak at multiple events (including one of my own events for SFU’s Human Resources Students’ Association’s STREAM Program launch) and grow to become SFU SMA’s 2017-2018 President. Needless to say, she is an absolute #GirlBoss.

I was able to have a quick coffee chat with her as she gears up and consolidates her platform for the SFSS election voting period. Keep on reading to learn about her insights and experience!

Hi Jasdeep, thank you so much for chatting with me today. Now, I don’t think you’ve ever ran as a candidate for a Board of Directors before. How has the experience been so far?

To start off and sum it up in one word, stressful would be a good description. The reason being is because I personally only found out about three or four days before campaigning began that I was going to be running. So it was a decision that I, not impulsively made, but definitely decided close to when campaigning began. I knew what I was committing to, and it was a lot of work that I wish I had done sooner, so I wish I had known sooner that I was going to be running. Another word, which I guess is almost the exact opposite, is a lot of fun. We made a lot of memories together as a slate, and working with people from different faculties has been a great experience, especially getting to know other people. So, stressful and fun!

What trends do you think are most impacting the student body at SFU?

One of the biggest trends that I would like to point out at this point is mental health. The reason I am pointing this out is because in the past year or so SFU has actually done a really great job as far as bringing mental health awareness to the front of student issues and making sure that people don’t put as much of a taboo on it. But what I see happening right now is, now that we have built all that awareness, and people are willing to step forward and get help, we don’t have enough help to provide them. So, we listen to students who have struggled with mental health, some of whom are friends of mine, who want to have psychologists to speak with and who want to have some kind of professional help through SFU or other avenues. And what they’re seeing is that there just isn’t enough resources, so when they go to access this help, they’re waiting weeks on end to speak to someone, and this is definitely something we need to fix now that we have built up this awareness and built up that courage to let people come forward. Now we need to actually provide them with resources, so bridging this gap is definitely something that needs to be on the top priority list as far as what we need to do going forward.  


How has your experience at SFU changed since you first started taking classes here?

My experience at SFU when I first started, which was in Fall 2015, was a world of difference from what it is now. And a lot of factors go into that. One, I lived on residence, so I was here all the time at the Burnaby campus. Second, there was a lot of FROSH events going on, so the purpose of first year was to really get students integrated, and coming from Beedie– Beedie is very big on engagement– I was always surrounded by people who were supporting me and integrating me into this university environment, and making sure that my transition was not only fun, but also very educational. That changed, partly due to the fact that I wasn’t a first year anymore, so there wasn’t as much hand holding going on. But also, secondly, I moved off of campus, so I moved from being in residence to being a commuter. Being able to see the perspective of both students for me is very important because a lot of the disconnect and lack of student experiences that we see is from commuting students. Commuters don’t have that sense of community and attachment to SFU because this is not their home. It’s somewhere that they come to go to class and maybe hang out with friends sometimes during school, but at the end of the day they want to go somewhere else. But as a student who lives on residence, you live here and this is your life. This is home for these students. So there is definitely a huge difference as far as what your experience will be like. As far as bridging that gap, I think there’s a way to find that happy medium for commuters and to have SFU feel more like a home instead of this place where you just go this sit in lecture. So I am thankful to have both of those perspectives because I can understand a lot more issues that go into the student experience here.

What is the best lesson you’ve learned while at SFU?

The best lesson that I have learned is that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to add value to a conversation or be a strong part of a team. And I would say this because this goes back to when I first joined the Student Marketing Association. I walked into the club in my first year and first semester and I didn’t know anything as far as what marketing is, and anything else apart from the basics I had learned in high school. So walking into a coordinator position, I was definitely the underdog, but at the same time I learned so much from that experience, and that experience really determines how I choose to make my decisions moving forward because the philosophy that I believe in is that if you want to achieve personal growth, if you want to get somewhere that you currently aren’t, then you have to surround yourself with people who are already there, or people who are doing better than you in some sense and can mentor you. I don’t know who said this, I’m sure this is a famous quote, but you become most like the people you surround yourself with, so that has been one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. I’ve made it my mission to always, every year, see what else is it that I can do and to not be stuck in the same position or the same group of people, and to really use connections and add value to them both ways. So this has definitely been an important lesson that I think is not only important for school, but moving forward as an outlook on life.


What has been your most valuable experience at SFU and why?

One of the most valuable experiences I had was actually on my first day of moving into residence here at SFU. I remember when I was dropped off by my friends and family, that I never lived away from home, I never travelled by myself, and I never did anything by myself. So when I came to SFU, I was definitely a stranger to this whole environment and I didn’t know a single person that I could talk to and ask “Hey, do you want to be friends?” It was a really stressful experience and I remember when I was moving in and settling into my room that I kept my door open because I was like “okay, I need to go eat, I need to go have dinner, I need to make some friends” so that I’m not completely alone moving into this new experience.

So one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is– it’s kinda cliché– that the value you get out of stepping out of your comfort zone, and doing something that is super uncomfortable for you, you won’t notice it at that time, but years later you’ll understand how important it was for you to take these uncomfortable steps. And the uncomfortable step that I took was that there was a girl living right next to me– her name is Kelsey– and she also had her door open and she was putting away her books and things like that. I remember that I was sitting there and waiting for about an hour for somebody to walk into my room. I was thinking, “okay someone’s going to come and be like ‘hey, let’s go grab food’ and everything will work out,” but nothing happened. So I was thinking, okay, I need to get up and do something about this, so I slowly walked over to her room and I said “hey, do you want to go grab food?” and I was thinking that she would either say “no, I already have friends,” or she’s going to come eat with me, and to my luck she actually said “oh my god, I was waiting for you to ask because I didn’t know anyone here and I was hoping someone would come so that I wouldn’t have to sit alone.” So after taking that first step, I realised how similar everyone is, and how we all have the same problems, but if we just step out of our comfort zone, and if one person just makes that first move, it’ll just make everyone’s life so much easier.


