Candidate profile: Ava Nasiri, President

Ava Nasiri, fifth-year political science major, is a self-described people person. Having served the last two years as AMS VP Administration — overseeing thousands of club members as well as the transition into the new SUB — she’s now turning her sights to empowering the student body at UBC.

Describe your platform and what sets it apart from your opposition in a few sentences.

The thing about my platform is the one overarching goal that ties not just my platform, but I think will tie the AMS in its entirety together — and therefore the student body — is the focus on communication and consultation. I think that’s one of the main responsibilities of the president and the way that falls into the idea of addressing our business deficit and our budget deficit in a way that will be sustainable long term by bringing in an AMS case competition, by focusing on sponsorship. All of these things require student consultation. Bringing back The Gallery is an upcoming referendum question and we had a microbrewery referendum passed with a majority of our students, so we’re mandated to address that and that’s another one of the ideas that I’d like to work on.

The idea of a fall reading break is something that we’ve had considered for a very long time. I feel that by putting the full weight of the AMS behind seeing that through more quickly will be a huge benefit to all students in terms of not just their GPA, but their mental health and their wellness. And lastly, expanding Block Party is something that our team has worked really hard on this year and I’m excited to see how that maps out. Upon reflecting on that event, how can we continue to expand it instead of letting it plateau and eventually turning it into a philanthropic benefit concert because we have so many different styles of philanthropy happening on campus. I think it would be great for the AMS to come in and fill the gap of connecting all of the different initiatives that our students are working towards.

I think what sets my platform apart from other candidates is that it takes into account things that students identify with and things that students spend time thinking about and focuses really on engaging them and involving them more. Even if they have opinions or even if there are things that I am failing to address, students are comfortable in approaching me and letting me know and I’m giving them the tools they need to with my overarching goal of empowering them through consultation and really upping our communications game.

What are the challenges facing this position in the upcoming year?

In the upcoming year, within the next four weeks, we will have the governance review complete. In terms of the internal AMS community, that’s going to be an area that the AMS president needs to focus on because what comes with structural changes is discomfort. It’s really important to be able to make sure that … everyone in our office is feeling comfortable and excited about the changes coming because they see the bigger picture as opposed to feeling neglected or alienated or confused with what’s going on. So I think that’s a major thing for the president to focus on and that’s really one of the only things that falls under the presidential role to bring that community together. Secondly, having a new UBC president come in is important for the [AMS] president to take into account the years of students before and the years of students to come and establishing that expectation … in terms of what we stand for, what we advocate for and what our expectations are of our university to take us as their major stakeholders. Thirdly, the AMS budget will be in a deficit, which means working closely with our business operations team and the VP Finance to make sure that they are supported and that we are engaging the student body both so that they have that financial transparency of where their fees are going and how are number systems are working, but also so that they’re engaged and we’re asking them for their feedback and instead of looking at it as a project, looking at it as a process that we can implement for a longer term.

What is one thing by your predecessor that you agreed with and one thing that you disagreed with?

Aaron has done a phenomenal job of bringing attention to varsity sports. I would love to carry that on by bringing back the Blue and Gold Society. It’s a club that we used to have in the 1950s and their entire goal was to bring together the campus population, to collaborate and coordinate with all the different groups on campus to bring spirit to all types of varsity games including homecoming. So I think that there’s a certain beauty to looking at our history and looking at the ways that we can make that relevant today and maybe tap into a little bit of that nostalgic campus spirit that we’ve been talking about bringing back for so many years.

I think everyone has a different leadership style and in my essence, almost in my being, one thing that I identify really closely with is being a people person and being the one that brings people together and creates that community. One thing I might do differently is spend more time looking at ways that we can make the AMS more cohesive … so that anyone who’s in any way affiliated with the AMS is excited about it and is telling their friends about it and is causing and supporting that ripple effect throughout campus. A little more social programming post-council and even pre-council for those councillors because we have new people coming in every few months and I think it’s really important for them to feel included. More strategic planning as well as to engage council right at the beginning of their term with ideas and visions that the executive have. Did I mention AMS Beer Thursdays? The last Thursday of every month, inviting everyone and their cousins — that’s our club presidents, our outlet staff, that’s The Ubyssey, that’s CiTR — come out to the Pit and have a beer and we’ll work in some programming there so you’re meeting other people and learning about what they do. I think the best ideas come from those conversations with people that do things completely differently than you do and that’s what I would do differently.

Who is the most important body or person you need to collaborate with in this position, and how will you foster a relationship with them?

The most important body is the student body. And in order for me as president to be able to collaborate with them, the next most important level becomes our council because those are the students that represent every single student on campus through their faculty and through their academic studies and pursuits. As one person as president, I would most directly have to coordinate and collaborate with the body of the executive, so the four VPs that I would have the honour and privilege of working with ... that cover each four of the facets of the AMS and any outreach and support that we engage in, are empowered and not just to get their projects done, but as individuals from a person to person standpoint. If every VP is doing a phenomenal job and feeling great about it, then they have that relationship with me as president where they feel comfortable coming to me with their problems and I feel comfortable letting them know when they’re missing the deadlines that they set for themselves or when there are maybe more effective ways of doing the projects that they’re passionate about. I see the role of president as working directly and collaborating with the student body through these levels and through these teams.

What is the weakest part of your campaign or platform?

Because I’m outgoing and social, I’d like to think I’m pretty nice. It might be assumed that I wouldn’t know how to be firm and direct and exact when needed as president and I think that it’s important to have a president that can do both things at once— that can be tactful and strategic and hard-hitting and hold things accountable when necessary. I think because I am — at least in my own opinion I think I am — a people person, it might seem that I don’t have the necessary discipline, when rather I think it’s very important for discipline or praise in public and criticize in private. [But] I have a serious side. You might not see it all the time … but it’s definitely there and I can definitely draw on it as your next AMS president. I think that as the next AMS president, I can draw on my two and a half years of experience managing teams, pivoting from hardships and projects, and working with leaders and developing through critical times to bring that serious side to bat any time it’s necessary.

Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.