By The Graduate Press Editorial Board
The spring 2023 Graduate Institute Student Association (GISA) Board election cycle is underway, with candidates running for the positions of President, VP of Master’s, Treasurer, Events Coordinator, and Professional Development Committee (PDC) President.
GISA serves as the voice and principal events organizer for the student body at the Graduate Institute. Members of the GISA board are responsible for hearing student concerns regarding academic and student life, accommodations, and various other issues at the Institute. From April 28th to 30th, IHEID students will have the opportunity to vote online for the candidates they wish to represent them on the GISA Board for the subsequent year. The Graduate Press has reached out to all of the candidates running for the GISA Board this spring and through a series of articles, we will be sharing their platforms. It is crucial that IHEID students engage with the candidates and participate in this year’s election in order to ensure the GISA Board can meet all of the needs of present and future IHEID students.
We spoke to Vladislav Alifirov, who is running for GISA Treasurer. Here is what he had to say.
Why do you think you are the best candidate for the role of GISA Treasurer?
I think the first reason is my beliefs. Starting from my school years, I have always taken a proactive role in the life of my communities, which included academic and professional ones. I really like doing things which make the lives of people around me a bit better. Here are some examples. At my home university, I was elected as a head of the Scholarships Committee of the Student Association. When I started my first term, excellence scholarships for students were awarded only by the faculty administration. It all was done behind closed doors without any established criteria or process. Of course, students were absolutely not happy with this system, and the core of my mandate was to change the situation. I organized consultations among the student community, represented by different initiatives, and led the process of drafting the criteria for awarding different types of scholarships. It was not easy because criteria are different for various types of activities (academic, cultural, sports, etc.), but in the end, the consensus was reached. After that, the administration started relying on students on awarding the scholarships – from that time they were just formalizing the decisions taken by the student body based on these clear guidelines. It became a very transparent process, because everything started to be published, including the rankings. Although I graduated a long time ago, students are still enjoying the result of that work.
As another example, at the law firm where I worked for over five years, I served as a member of the initiative group promoting innovations. In this capacity, I initiated and led the development of the Diversity and Inclusion Policy. Its adoption was a great achievement since having such policies is something revolutionary for my country.
Secondly, apart from my beliefs, there is an issue of skills, of course, and I think that I have all the technical skills and competencies, which are needed for the position of the treasurer. I was responsible for financial and budgetary issues for many years, in different capacities. For example, when I was working in the Career Services at my home university, I was planning the budget for different activities of the department. Then, when I was working as a lawyer, I was managing budgets of the legal projects that I was doing. And finally, for more than a year, I was serving as an executive director of a small NGO. In that capacity, I was directly responsible for the budget, for the accounting, and financial reporting.
Finally, I think that my personal qualities fit very nicely within the treasurer position. Like other lawyers, I pay maximum attention to details, and I’m really obsessed with checking and double-checking all the deliverables. I find this quality especially important for working with financial data, because any small mistake may ruin the whole financial model. At the same time, it is combined with efficiency in communication, and a responsible attitude to my duties.
How will your experiences as a student at the Institute shape your approach to the role of GISA Treasurer?
Well, I may say that from the first days at the institute, I was really impressed by the variety and scope of different student initiatives. I attended many events, some of them focused on career building and networking, but others as well. Very soon I understood how useful they are for students. In addition, I met so many great people during these events, not only professional connections, but also friends. What I found important is that all this work is done by students voluntarily. It is coming from below, they’re not forced to do it by the administration. I know from personal experience that this work may be sometimes hard. It’s a large responsibility, but it is really very rewarding, because you see the results, and you see that so many people are grateful to you. This led me to the decision to participate in GISA Board elections, since I want to contribute to this very important work, the results of which I actually have been enjoying for two semesters.
What other experience do you have that you believe qualifies you for the role of GISA Treasurer?
It includes both academic and professional experience. I have a Bachelor and Master degrees in law. Now I’m doing my second Master degree here at IHEID in International Law, and my previous Master was in Trade and Contract Law, which is to some extent related to the Treasurer’s role. In addition, I have more than eight years of professional experience, which is in public, private sectors, and in an NGO, so it is quite diverse. All this experience taken in combination helped me to develop professional ethics and, which is really crucial for the Treasurer’s position.
If elected, what would be your primary goal as GISA Treasurer?
The first thing I want to do is to analyze all the sources of income that GISA receives and identify the opportunities to raise additional funds. However, it will definitely not impose any additional burden for the student community, I am talking about the external sources. More resources always help to extend the scope of activities, to enhance the quality of events and to provide more benefits to students in general. It may also help, for example, to establish new scholarships. As I said, in my home university, I was serving on the Scholarships Committee, so this topic is very close to me. Here at the institute we do not have excellence scholarships for students. I believe it is a very important topic and I will do my best to improve this situation.
Finally, an important component is just performing the Treasurer’s duties properly. It may seem for many people that this position is very technical, but it is not true since stable funding is the basis for all the activities of GISA and all the student initiatives. I believe in the importance of such principles as transparency of budget, accountability before the student community, accuracy in keeping records, diligence in financial planning, and using financial forecasting strategies. I am going to promote these principles in my work, but of course, it is not a closed list I am open to any discussions. Feedback and interaction with the students’ community is crucial and the primary goal of GISA is to represent the student community and rely on its real needs.
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