Uncovering leaders: the experiences of the undergraduate trustee

‘I hesitate to say that there is a ‘lack of student engagement’’

Jaya Sharma serves as the undergraduate trustee.
Credit: 
Jaya Sharma

Queen’s Undergraduate Trustee Jaya Sharma, HealthSci ’24, plans to utilize her position in student government to its full potential.

Students elected Sharma in 2021 during the same election where RTZ was elected as executives.

The undergraduate trustee represents students on the Queen’s Board of Trustees and attends Board meetings four times each year.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body in charge of the university’s overall operations, overseeing financial matters and school-wide funding.

“I also sit on the non-academic misconduct [sub]committee of the audit and risk committee, which are two standing committees of the Board,” Sharma wrote in a statement to The Journal.

Sharma said there could be a disconnect between the values preached by nominees during the elections and what the Board actually achieves.

“It is less about ‘fighting’ for certain policies to be changed and more about thinking critically about what is being presented to the Board of Trustees,” Sharma said.

“The job of the undergraduate trustee is very much focused on the long-term—the feedback students share at the Board of Trustees often does not impact students in the short-term but, rather, will shape the student experience for years to come.”

In addition to her Board responsibilities, Sharma manages social media accounts that share summaries of Board meetings. She also posts detailed updates and agendas on her website.

“It is a unique position since there is no typical ‘daily’ schedule—one week I may have ten hours of meetings, another just a couple reports to write or social media posts to create,” Sharma said.

Sharma plans to continue with her current initiatives in the coming year, specifically focused on communication and outreach.

“I have […] established the ‘Ontario Student Trustee Caucus’ [to] connect student trustees from various Ontario universities in order to collaborate on initiatives and share,” she said.

“I have contributed to some working groups and steering committees which I expect will be continuing next year as well.”

Sharma is focused on issues faced by students such as sexual violence and harassment, non-academic misconduct, EDII, climate change initiatives, and tuition rates. She added she’s already had “enlightening” conversations around mental health support.

Sharma sees the potential for engagement as students take initiative on known problems.

“I hesitate to say that there is a ‘lack of student engagement’ since I think that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Sharma said. “There are for sure ways that students could engage more, and I try to facilitate this through social media outreach.”

Sharma urges anyone interested in student government to seek information and not be discouraged by the election process.

“I want to emphasize how rewarding this experience has been for me,” Sharma said.

“Not only was I able to make meaningful connections with other student and adult leaders on campus, I was able to improve my confidence with public speaking and find my voice as part of the Board.”

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