The Chair of the Häme University of Applied Sciences Student Union’s Representative Council, Jutta Pantsu, tells you what it has been like to act as chair this year and what you can learn.
A year as the Chair of the Representative Council has given my life more content than I could have imagined. The most important gift has not been learning about the structures of meeting practices and organizational work, but the growth of social self-confidence and a sense of effectiveness.
I have always felt an interest in influencing common causes and reducing injustice. I was already on the council during the term of 2022, also as vice-chair for part of the year. It seemed natural to apply to the representative council for a further term. However, a year ago in the autumn, I knew that the coming year of study would be tough and full of work, so my primary thought was to apply for the position of vice-chair.
However, at the organizational meeting, I stated that I wanted to run for chair, and in the voting, I was elected. It felt great to receive a vote of confidence from the members of the representative council, but of course, I was also a little nervous about what the coming term would bring.
Learning is essential
My term as chair began strongly with various orientations and trainings, as well as networking events organized by both HAMKO and the National Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences – SAMOK. A clearer picture began to form of what the organizational structure of student unions is. Like how many student unions there are in Finland, and how we all work on the same issues. One of the greatest things during the season has been getting to know the actors of other representative councils and meeting other presidents of the representative councils.
Learning is essential to the desire and need to promote justice. In student union operations, I have been able to learn meeting practices, organizational activities, and what types of operations are included in student unions. Such as budgets, action plans, and opinion rounds.
In addition, I have learned about influencing, politics, communication, advocacy, operating principles of public transport, geography, party politics, state-level decision-making, and much more.
Getting to know people
A chair is never anything without the rest of the team. The council has a chair, vice-chair and 19 representatives. A year is a short time to get to know everyone well, but it has been truly inspiring to get to know all the members of the 2023 representative council.
There were five of us from seven HAMK campuses this season, which creates a versatile representation in terms of both education and geographical locations.
In the presidency, one of the greatest things is when you manage to inspire others or bring out from them the great knowledge, skill, and potential that people have. We’ve had enthusiastic discussions at meetings, and it’s great to see the sparkle in people’s eyes that tells of the desire to make an impact.
An enormous amount of cooperation has also been made with the employees of the student union. You can be grateful that HAMKO has four employees who work full-time for the benefit of our students and for the help of trustees.
It sounds like a cliché to say that I got to know wonderful and very different people, but it’s true. It’s amazing to notice how people who come from different backgrounds, have different political views, or study in different fields can be on the same page about some issues. The pursuit and maintenance of students’ well-being unites us all despite our differences. Perhaps the best thing about student union activities is that you can feel you are a meaningful part of the community, safe among people, and yet an individual whose opinions others are ready to hear. I have rarely encountered such an open and diverse discussion elsewhere.
Perhaps the best thing about student union activities is that you can feel you are a meaningful part of the community, safe among people, and yet an individual whose opinions others are ready to hear.
Development as a social and functional person
Turning to personal development. The biggest gift has been the development of personal functional self-confidence. I believe it will carry far into the future. The courage to take on situations, speak out, and defend one’s own and the community’s point of view has grown. I now trust myself as a valuable member of the university of applied sciences field and the student field in general much more strongly than before my year as the chair.
What I learned during the year will certainly be useful to me and my communities in the future as well. I have also been able to notice that previous life experiences and acts of trust are useful. Although a lot of things may seem “just small” to you, it may end up being quite a big deal. During this year, I have learned to believe even better that people are good, people want to help, and people primarily treat others positively.
The year brings plenty of good things in a short time
A year ago, I wondered if I would be able to fulfill my position of trust in addition to school and job, and if it was worth running for chair at all. My thoughts were that nothing should be done half-heartedly. Now I can say that half-heartedness is a dreary term, which is appropriately better.
During the year, I have sometimes done more and sometimes less, according to my own ability, and that has been enough. This is also how the trustee’s year can go. Too often you hear about being rushed and exhausted, but it is possible to act as a trustee while taking care of your own self-sufficiency and without having to feel that you have neglected others.
There is always work to do, more opportunities, opportunities to develop and expand operations. However, sustainable development, learning, and expansion do not happen overnight. Sustainability means persistence, experiments, learning, and continuity. HAMKO has long and strong roots and a stable economy; we have operating methods that have been found to be good, with the support of which it is possible to try new things and face failures and successes.
A year in a position of trust is a short time, and continuity is the lifeblood of new experiments. With us, however, the short year of one trustee does not prevent long-term work and the continuation and development of experiments. One year spent in trustee activities will surely give back many times over, at least for yourself, and hopefully for the community as well.
You have a chance to change things
Even though in organization activities and trustee activities it may sometimes feel like there are too many things in the world that need to be done and sometimes the weight of things can feel too heavy, you should remember that the world is never ready, fortunately.
My high school biology teacher, Pöyhönen, often repeated the saying “nothing is as permanent as change.” At the time I got tired of the saying, but it is true and there is comfort in it. Fortunately, there is always more to learn, more to do, new people to get to know, new students applying for positions of trust, and bringing new winds to the activity!
During the year, I have been able to promote issues important to my community, both in terms of the educational institution, the student union, and the national student union activities. I have been made to feel useful. I encourage students to get involved in activities of the student union, maybe apply to the representative council, even act as a trustee.
Students experience, vision, and being present have the power to change things for the better!