A lot of students make an important commitment during their studies as student representatives. They have a warm heart for their fellow students and they have a voice in various councils and committees at Ghent University. Meet three of these student representatives and find out what their commitment means for themselves and for Ghent University.
Laura: "I especially want to give a voice to students who do not have a voice in certain dossiers"
Laura Sondakh, master in Electrical Engineering & Educational Master in Science and Technology: "Over the past three years, I have mainly been involved as a student representative at faculty level. For example, I was a board member for two years, one of which was chair of the Faculty Council of Engineering Students (FRiS). Now I am vice-president of the Ghent Student Council (GSR). I’m also still committed in the Faculty Council and on a number of faculty and university councils and committees. Finally, I am also a mandatary of the Vlaamse Vereniging voor Studenten (VVS) in the Central Calibration Review Committee of the VLIR (Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad). The combination with my studies actually works out fine. Only meetings on location in Leuven or Brussels as part of the VVS are sometimes a bit more difficult to schedule.
I think few students know that during your studies you can have a big impact on the policies that affect your life now. For example, the mandates for which there are elections in the Faculty Council, Social Council and Board of Governors are mandates where you as a student can really weigh in on policy. Ranging from files around exam timetables, social allowances, housing prices...
As vice-president of the GSR, I especially want to give a voice to students who have no voice in certain dossiers. I strive to gather as much input from students as possible and bring that input to the people who hold the purse strings. You always have, both at faculty and central level, people who are more or less open to that. But still, I think I can really make a difference. That's what also what keeps motivating me."
Vince: "Taking up a commitment teaches you to hold your own "
Vince Leeman, master in political science: "I am currently in my master's year and in doing so I took the decision to spread my programme over two years. In addition to my position in the Social Council, I am also taking up two engagements within the Katholiek Vlaams Hoogstudentenverbond (KVHV) Gent and I work 25%. I wanted to be able to do all my duties well. For example, I also sit on the Faculty Council, but that is sometimes more difficult to combine.
The Social Council meets once a month and its task is to advise the Board of Governors and the Executive Council on social matters. I find it very interesting and challenging. I am also somewhat thrown in. I had previously been active in association life but had not yet taken up a mandate as a student representative. As the only elected student in the Social Council, I wanted to take on the responsibility of becoming president. As chairman, I mainly try to be neutral, take up my substantive responsibility and run the meeting efficiently and effectively.
By now, I already learned that Ghent University is much more than a lecturer. It is a very large social field. I think through my engagement as a student representative, I get to know the public sector a bit. The way things are done, how policies work. Taking up an engagement also teaches you to hold your own. You learn to talk to people, you make connections, you build a network. That way you are at the service of UGent and you can also develop yourself personally."
"There is so much more than just going to class"
Tibo Roelants, Master in Bioengineering: "Since this academic year, I have a mandate in the Board of Governors. This is the highest governing body of Ghent University, consisting of representatives of the academic staff and the students, among others. We currently have three students on the Board of Governors, who are directly elected by all students every two years.
In my second bachelor, I started getting involved in our faculty. First, I sat on the Faculty Council and Policy Committee, in the third bachelor I became Education Director at StuBio (the faculty student council of bioengineering). I then found my way to the GSR and took up some more central mandates, such as on the Education Council, the Disciplinary Committee and in one of the working groups on respectful behaviour. Last year, as a student representative, I was also on the Executive Council and now I am on the Board of Governors.
That is a lot, but I am a planner (laughs). Which is something I had learn over the years. I work with diagrams and colour blocks. When I make my schedule, I think it's important to plan my free time first: my social life, my sports, ... I don't want to feel like I'm being lived, despite my many commitments.
My mandate in the Executive Council was really very instructive. I got to know Ghent University. There is so much more than just going to class. If I hadn't taken up any commitments in the past few years, my point of view of our university would probably only have been of the faculty. You get to know people, you visit university buildings you would never otherwise visit. And you get a more critical view of how Ghent University operates. I am really looking forward to my mandate in the Board of Governors. I try to be down-to-earth about it though. I don't have any concrete plans or ideas, I let it come to me. I'm mainly going to try to voice my opinion, take a prominent role for students and try to represent students as best I can."
Do you care about your fellow students? Are you looking for an engagement next to your studies? Curious about all things advocacy and representation? Then student representation might be a thing for you!
Does student representation boost your career?
Ghent University is organizing internal elections at the end of April to appoint student representatives. Internal elections may not sound particularly exciting, but it is important for students to have representatives on the highest governing and advisory bodies. Why? That's what Professor Stijn Baert, politician Thijs Verbeurgt and student Ruxandra Bighiu tell us.
What do student representatives do for you?
You might not always see them around, but during their studies quite a few students take on an important commitment - that of student representative. They have a voice on a variety of Ghent University councils and commissions, where they look after their fellow students’ interests. Meet four of these vital student reps.
Student representatives: an indispensable part of Ghent University
They know what is going on among students, keep their finger on the pulse and participate in different councils and boards. Five representatives tell us more about their role.