Student Spotlight - Emma Ripka
Written by: Katie Fitzgerald
Photographed by: Alex Ho
As seen in the February 2019 issue of Lazy Faire magazine
Globe trotter, finance major, and sustainability enthusiast, Emma Ripka is bringing her passions into her role as VP Operations & Finance on the Students’ Union. We chatted with Emma about what inspired her to be involved within the SU, as well as what she believes makes a good leader.
What made you want to become involved in student politics?
I became involved within the Students’ Union because I needed a part-time job. There was a marketing position open that I applied for, and eventually got. My role was to manage all of the marketing for the bars, as well as other businesses at the University. Once I became involved within the SU, I then learned about what the executives did, which was very appealing to me. In general, I try to make a difference in whatever community I am part of, and this position was an awesome opportunity to make that difference.
What has been your favourite part about being involved in the SU so far?
My favourite part about being involved in the SU so far is the people that I have met. I have met so many people from all different nooks and crannies on campus that I never thought I would.
In addition, another favourite aspect of the position would be taking the things that I am learning in class and applying them to the real world. It’s wild! It is not like class. It is often stressful but I can feel myself growing as an individual.
What exactly do you do within your role?
The main responsibilities of VP OF are to ultimately oversee and create the budget. We oversee all of the different fee units that students pay. For example, we oversee the U-Pass with relations to the City of Edmonton, the health and dental plan, and the seven business units within the university. I also have my own specific platform that I try to implement, which includes: having more vegetarian options at the bars and developing a skill-sharing network. I also sit on a few different university committees, such as: the Active Transportation Committee and the Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee.
What passions are you bringing into your role as VP Operations and Finance?
I think the two things I am most passionate about in life are sustainability, both social and environmental, as well as human interaction, so I had the opportunity to creatively weave these passions into my role.
Being in charge of operations, there are many ways we can make what we do more sustainable. I also took it upon myself to revive a committee called the Social and Environmental Responsibility Committee. Its mandate is to go through the SU operations to optimize them and make them more sustainable. Through Sustain SU, I’ve met people who have the same values related to sustainability, which has been awesome.
In regards to my passion related to humans, I just really enjoy making new connections, as well as helping people and making them feel comfortable. I also have opportunities to try and empower staff, and be sure that their work is recognized and appreciated.
How do you think your travels have shaped you into the person you are today?
Spending a year abroad at such a young age forced me to develop a sense of confidence and wonder that I wouldn’t learn in a classroom. I was exposed to so many new people and situations in such a condensed period of time that, every single day, I'd learn something new. Sometimes I'd end up in unpredictable or “sketchy” situations that I would have to trust myself to get out of, and it was challenging, but so worthwhile. It opened my eyes to opportunity and strengthened my sense of cultural empathy, and overall was just a blast.
What do you think makes a good leader?
If I had to narrow it down to one thing, I would say self-awareness. Without self-awareness — everything from knowing your own traits, what kind of environment you thrive in, your type of personality, and your weaknesses — you can’t empower others. It sets the foundation for growth, and helps you create a process to accomplish your goals. Overall, self-awareness and mindfulness are definitely critical to what makes a good leader.