Taran Dhillon

Taran Dhillon-President

on March 19, 2018
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What drew you to the position?

The real motivation was that I wanted to meet new people.  I felt that I should join some kind of activity on campus or volunteer because I was in a totally different country and culture.  This was one of the best opportunities that I could have chosen. Also, I was really involved in student politics in my past. I found an opportunity to join as a councilor from my department and everything started from there.

What’s been a highlight of your year?

I was successful in bringing people from different departments to join the society. People felt that it was too slow, too boring or it won’t do any good for them, but we worked a lot on communications and reaching out to the students.  I tried to be at each and every event to meet the students, to talk to them and when I see the council today we have many new councilors. They got to know about us by attending events, by talking to me and through communications.  I think I have been successful so far in bringing people from all over the campus into one place.

What has been the most challenging part about your role?

Sometimes we have limited resources.  The first challenge was the day I joined, our General Manager resigned and within a few months our Administrative Assistant also left.  We are a small society, with just four full-time staff members, and two people leaving in just three or four months was a shock to us. The biggest challenge was to ensure smooth functioning of the society with limited resources.  Another big challenge was managing my work, life and studies, because I am a full-time student, I have two other jobs and am also working at the graduate society.  There were some really difficult moments, but in the end I always managed to get through them because I got support from everyone.

What tip would you give to students on how to have a work-life balance?

In the culture I come from, we don’t honestly express ourselves with our teachers or supervisors.  We are not supposed to.  What I learned here is that this is a big mistake.  I learned very late that if you are doing something beyond your school, and you are really committed to that, you should tell your supervisors or your professors that you will need some additional support.  And they do really help you out in that.  The other thing is I think one has to learn how to say no.  When you are working for the society or for the students, you will get so many enquiries, but sometimes, you really have to say no because of your other commitments.   I’m still not very good at that, but I think this is one of the important things you have to learn.

What skills have you gained from your position?

There are actually a lot of skills. When I joined the GSS back in 2016 and represented my department, I joined the HR committee and it was the first time in my life I was sitting on the other side of the table interviewing people.  We hired staff members for the GSS.  It was an amazing experience.

I learned how to conduct meetings, I learned to manage staff members.  We have full-time staff members and I am actually not full-time, so I learned how to maintain a good working environment.  I learned how to work with people.  These interpersonal skills are very broad because you can only experience them when you are in this position. One thing I was really happy to learn was representing the students at federal and provincial levels.  I met the members of legislative assemblies and talked to them about student issues.  It was really a life changing experience. It made me feel comfortable and confident about myself.  I think I could not have got this opportunity without this position.

Do you think what you have learned is transferable to your future career?

I would strongly say that I feel so confident right now. I’m not worried about my future, because all the skills that I have learnt, they are part of my personality now. In whichever role I am in the future, these skills will help me out.

How have you personally grown?

One thing at the personal level is that I’ve worked with some amazing people. There are leaders who are councilors, who take on projects and goals, and they are so good at it. They are so articulate and well organized, and also always willing to help.  I realized at a personal level that I have so much to learn from them, not only professionally but also in being humble.  Whenever you are in a situation when you are expected to lead, you should also inspire others, and you can only do that by being easy to talk to.  I try very hard to be accessible and easy to talk to, so graduate students are comfortable talking about their issues and problems with me, and they also have confidence in me.  So I think I have grown a lot in this position, and I hope I inspired some people to volunteer and help others.

Why should someone run for GSS?

This is a society of graduate students, and we should always remember that universities emerged from a group of graduate students who wanted to hire the best faculty in the world.  Universities used to be run by the students; the decisions were always reflected back to the students and what the students want.  Societies like the GSS and AMS want the university to reflect students’ needs.  This can only happen when graduate students organize together in a setting like the GSS.  The GSS advocates for their issues.  Every student is an individual, but when they group under the umbrella of a society they become a very powerful unit, which can influence decisions.

What if I don’t have leadership experience?

I think no one has leadership experience until they put themselves into a situation where they must lead.  If you see army officers, they’re normal people like us but they’re put into a position where they have to lead a group or unit of people to achieve a common goal.  At the GSS, I got the opportunity to meet and work with amazing people, good councilors, advisers and some very good leaders and I learnt a lot form all of them.

What is something people might not know about you?

I always wanted to be an army officer back in India, and I gave four years of my life to join that.  I moved to a different career path and now am studying journalism at UBC, but that was not always my dream. My real dream was the armed forces.

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Taran Dhillon-President