By Sara Bartl
Election season is approaching, and some might wonder if running is worth the effort. We asked a few students about their ‘big board’ experiences. What they expected, what they got, and if they would run again.
Maike de Haas, HAC
When I tell people that I am the Secretary of the Housing Affairs Council and taking three 300-level courses and a capstone this semester, they often ask me how I manage. To be fair, I don’t have an answer to that question, but I do have a very clear view on why I like to combine my courses with a board position. Having a board position is not only a great opportunity for you to gain new skills and experiences, it’s also a nice way to contribute to the UCR community, and it’s actually very rewarding.
In my first semester, during my Rhetoric and Argumentation course, Dr. Anya Luscombe told us that thanking people that help you never hurts anybody. As a Secretary, I often help people with their legal questions, applying for rent allowance, or simply by listening to their comments and suggestions. I now regularly experience the impact a simple “thank you” can have: other students sending us emails and commenting on our Facebook posts to show their gratitude can really make my day.
Being in a board can sometimes be very challenging, too, especially during busy weeks. Then again, I guess all UCR students are used to chronic lack of sleep by now. You may not realize this, but having a position in a board can be very rewarding. As long as you know what you sign up for, I’d definitely recommend everyone to spend some time in a board. Preferably as the Secretary, of course, as you’ll be the first one to read all those thank-you’s flooding the inbox.
Maike de Haas, Class of 2018, is a Law and Politics Major from Delft, the Netherlands.
Koen van der Blij, Elliott
In my first semester I started to realize how special and ambitious Elliott was as a project. I was excited about getting involved, although I think I never expected to get as involved as I am now. After being elected, it has been an intense journey, with moments of desperation and frustration, but also with accomplishments that kept us going as individuals and as a board. In the Elliott board, both success and failure are very tangible, because everything we do is visible to the people who visit the common house. The students who are in the Elliott board know that motivation and an ambition to improve Elliott is essential to having a successful board year.
Yet even the most invested people in the board can have serious doubts about continuing their position, but it is that intensity that makes Elliott such a good learning experience. When it comes to my personal development, I think my year as Elliott Treasurer will help me for the rest of my professional career. It is my first big step into the real world beyond theory and academics. The Elliott Treasurer position is an extremely valuable addition to my studies, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity. With the knowledge I have now, I think I would have made the same decision. But after a year in a team and a year in the board, I feel like it’s time for something new.
Koen van der Blij, Class of 2019, is a History and Philosophy major from Breda, the Netherlands.
Azamat Omuraliev, AAC
I have to be honest: when I ran for my current position, I didn’t fully know what to expect. The willingness to immerse oneself in handling complaints and answering student questions wasn’t the main reason I joined the elections, and the vague image of what the Council does did not match the reality once I started the board year. I guess I ran because I saw so many of my friends doing the same. I didn’t struggle with workload, the opportunity of doing something extracurricular and challenging seemed appealing, and no one told me that it’s a bad idea. And, looking back, it wasn’t.
UCR has many weaknesses. As many others, I am not a fan of all the requirements. I wish the curriculum had more offerings. Sometimes, I would trade the intimacy of late-night Middelburg walks for a big city rush. I also have something to say about the insulation and, in some aspects, the superficiality of our community.
But there is one thing that outweighs all these cons. To me, it seems that our college is an excellent environment for self-development. The fast pace, the diversity of characters, the size of the city, and the restraints of the program: none of that allows you to settle and sit still in your comfort zone. Perhaps this is not what UCR is to each and every student – after all, it is a place of many faces – but to me it is. Being a part of a big board, and putting in the time and effort and creativity and nerves pays off: I keep on finding myself in unimaginable situations dealing with issues I never heard of. I still don’t fully understand what I have to do, but I know what I have learned. Obviously, being in a big board means serving the community; however, it does not mean all of us are in it for that. Being selfless, after all, is also selfish: some find the joy in helping others, while others simply like the challenge.
Azamat Omuraliev, Class of 2018, is a Mathematics and Computer Science Major from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Sara Bartl, Class of 2019, is a Linguistics and Antiquity Major from Salzburg, Austria.