Now finishing his final year, Dylan Robinson takes a look at the road behind him
After three years with TRUSU, two as president, Dylan Robinson is getting ready to put on the cap and gown. We caught up with him on his time at TRUSU – what he’s proud of, what he’s learned and what’s next.
Alexis Stockford: So looking back to when you were entering the position, did you know what you were getting into or was there anything that really surprised you?
Dylan Robinson: Well, I think getting involved in any organization – on-campus, off-campus, in life – you don’t really know the full extent of what you’ve been involved with until you sign up, so I was really surprised to see the variety of different issues that I’ve been involved with and issues that I never expected to be working on.
AS: Can you give me an example?
DR: Well, some of the things that I’ve been really proud to work on have been equity work for various constituency groups on campus, specifically groups that weren’t really represented very well before I would say. People like LGBTQ students – who I identify as a member of that community. Graduate students on campus are another good example.
I’ve been really privileged to be a part of the board to approve those equity/advocacy rep positions and have starting doing a lot more work – the annual Pride Parade is an example of that – for those constituency groups as well. Never thought I’d be doing that when I signed up.
AS: Looking back on the last couple of years, has there been anything you would say has been a defining moment as far as your leadership at TRUSU?
DR: I would probably point to the annual general meeting that approved the LGBTQ rep and the graduate students rep.
Getting involved in my first two years on campus before I was elected to the board, I’d always gotten the impression that Kamloops was too small or too conservative or whatever a place to really accept LGBTQ students having a really visible role [on campus].
People were saying, “Oh, we think that people oppose it, people don’t want that, it’s not the right time, et cetera, et cetera,” and so I was really moved when I was sitting in that meeting and everybody put up their cards to approve the positions and there was not a single vote in opposition. Everybody was just really supportive and it was such a good moment for me.
AS: Is there anything you would say you’ve learned about yourself in the course of this position?
DR: Oh, absolutely. You can’t get involved in an organization like the student’s union without developing personally and professionally in terms of the skills and types of things you kind of pick up along the way. I think the mentorship that other board members and staff people have provided me have definitely made me a more confident person in terms of my technical skills and abilities.
Like, I never really knew how to read a budget before I got involved with TRUSU and now I can kind of go through life reading those and understanding them.
Before I got involved in the student’s union I couldn’t call and order pizza on the phone because I couldn’t talk to people…So, you know, getting these skills of going out and talking to people and talking publically in front of large [groups of] people, but also just one on one with people who I never knew before is a great skill that I’ve acquired in my time here at TRUSU.
AS: Is there anything that you now feel that you’re passing the torch on that you really wish you could have seen to completion?
DR: Oh, so many things. The list would go on and on. You want to finish all the projects that you really care about and have been involved with for a number of years but I would say, in terms of the caucus, the new budget consultation process that we’ve launched this year, which is a really exciting and unprecedented I would say out of any Canadian institution. It’s a direct line for students to have a voice in the budgeting process at the beginning of the process instead of at the end when everything’s all decided – “It’s too bad, you should have participated earlier” type of deal.
So it’s going to be really interesting as time goes on to see that process get more and more fleshed out and to see kind of what students really want to see, to have the data to back that up, about what the members want to see on campus.
The CUEF transition has been a really big topic of discussion and a victory that I’m particularly proud of in terms of more money actually going towards direct student initiatives. It’ll be interesting to see on campus – I probably won’t be here – but what people start building: the conferences, the lectures, the events on campus that they are able to host with more resources and having more control by students of students’ money that they pay into that fund. So that’ll be a really positive change I think.
AS: So is there any advice you would give to the person who’s going to be replacing you?
DR: The only real requirement I think you need for being involved in the student organization and TRUSU is just a willingness to sit down, work together with people from diverse backgrounds and kind of find that common ground about how you can make campus just a little better for students.
Sometimes it might not be glamorous work. You might not be out there with a megaphone on campus leading a big parade or a big march, but you might be in the office doing administrative work, making sure a member’s health and dental plan is fixed, activating their UPass and things like that.
So I think just having that patience to be able to sit down and work collegially with everyone on campus in order to make things better for members on campus is really the most important aspect of this work I would say.
AS: So for you personally, what’s next? What program are you graduating out of?
DR: I’m graduating with a BA – a major in philosophy and a minor in political science, so pretty deep stuff but really enjoyable to study, really great faculty here.
So I don’t know. It’ll kind of depend where things take me.
I’m really interested in not-for-profit management; similar to the work I’m doing at TRUSU. I find it really interesting because you get to have that variety I was speaking of.
One day you’ll be doing services development and talking about health and dental plans or UPass, the next day you’ll be out on campus handbilling, doing campus outreach, talking to students about a budget consultation process that’s happening right now. Then the next day you’ll be doing media work, something that I never thought I’d be doing, and then the day after that you’ll be doing, I don’t know, equity work and learning about issues that are impacting equity groups on campus.
It’s like every day the work is different and changing and I kind of enjoy that. I would like to continue doing work like that at a community organization, food bank, NGO – United Way would be really cool – Amnesty International, something like that. So I’m keeping my options open and just looking nationally for work.
The vote for the 2015/2016 TRUSU board of directors takes place March 25 and 26.