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Candidate profile: Didier Okende

VP student life candidate Didier Okende. (Photo by Bryn Karcha, DSU)
VP student life candidate Didier Okende. (Photo by Bryn Karcha, DSU)

Name: Didier Okende

Age: 37

Position: VP student life


Dalhousie Gazette: Why are you running for student life?

DO: I’m running for student life because I would like to increase student awareness of campus events such as competitions, games and parties to promote diversity. According to me, academic success is not achieved by studying hard but also by having enough time to share our skills, our talents and everything that can be possible on campus. I’d like to promote diversity first of all, I’d like people from Sexton campus to get engaged with Dalhousie Student Union activities because I just realized that they are very isolated. I’d like international students to also get engaged.

How I can achieve this is through talking to people, by talking to students, having a consultation meeting with them, know what they need. By the time I know their need, then we can work together.

DG: What do you plan to do if elected?

DO: I’ll have a consultation meeting with all the societies, with every department, so I can get to know the needs of the students, first of all. When it comes to events, try to make sure that most students are aware of what is going on so that many students can participate.

The first thing I would work on would be the orientation, which should start even before the students get here, talking to different societies, talking to different departments, knowing their challenges. Then, together, we can work on how we can welcome new students. Let’s get [returning] students, volunteers from different backgrounds, different societies so that we can welcome new students by going to the airport, on campus and especially sharing with them our experience, our life experience on campus, showing them the challenges and how they can succeed.

DG: What do you consider the main priority of the VP student life?

DO: The main priority is student integration. Student participation in events such as competitions as I said before. Different people have different backgrounds, have different talents, through their talents they can be able to express themselves. That’s why I’d like to encourage that, different competitions so we can get different participation from different students.

DG: What is your most relevant experience?

DO: Back in 2006, I was working with Nova Scotia Business Corporation when we had a micro-credit summit in Halifax. It was held at—where I was working—Nova Scotia Business Corporation, so I was asked to go look for volunteers. And then I came on campus, I looked for students of different backgrounds because I knew the people coming were coming from different places and stuff like that, and we had a very good time with them. We welcomed many people, [movie] stars, even Queen Sophia from Spain—even on VIP night we had the chance to meet all those people because we were welcoming them. Then from there many students got the chance to work on different things. Some worked in IT, some others worked in security, some others worked—so after that, many students had the chance to put that experience on their resume, which is very helpful for many of them, even myself. I had the chance to coordinate different people in different areas. We need maybe 10-15 people to go to the airport at this time, we need people to go to this hotel to welcome these people. It was a very good experience for me, to work with people, to work with a team.

DG: How would you improve campus culture?

DO: Culture is a big word. I would improve campus culture by promoting diversity, helping everybody from different backgrounds have a chance to express themselves through their talents, through everything that they can.

DG: What would you do differently from your opponent, the incumbent, given the opportunity?

DO: I know many people from Sexton campus are complaining about integration, and at all the DSU’s events. One of my first priorities is to make sure that they’re integrated, aware of everything. The next one is international students, make sure that international students get as much support as possible, and make sure they participate and feel a part of the student union. Make sure to reach out to everybody of a different background, make sure they participate in every event and give them a chance to show what they are comfortable to do in every competition and event.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Ian Froese
Ian Froese
Ian was the Gazette's Editor-in-chief for Volume 146. He was the Sports Editor for Volumes 145 and 144.

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