If you had to attribute your success at SFU to one skill or trait, what would it be?

Resilience is definitely the first word that comes to mind. The reason I say that is because I am by no means a straight-A student, or a top performer in any way. It took a lot of hard work to get the positions that I have had the opportunity to be a part of. I’ve been rejected multiple times from clubs, I’ve failed a class before, I’ve been in situations where I’ve thought “okay, I don’t think I can graduate.” So it’s definitely resilience. If I had taken those situations and had thought of them negatively and stopped trying, then I wouldn’t be here, I would have dropped out already, or found some other alternative, but it’s the resilience and that grit that you have within you to keep pushing on that will take you places. That doesn’t mean that you have to be the smartest person in the room, or have all the right connections. It just means that you have to be willing to put your best foot forward, put in as much hard work as you can and see where that takes you.

What would you suggest that other students do right now if they are interested in running for the SFSS Board of Directors in the future?

One very important piece of advice I would give is to inform yourself on what the SFSS actually does. For me, when I was signing up to be a candidate, I actually had to go and do some research to what it is that I am signing up for. Being a third year student, I don’t expect first year students or even second year students to know this information. It’s a common problem that people just don’t know what the SFSS does, nor the fact that there are 16 different positions to run for and that they all have different tasks, so do your research. Definitely participate in all of the elections that are running, including the Senate or Board of Directors. It’s really important to use your vote and to vote for people that you actually believe in. So keep an eye out for every candidate’s platform, and make an effort to ensure that you’re informed on these things. Lastly, I would recommend joining councils. There are, I think, five or six councils from the Vancouver campus, Surrey campus, as well as councils for events and advocacy, and they have seats that are open to the student body and you can join these councils and sit in with other Board of Directors and really learn from their experience and see what they’re doing and play a role in what they’re advocating for. Those would be the three things that I would recommend.


What did you wish you knew before you started classes at SFU?

I wish that I had learned about the women’s centre a little sooner than I did. I think it took me about six to seven months to find out that there was a women’s centre, even though I lived on campus. I would walk by everyday, and then one day, Kelsey, Morgan and myself– my friends from residence– decided to walk in and see what it was all about. What we found in there was a really positive and supportive environment, and to have that support is amazing. You don’t necessarily need to have a problem or stress to know that there is a safe place on campus where you can go if you just want to get away from everyone, or have supportive conversations. It definitely helped a lot, especially when you’re stressed out, even about things unrelated to school and you just want to talk and know that you’re in an environment where you’re not being judged and you don’t owe anyone anything. I think that is the most valuable part of the women’s centre and I wish I had known that sooner and I wish more people knew about that.


What projects have you worked on at SFU that you felt added the most value to our school’s community?

One project that I believe is very valuable for transitioning students into SFU is the BASS Mentorship Program. For everyone who isn’t from Beedie, this is basically when an upper-year student gets paired up with a first year student during their first semester. This kind of relationship creates connection between the mentor and mentee, so the mentor becomes like an advisor in a way, as well as their friend. What you’re there for is to provide that support, which can be help on how to pick classes, how the grading system works, or where your mentee should eat and what they should do. Having someone there who’s older and can help hold someone’s hand as you’re walking them through first year is really valuable. I myself was a mentee at once and then I had the opportunity to be a mentor, and even now, if I have an issue, I know that I can reach out to my mentor and that it doesn’t matter if he’s graduated because I know we’ve built that relationship where I can always reach out to him and be like “hey, I have this problem. Can you solve it for me, or can you provide me with some insight?” Shout out to Benton Li! He was one of the best mentors and even now, if I ever need anything or if there is something that I’ve accomplished that I’m proud of, I always like for him to know because it’s definitely a connection that we have created, and I’m very thankful for what we have.

A member of the student body walks up to you and bluntly states that they will not be voting for you during the upcoming election. How do you respond?

My first point of my response would be to begin a conversation with this person, so it’s really to understand their perspective and understand why they’re not voting for me. I don’t think the fact that I’m running means that everyone should vote for me. You should only vote for me if my platform resonates with you and if the changes that I want to bring upon this campus are actually valuable to you. This would definitely be my first response, to start that conversation and to see what it is that I am not seeing or may have missed in my platform, and to have an understanding of the other side. I don’t think that I’m always right; in fact, I like to be proven wrong because then I learn from it. If somebody were to come up to me and tell me that, I would thank them for the confidence to actually come up and say that to someone and to start that conversation because a lot of the time it’s important for us to know that there are different perspectives out there and to understand those perspectives. Not everyone has to agree with these perspectives, but it is valuable to have those conversations. And this goes for everything that you do in life, not just elections.  

Thank you for chatting, Jasdeep! The team at Her Campus SFU is wishing you the best of luck during the election.

Sarah is graduating from SFU's Beedie School of Business after six years of studying marketing, human resources and international business. In her spare time, she volunteers to support other students' learning of business communications and at Greater Vancouver Board of Trade events. Connect with Sarah through LinkedIn or Instagram.
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