Tatiana Gilbert gets candid about being TRUSU’s president

TRUSU president talks about her election win, past experiences and what's next for the union

Tatiana Gilbert, recently elected to serve another term as TRUSU’s president, sat down and talked with The Omega last week about her re-election, as well as what’s next. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

In the race for TRUSU president there was a face off between current president and PSA affiliate Tatiana Gilbert, who sought reelection, and Yours Truly affiliate Gagandeep Singh. Gilbert was successfully re-elected and secured 53.7 per cent of the vote, with a total of 861 votes.

“I was really excited, really happy and very honoured that students wanted to see me serve another term and continue to fight for them,” Gilbert said. “My heart was just so full when I found out that I won and I was so happy for my slate as well because it was an incredible win.”

Gilbert first ran for office back in the spring of 2017, with ambitious ideas and a lot of student issues at TRU that she wanted to address. However, Gilbert says the role was hard to step into and navigate at first.

“I don’t think anyone is ever fully prepared for stepping into the role of president,” she said.

Before running in the election, she read the job description and had a basic understanding of what would be expected of her.

  “A lot of the things that you’re not prepared for are more on an individual basis, how to work with other board members, how to work with other people that you maybe don’t agree with or they don’t see the same vision for students as you do. That’s something I’ve learned a lot about and how to work cooperatively with those individuals.”

She says that the job tends to require a lot more than just what’s on the job description and there are just some elements that you can’t prepare for and you just have to learn as you go.

“Once you step into the role, you really see how different of a world and how different of a role that you’ve taken upon. You really have to take your time to learn the position, learn all of the things you’ll be handling and working with and the people you’ll be working with.”

Learning these skills, meeting new people, advocating for students and figuring out the logistics of job can take some time, Gilbert said.

“I know it took me half a year to remember some people’s names at TRU and what they do and what we really need to focus on. So, now that I’ve been re-elected, I’m absolutely ecstatic because I don’t feel like I’m starting at square one anymore. I’m already running, I’m already on my way.”

Even though being president is big role with a lot of responsibilities and requires a lot of time and hard work, Gilbert says that she sought reelection because it’s something she loves doing.

“I really am just so passionate about fighting for people and fighting for things that students deserve. I love advocating for students, for our community and I’m really passionate about putting that voice in places where maybe students don’t have a voice,” Gilbert said. “Like I said, it took half a year for me to really assume the role and figure out how everything works and I just felt as though it wasn’t enough time. It is such a large role that I felt one year was not enough time to make all of the change I wanted to see.”

Her position in TRUSU has helped her to find new passions and learn new skills, as well as becoming more involved in the campus and aware of other students’ experiences.

“Until you’re really involved in the student’s union, then you don’t really get to know every little thing that’s going on on campus. Some of the injustices, some of the things that you maybe don’t agree with, some of the problems you think aren’t getting addressed. As well as some of the incredible things that are going on that you don’t know about, because it’s either not promoted or you don’t directly get to be apart of it.”

During her first year in office, Gilbert says that TRUSU has had a lot of successes with events, student outreach and campaigns. Although if she had to narrow it down to just one thing, she would say the Hungry for Choice campaign was probably the most successful.

“We’ve really put all of our blood sweat and tears into ensuring that every student knew about the food service contract expiring. We presented to TRU’s Board of Governors and we were so thrilled– it was a bit of an early Christmas gift, when they sent us an email saying that they agreed and there will be a full and meaningful campus consultation around any new or renewed campus food services contracts.”

Before her initial election into office, Gilbert, in a 2017 interview with The Omega, cited that money was one of the big issues she planned on addressing. Addressing the issue of money came to fruition through a variety of TRUSU campaigns that have advocated for open textbooks and ultimately TRU’s lack of government funding.

“The Fund the Future campaign has been going really well,” Gilbert said. “They’re almost at 50 presentations, which if you think about it, is unreal with the amount of influence and people they’ve sat down to present to about how underfunded our university is.”

Looking forward to her next term, Gilbert says some of her goals will be to have a larger impact within the community and to see more involvement and participation from the TRUSU board of directors. 

“I’d really love to increase board attendance and committee attendance,” Gilbert said. “More than anything, I just want to ensure that our board of directors are not just individuals that get together every two weeks to discuss what’s on the agenda, but really become friends and rely upon one another. So that way we can really be the best we can for students and that’s really what we’re all here for.”

As for what TRUSU’s priorities will be for the upcoming year, those decisions will be made once the new board has stepped in and done their strategic planning over the summer months.

“I know that a bunch of the new team that we have elected here have their own individual ideas and ideas for the committees and committee events, I’d really love to see those reflected in the upcoming year.”

However, Gilbert says that there are three things that she knows will for sure be continuing on for next year, the first is the Hungry for Choice campaign.

“TRU has committed to a full and meaningful campus consultation and that will take a year to consult their community. So, we’ll definitely be helping them out and working with them throughout this entire process to see this through.”

The second campaign that will continue into next year is Fund the Future.

“I know that is something that the campaigns committee wants to continue and wants to see through because TRU demands and deserves the funding that they should be getting.”

The last TRUSU priority that Gilbert confirms will continue to be a priority in the fall is World University Service of Canada (WUSC) referendum.