Fourth year mechanical engineering undergraduate student Laura Berneaga is the new president of the Engineering Society (EngSoc), the student government for engineering undergraduate students at the University of Toronto. She had no intention of running for the position, but then she went for coffee with last year’s EngSoc President Shivani Nathoo and was inspired to start building her campaign. Learn about what motivated Laura to run for president, what she hopes to achieve as the head of EngSoc and how students can get more involved in the Q & A below.
Q: What is your program and year? Have you completed your Professional Experience Year (PEY)?
A: I am in my fourth year of the Mechanical Engineering program. I was on PEY last year working as a Manufacturing Engineering Intern at Conavi Medical, a company that makes imaging cardiovascular devices.
Q: What is your current position with EngSoc, and what previous positions have you held (if any)?
A: I am currently the President of the Engineering Society. Previously, I had been involved as the Matriculation and Social Media Sub-Committee Chair for F!rosh Week and the Events and Communications Director for Mech Club, but prior to this year, I had not been involved with anything else directly within EngSoc.
Q: Why did you want to run for President of EngSoc?
A: I went out for coffee with last year’s EngSoc President Shivani Nathoo to discuss officer positions in general. I had inquired about every single one of the vice presidents; what they do, what their position covers and what their daily tasks are.
She then asked me “What about president?” to which I laughed in her face and said no way am I doing that. But we spent the next two hours discussing in detail what the president does, what she has been working on this past year and she prompted me to think about what I would want to see different within the community if I had the ability to change it. And all of a sudden, this role that seemed so intimidating and so difficult to achieve didn’t seem so far fetched anymore.
The idea of defining things within the community and Faculty that we could improve on, as well as the opportunity to have impact within our community, resonated a lot with me. So after a three-hour coffee chat, that I had walked into being vehemently opposed to running for president, I spent the rest of the day writing down my future campaign points.
“After a three-hour coffee chat, that I had walked into being vehemently opposed to running for president, I spent the rest of the day writing down my future campaign points.”
Q: What do you hope to achieve as President of EngSoc?
A: I have a list of goals that I hope to achieve within the year or at least prepare the path for the person coming after me. But the two aims that I will work on continuously throughout the year (and the ones that will make me feel as if I did something right in my year as President) are tackling the funding challenges associated with the introduction of the Student Choice Initiative, as well as making EngSoc more approachable and less intimidating to students.
I want our community and society to continue running as we have in previous years, allowing our students to do what they want, without them being afraid that they might not have funding for the projects they want to start. To go hand in hand with that, I know even for me, prior to this year, EngSoc seemed like this giant and terrifying thing, so I hope to show students that we are just a set of students at the end of the day trying to provide them with the best experience in their undergrad.
“I encourage you all to explore and find ways to get involved outside of the classroom because they will benefit you in ways that you never thought would be possible.”
Q: How can students get more involved with EngSoc?
A: There are so many opportunities to get involved with EngSoc, but the best way to find out more is to check out skule.ca, or come to our office (in the basement of the Sanford Fleming building, Room B740) and chat with one of the officers. Whether you’re interested in policies, academic advocacy, financial decisions, making student life more inclusive or just being part of a design team, there is definitely something there for everyone, and you just have to look into what would be the best fit for you! Our services branch out in a lot of different directions, so see if one of those branches would work for you!
Q: Any advice for incoming undergrad students?
A: I know you’ve probably heard it a lot already, but a point that I would love to emphasize is the idea that being in university is more than just your classes and what you’re learning in your lectures. In whatever extracurricular you may choose to get involved with, there are so many ways to grow and learn new skills, that you might sometimes not get in the classroom as easily. Moreover, the act of balancing classes and other things on top of that (as well as taking care of yourself, hanging out with friends, and all of that) is a skill that will help you tremendously throughout the rest of your undergrad as well as professional career. So I encourage you all to explore and find ways to get involved outside of the classroom because they will benefit you in ways that you never thought would be possible.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I mentioned this already but, at the end of the day, anybody involved in the Engineering Society is still just a student, just like all of you! So don’t be afraid to reach out, to ask us questions, to talk to us, to let us know what’s going on or how we can do better. We encourage this because the only way that we can improve and represent you all as best as we can is based on the feedback that we get from you all. So talk to us, we promise we’re friendly!
-Posted September 17, 2019 by Pam Walls, email@example.com