Meet Cristina Ilnitchi, VP External Affairs
By Natalie Chu
The 2020 AMS Elections are almost here, and the nomination period is now open! If you’re looking to get more involved in the UBC community, create lasting connections, and make an impact on UBC student life, then consider running in the AMS Elections.
For those looking to learn more about the possible positions to run for, keep an eye out on this page. Over the next couple of weeks, you will hear from the current members of the AMS Executive team about their role, why they chose to run, and why you should too!
We are starting with Cristina Ilnitchi, VP External Affairs Ilnitchi. She is in her fifth year at UBC, studying political science and gender, race, and social justice. She explains that the role of VP External Affairs connects a lot of the things she studies in the classroom. ‘A lot of the roles at the AMS – but particularly this one, meet those intersections of politics and increasing equity, community development, developing and building relationships, and learning this in a very professional setting’ – Christina explained. But what’s like to be the VP of External Affairs and what does it mean for students at UBC? Let’s find out.
‘ My job is finding out what students care about ‘
‘In a nutshell, I deal with all of the external advocacy for UBC students. I’m advocating to the government and other external stakeholders. Most often my advocacy will be towards the provincial government because they have the most jurisdiction over post-secondary education, but I also work with the federal and municipal government, and other external organizations to address student issues.
Advocacy can take on many forms for the VP of External Affairs. It could be about engaging and mobilizing students around the issues that affect them the most, whether that’s through campaigns, or working with on-campus groups that are already doing great advocacy work.
My job extends deeper into finding what students truly care about. For example, I have a fantastic team of students who work with me to develop research or focus groups, to better understand the issues at hand, and possible solutions to address them. Whether that’s affordability or whether that’s mental health on campus; and when we go to the government, we go to them with recommendations for what they can do to change policy and legislation, or where to divert funds to be able to support students better.
Reflecting on my time as VP External Affairs, I was really nervous about having my voice heard and speaking out in situations where I was working with university administrators, or cabinet ministers in government, and other student leaders, who had had so much more experience and knowledge than myself. It was quite intimidating at first, but I think what this role really gave me was a level of confidence and assuredness in myself.
‘ It’s really important to have equal representation ‘
If you are considering running for this role but are feeling at all apprehensive, I’d say in total honesty, nobody has the qualifications for these roles. I never did government lobbying, or government relations before coming into it, but there’s a lot that you can make up for your lack of knowledge with just sheer enthusiasm and willing to dedicate yourself to this work, and really putting yourself out there.
On the elections as a whole, It’s really important to have equal representation. I also really want to encourage women, non-binary folks, and people of colour to run for these positions. I think often times, one of the things that’s not said enough is that with institutions like these – whether it’s higher education as a whole or the student union world – the students who take up student leadership positions have historically been more privileged. I think it’s incredibly important for student leaders who come into these roles, to have lived experiences, and to have had backgrounds where they can contribute other perspectives to these roles because they are doing this work on behalf of over 56,000 students on this campus. So, I think it’s really important to ask the people around you if you see someone that’s a really good leader – especially someone who might not be asked – it’s really important that they’re approached and encouraged to run.
This can be one of the most rewarding experiences, from your time at UBC. There’s no one reason to run for this role. There’s no one skill or one capability that makes you the perfect person for it. I think what should encourage you to run, is to have a passion for wanting to help out your peers and for wanting to make this campus a better place. If you have those things, you’re already almost there, and if you’re willing to put in the work to learn as much as possible, you’re basically all the way there. It’s a really exciting position to get to have, and you’ll learn a lot and you’ll get a lot out of it – so I encourage you to do it!
Find out how you can get involved in our elections & referendum pages.
Tags: advocacy, AMS, campus, elections, get involved, student life, students, students views