Interview with Caitlin Barán, President of SUB
As per annual tradition, BTSB met with Caitlin Barán, President of SUB for 2015, pictured right.
Caitlin, late congratulations on your selection for President of SUB in 2015! Had you thought of running for long?
Thanks so much! This is all very exciting for me and I’m so grateful for this opportunity. Actually I hadn’t thought about running for president of SUB at all, I only intended to continue organizing parties, as it seemed to be going well. The idea just came up once when I was talking with my friends, and I decided to run.
Tell us a little something about yourself. How have you done your share of studies and SUBbing?
I started on the board of SUB in January 2014 as part of the then-new event team concept, which I have to add has worked extremely well so far. That year was, for me, quite an easy year study-wise, and I think that is why I got this into SUB in the first place: I had so much time to plan events with my fellow event crew members and be actively involved in all sorts of SUB things! My year as president of SUB has been extremely busy so far, but it has also been great, and I think we’ve already made a whole lot of progress in a lot of fields.
This year, the SUB board is considerably larger than it has been in recent years. What has it been like working with such an extensive group of people? Do you get stuff done?
I personally believe that people get stuff done more effectively if they are working with friends, and this is why I am so confident that this year’s board will be very efficient. I think what’s important is that the board actually cares about SUB and wants to work together in order to improve whatever needs to be improved. It’s true that the board is quite large, but I can honestly say from past experience that working in pairs or small teams of three is a very good way to motivate people.
The previous board polled its members to see what would need improving in how the organization manages working life and studies support. Have you been able to take steps to improve the situation? I understand you have, for instance, a bunch of study groups in the pipeline.
At the end of last year Mia (president of 2014) sent out a feedback questionnaire, which included questions about most sectors of the board. We read all of the feedback together and noticed that, in addition to more parties, people still want more support in their studies, and I completely agree. This is why our new board got to work right away to revive the study group tradition. Our plan was to get one or two literature course groups started in the spring already, but unfortunately there were not enough people who signed up to attend. We decided to do this in the fall instead and offer our new freshmen some study support right from the beginning!
We have also planned to organize several working life related excursions, and I am very excited about those as well! It is so important for students in our field to be familiar with the vast amount of possibilities they actually have.
What other avenues of development do you have in mind?
Wow, so many things! During the first months we have attempted and succeeded in making some things run a little smoother within SUB; things like dish rental, reimbursements of costs, our website (on which we have included many things, for example a permanent feedback form for anyone to use at any time) – small adjustments to make things more practical. I think these improvements have been pending for a long time and now we decided to do something about them. We have also tried to work with as many fellow language organizations as possible, and I think it has worked out really well. During the course of this year I hope we can cooperate even more with our friends from other organizations, as well as make the studies and working life sectors more active.
We've written about national politics affecting students quite regularly, but I, for one, don't really know what SUB's stance is on student allowance cuts, making people graduate faster, and the like - even though I can sort of guess. Is there a reason why SUB is fairly quiet on these things?
We have, in fact, discussed this during meetings a lot. I think these matters can be problematic. Education-related decisions are obviously important to all of us as students, but SUB is not a political organization. The fact that our board agrees on certain political matters doesn’t mean that we can necessarily present or promote our views as SUB’s views.
I post a lot in SUB’s Facebook group and sometimes share my personal views on these things, for example when I suggested people attend the protest against student allowance cuts. I’m definitely going to continue to do so in the future as well, however I don’t think I will ever do so on behalf of SUB. If anyone wants to keep track of these things I would say that following SUB’s Facebook group actively and taking part in meetings are crucially important. As I said, we do talk about these things often in meetings, so if anyone is interested in what kind of actions we take in different political matters, please join us in meetings!
Continuing on the same note, how do you think the upcoming parliamentary elections might affect student life in Finland?
I am generally worried that what we saw in March with the attempt to limit the financial aid for students is not the end of it. Even right now decisions are being made about the number of admissions in language subjects being radically reduced. Even though this doesn’t directly affect SUB, we are taking action to try and stop this. I am of course hoping that in the future studying would be made easier for all people; I believe that education is the key to pretty much everything. Limiting things like financial aid for students of whom many are in a difficult financial situation to begin with will only lengthen their studies, not make them graduate faster.
Whew, heavy topics, better end this thing on a lighter note! You attended the glorious National Meeting of English Students in Vaasa earlier this month. How was the trip? Who'd you recommend it to come next year?
NMES is such a great event! Getting to know students from other universities is so much fun. Vaasa is also really pretty, and I have never been there before. We were also really lucky and the weather was wonderful. Honestly, I recommend it to all English students. It’s the perfect opportunity to visit and meet fellow English students and experience their traditions.
Caitlin, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. Any famous last words? Maybe something fitting for a motivational poster as end of year exams are fast approaching?
Thank you for interviewing me! It’s been a lot of fun. I don’t have many motivational quotes to share but I’d just like to tell everyone that even though it may feel hard, you can do it. Summer is coming and I bet it will be gloriously awesome.