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A Day in the Life of VP Student Life, Patrick Ma
Patrick on hosting a radio show, pizza days, and becoming a morning person.
Tell me about being VP Student Life. Is it what you thought it’d be when you signed on for the job?
“It’s been everything that I thought it was going to be and a little bit more. A lot of administrative work of course, which I wasn’t fully used to but other than that, it’s definitely an ideas job and I love that.”
What’s something you didn’t expect from this position?
“What I totally overlooked was the CJSW show that we host. It’s been so fun and it’s made me come and push myself to find new music for the show. Both Branden and myself, we host the Students’ Union Weekly Show at 11:30 a.m. every Thursday. We actually just interviewed Minister McLean and she’s the Minister on the Status of Women. I asked her to send in a song request, and she sent Flowers on the Wall by the Statler Brothers and turns out, it’s actually on the soundtrack of Pulp Fiction! So I grabbed a few songs from Pulp Fiction and other Quentin Tarantino movies, so this interview with the Minister ran on that theme. The other song that I chose was Rumble by Link Wrap, and yeah, it was just really fun because you would never expect that.”
What does a typical day look like for you?
“I usually come in at around 9 and the first thing I do is check the emails. The email wave hits every day. It can range—a good day is 30 or 40 emails and a bad day is like 100. I remember I took a wellness day once and I came back with around 100 emails in my inbox, and probably 40 that I had to get back to on that day, so that’s what I meant by admin work before. I don’t want to make it sound like the job is extreme. Sometimes it can be very taxing on your time in terms of admin work, but it’s totally worth it at the end of the day, especially when you see results. During the week, you just have to carve out time for projects you really want to do.”
You say you come in at 9 in the mornings, but I’m here pretty late some nights and you are too. You’re one of the last ones out the door. How does that work?
“Our official hours are from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. but we’re in way afterwards. There’s a reason why we sort of jokingly call it a paid volunteer position because we work well after 4 and rarely do we ever leave at 4. We’re usually leaving at like 7 to like…I actually have a meeting that starts at 10. 10 p.m. every second Wednesday for Residence Students Association Council, so our 8 hour days are hardly ever 8 hour days.”
How do you engage with students?
“Pizza Days. The whole initiative is to go out and talk with students and really connect better with them. Obviously you can talk about pizza being sort of gimmicky but you know, it’s proven to be very useful. You get the pizza and you go out and talk to students before the pizza gets cold. Every time I go out, students just swarm and it’s great. It depends on how many pizzas I get, but there’s usually 10 students per pizza and I’m usually talking to 50-60 students per hour.”
When are the Pizza Days?
“There’s seven pizza days per semester and they’re every two weeks. I don’t advertise the location or when because I want to hit students who are not engaged. If you advertise it, it’s typically the same students who know about things. Doing it at different times, different areas, I feel like I’m hitting more of those unengaged students and I’m always talking to people that I don’t know. I set the time and location for the pizza and there’s an actual schedule so all the elected officials know about them and sign up for each day to help out.”
Who do you collaborate with to enhance student life?
“My staff partner, Kelsey, she’s the events coordinator—she’s awesome—and does a lot of groundwork and planning for events. Stuff that would drive me up the wall if I had to do this on top of everything else. But in terms of who helps me with student life? There’s definitely different university departments that focus on different aspects of student life, like the SU Wellness Centre. We always have great ideas on what other things, what other events we could be hosting and promoting. And from just in terms of getting a better idea of what student issues are on campus, there’s different groups I can go to. The Faith and Spirituality Centre for example, they have created the Interfaith Student Alliance, and this is a group of students who come together from different faith backgrounds and different faith-based clubs to talk about what issues students of faith have faced on campus and what we can do to help them.
Then there’s also Residence Student Association. We’ve been in close contact with them to help them with their needs and we go to their councils. Then there’s the Mental Health Alliance that’s actually a group of student clubs that focus on mental health. These club alliances act as a sort of forum for students to voice their concerns on those specific areas and they’ve been really helpful in having a pulse on student issues.”
What personal challenges have you faced so far in your position?
“This is a great question. I love delving into this. I’m not going to lie…see, I’m an ideas guy and being creative, I feel like you have this idea that living a very scheduled life is not that great for creativity and it can be difficult at times but you have to really carve out that time to be able to think in an open and creative way in a space that allows creativity. And sometimes with a day-to-day job you can somewhat feel hindered. Becoming more regulated in general has been a challenge but has also become really good for me because before, I was not a very regulated person.
My evolution is that I have never been a morning person. But with this job, I’ve begun to really appreciate it. I was the guy who would show up late to a 12-noon class because I couldn’t get up, you know what I mean? Now I totally don’t mind. In fact, this morning I woke up at 6:30 and I loved it. There’s room for exercise in the morning, then an actual breakfast and then you can plan your day a little bit and get prepped.”
What would you say is a strength that’s most needed for someone in your position? Or what’s challenged you to develop a skill that you haven’t had before?
“You definitely have to be regulated. You have to be regulated and open-minded. You have to be willing to listen to others and have to be able to empathize with people. That’s a major aspect of the job and you have to like doing it, of course.”
Do you miss being a full-time student?
“No, I’m pretty content, pretty happy. Honestly, just being in a position where it’s your job to be in the know for how to help students out…I love it. It’s rewarding. There’s just something about it. Everything is so meaningful and you can do that too as a student, obviously, but I mean it’s not required. Here, it’s sort of like a prerequisite for any action you take.”
What would you like students to know about you? Do you have an special talents or quirks? Do you have an important message you’d like your students to know?
“I can whistle pretty loud. Sometimes I’m sarcastic. I’m pretty quirky at times so, bear with me on that. Bear with me as I make changes for the better on campus.”
Krystal Leung is a 5th year English student and the Social Media Coordinator with the SU. She has a soft spot for people, places and things out of the ordinary, and finds her fit in fashion event planning. Throw in a couple golden retrievers and huskies, and she’s a perpetual happy camper.
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