If there’s anyone that can teach us all a thing or two about being a student leader, it’s Veronica Knott: she’s a student leadership super woman who’s served as the president of the UBC Engineering Student Society (EUS), currently sits on the UBC Board of Governors, and has delved into countless other leadership roles. Veronica was the recipient of the SLC 2016 Nestor Korchinsky award, and will be participating in the 2017 SLC as a Living Libraries presenter.
When Veronica first came to UBC from Toronto, she was looking for a community on campus. She was instantly drawn to the EUS: a wild group of people clad in their bright red jackets who were proud of the work they were doing. “I became a part of them and we became a family,” she reveals. Student leadership became an integral part of her university experience. “I found myself at UBC through my leadership roles — I figured out who I wanted to be… and I want every student to have that experience.”
For Veronica, becoming president of the EUS wasn’t part of a grand plan. During her first few years on the EUS, she took on less intensive roles where she spent time understanding the workings of the EUS and started to notice problems that she thought needed fixing. It was once she saw ways to address these problems that she decided to run for president. “I’m happy I did it, but there was no plan to do it — and that’s the way it should be,” she argues. Veronica believes that student leadership should come from finding something that you’re passionate about, not just a title to put on your resume.
Veronica notes that there’s a competitive culture in student leadership that often gets too caught up in roles: how many exec positions you have on your resume, and what role you're running for next. “There’s the glamour and the fun of the big roles, but you don’t have to take on massive positions. You can be a silent leader or a leader on the sidelines — there are different kinds of leadership. As a culture, we need to recognize that,” she notes. “Those people give so much to their teams.”
It was Veronica’s team on the EUS who nominated her for the SLC Nestor Korchinsky award — which she claims is a testament to her strong support system. It was also a reminder that her work in student leadership is never done alone. “Winning the Nestor Korchinsky Award was unreal,” she exclaims — admitting that this happened during a time when she felt she was losing her passion for student leadership. “It can be easy to get jaded or to forget why you’re doing what you’re doing,” she notes. To her, winning the Nestor Korchinsky award was a reminder of her passion for her work and it motivated her to run for the UBC Board of Governors for a second term.
Now, with years of leadership experience under her belt, Veronica’s goal is to pass down her knowledge to future student leaders. One way she plans to do so is by presenting at the 2017 SLC as a Living Library. She plans to share advice on being a successful student leader, as well as the mistakes she’s learned from along the way.
One crucial mistake Veronica has made in the past is saying yes to everything without taking school into consideration. She put too much time into her leadership roles over academics, and it took a toll on her grades. She admits that at some points, she was just scraping by.
Now, she lives by a simple trick: if she’s asked to do something, she checks her calendar first. She schedules everything in this calendar— from classes and meetings to working on assignments and even grocery shopping. “If what I’m being asked to do doesn’t fit within my schedule including 8 hours of sleep — then I have to say no.”
She notes a time when she had the opportunity to have lunch with UBC President Santa Ono. It conflicted with a class where attendance was worth 15% — so she had to politely decline. “Who says no to that?” she laughs, but she knows it was the right choice. As a student leader, academics aren’t an afterthought: managing your schoolwork is part of the job. But amidst that busy schedule, what does Veronica do if she finds an empty slot? You can bet she’s watching Netflix.
What kind of takeaway advice does Veronica have for getting involved? "Be ready to put the time and work effort in, and be ready to fail, and don’t give up," she urges. “You are actually making a difference.”