This week we will look at IGNITE’s interview with John Lim Hong Cheong, the Student Association Vice President 2017/2018. He discussed his manifesto particularly on the achievements that he had brought during his tenure as the Vice President.
How did you fare in delivering your manifesto where you wanted to promote greater collaboration between the executive committee, the clubs & societies and student body in this semester?
John: In terms of collaboration, most of the SA events being held on campus were organised between various clubs and societies, and almost none of the events had been held on a stand-alone basis. In terms of recruitment within our SA Execs team, we have been more inclusive where we recruited Execs team from different nationalities which is an improvement as compared to the previous years where it was more limited and nationalistic.
Despite the challenges of retaining students throughout the semester due to their increasing study commitment, I have made a point to ensure there is always a team that is comprised of students from various years. This was to promote diverse ideas and leadership skills. Leading the Marketing & Communication portfolio, it was important to create awareness of the events for the SA members and for them to be directly and actively involved in all the organised programmes. My team did not engage in hosting events, and we are not allocated with grants, unlike the other teams. To mitigate this challenge, we had worked and partnered closely with other teams by promoting the SA events through the website and Facebook page.
What greater efforts did you take to ensure the accountability of all the parties involved?
John: In our Execs, we have always kept each other updated regarding important issues like dealing with the management, university stuff and finances. We also held a post-mortem after an event was over. In that way, we kind of knew what current issues were happening and can resolve the problems together and prevent them from happening again in the future. To ensure greater accountability, the information that we have updated among the members are organised for future references. We have kept most of the exchanges in electronic form which I think will benefit the current team and the future incoming team in resolving issues.
How did you emphasize the need for expanding the social media department in the SA Marketing and the Communication Team?
John: I joined the marketing and communication team for two years, and as the head of the team last year, I knew well on how the groups worked and the issues that I faced. Hence, it was necessary for me to take action to mainly improve in strengthening the team and social media. I frequently met with the current team personally and understood each of them in order to know more on how the current teams work and what their strengths and weaknesses are in delivering their job. For last year’s team, we had three departments: PR, Social Media and Editorial & Design. As for this year, the PR Department were removed. The justification was that it was not necessarily significant as a team as it only consisted of two people. It would be better for the head of Marketing and Communication to handle the position. Regarding the other parts, we had set up an individual Facebook page for easy updating of the events that have been promoted by the clubs and societies.
How is your video project, “Keeping Up with the SA” going? Are you delivering the videos at the rate in which you promised in your previous manifesto?
John: Yes, the original plan was to develop the “Keeping Up with the SA” video, but as we progressed, we took an alternative plan to focus on the “UNMC Let’s Talk”. This latter approach was more holistic as the focus was not only on updates from the President but it took an approach where the engagements were also involved from the other Executive members too.
How did you make the website more user-friendly?
John: Regarding making the website more user-friendly, I had switched to certain things on the site mainly in updating the events calendar. My editor team also helped to keep the contents up-to-date by consistently publishing recent updates on events around the campus to keep the website alive. One of the challenges that the current team is facing is in the way that the existing site has been developed. There are limitations on the extent of changes that my team could undertake as the existing system is under the purview of the IT department. There would be costs involved if we wanted to undertake changes and we will need to take the full control from IT. We definitely do not have the sufficient capability to undertake these changes.
We are still figuring out how best to improve the website with the limitations that we have, and one of the focus was to understand more about the site and convey what information the students wanted to know and what’s best to be updated. As for now, everything is on the WordPress, and the features are very kind of limited in terms of what can we do with the package that we have. There was once an issue in terms of traffic, where the volume had reached to its maximum and crashed the website. I cannot remove the issue from happening because that is the limitation that we have. We are still figuring out to migrate to another site but I personally am not happy with the website at the moment but we’re trying our best in figuring out ways to improve the website.
Is the newly created role of Treasurer showing any positive changes in the SA in that the issues of accounting and finance are now managed more properly with the existence of that role?
John: The new role of Treasurer in SA had met up with some issues that they did not know much about how to account for delivering the job. To handle the role as a treasurer is quite difficult as I could observe from last year that the Treasurer only managed a few things and solely focused on specific events. As for this year, we decided to have a Treasurer for each of the Exec team. Therefore, it would be much easier for the Treasurer in each team to handle the financial statements together instead of having only one Treasurer to manage everything by themselves.
Lastly, how was your experience being part of the SA Execs team?
John: To be honest, it was a very fast semester for me, and I felt like I had a lot more ideas in the beginning, but due to the limitation of time, there were many things that I had not been able to undertake. Overall, it was a good experience, and I was thrilled to have a chance of working together with my current team this year. I consider them as my own family as we understand and support each other through ups and downs. Being part of the SA Execs team, I have learned that time management is essential especially in balancing the time between study, doing coursework and delivering the role as a Vice President. It is part of a learning process for my teams and me as well.
Written and interviewed by Nur Fatin Amira and Allisya Rezuriff