INTERVIEW WITH RANJEET RATHORE
Ranjeet Rathore is the president of Brunel University's Student Union
1. A little bit about yourself and what made you want to study law?
I first enrolled at Brunel in 2014 and was doing a business management course, but it wasn't keeping me on my toes, it wasn't challenging enough. Deep down I knew I wanted to work in the public service sector so I decided to switch my course from BBA to LLB because I thought that choosing law would be the right course to study.
Now when I look back at the decision, I can connect the dots, the law degree was the bridge I had to cross to get where I am. Therefore Brunel law.
2. What skills did you develop from your degree and to what extent do they play a part in your role as the Student’s union president?
During my degree, I met a lot of students from different backgrounds, different courses, different personalities, and that taught me how to work with people with varied skillsets.
Secondly, I learned about how the law operates, how to be compliant, how to do things keeping the law in mind. I learned about precedents and case law, which I use as examples when I am attending different university meetings or when I am lobbying on behalf of students. My role is very political, so the law degree was key to my role. Even Barack Obama is a politician and he graduated in law, so I think it plays an important part when what you're looking to do involves public service.
3. How/when and why did you decide to run for the Student Union’s president?
In my foundation year, when I first came to the university, I got involved in a lot of volunteering and charitable activities. I enjoyed it, I enjoyed giving back to society, I liked interacting with students, and learning about them, trying to help them. I didn't know then that there was a position or a role that you could stand for.
I believe that if you are in a position of influence, a place of power, then you can do more, rather than just as a student. Everyone can make a difference, but if you have a position, you can make a bigger difference.
So it started as a joke, my friend encouraged me to apply for the position saying that I work hard to help students and if I have a position, I can do bigger things. I took it as a joke, but after some persuasion decided to nominate myself. I stood for the role of the international student’s officer. The role involved me representing every single international student at this university and as part of my role, I integrated students from different communities and different backgrounds, different cultures together at Brunel. I have always thought that it doesn't matter what country or what religion you come from, there is a place for you at Brunel and that is what I did, and that is what I focused on, cultural integration.
4. What is your definition of leadership? What is your overarching purpose as a leader?
I have never thought about that but I guess I would say, a leader is someone who caters to all and is there for all. In a nutshell, a leader is someone who is not just leading a group of people but is also empowering them to do better in life, pushing them to do more, urging them to come out of their comfort zone.
We all have 24 hours in a day, what makes some people so successful and others not so successful, is how you utilise your time and how you use your 24 hours, so encouraging people to do more in those 24 hours is, for me, a big part of being a leader. The more you can do, the better.
My purpose as a leader would be to try and get the best out of people, not just of yourself. There is a quote that I read this when I was a child and it makes sense to me right now, “Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” We can both be successful together.
5.Describe a typical day in your life?
Every single day is very different from the last. I could be interacting with a student in the morning and then during lunchtime, I could be having a meeting with the vice-chancellor. Later afternoon, I could be with a member of parliament who could also be the PM of the country. It ranges every day, you know I get to learn new things and meet new people every single day.
Because of my role, I am super busy and I can’t just talk to students, so I have divided my week and I follow a schedule. Mondays are mostly just of university meetings. I use that day to lobby to the university. Other parts of Mondays, we as the union, as a cabinet team, come together and decide what sort of priorities do we want to work on, what’s the word on the street and discuss the matters that need immediate attention.
Around 7 pm, when everyone is relaxing and is in the library or locos. that is when I go and talk to the students. Usually, I keep my working hours for the position that I have so that I can go meet the right people and lobby on behalf of the 15,000 students at Brunel.
So different days have different priorities that I work on, some days I work on my manifesto points, integrating them into the university, some days it’s the political activities, some days it's all about the student activities. I usually try and keep my diary clean for Fridays so that I can talk to as many students as I can. I try and go to the café and talk to students, I take a pen and paper with me and I just take notes. I let the students do the talking and I do the listening.
The role has its challenges but it has a positive side as well. But I know that the bigger picture is that whatever I am doing is for the students.
6. What is the most challenging part about your job and how do you deal with the pressure of it all?
Personally speaking for me, I think it would have to be time management. Everybody has got expectations from me, from students to teachers, everyone expects me to be there to speak to. And I appreciate that, I am a people person, put me with foundation year students and I can talk to them or PhD students and I can get them talking. I try and deal with the pressure of it by using my position to pressurise the university to get things done quickly. I understand that I work for the students and I get where they are coming from, I understand their issues, their struggles, so I try and rectify that promptly. I also understand the need to deliver quickly, because I always say, students are my bosses. I am working for them.
The challenging part is that they expect me to get things done instantly, but things take time, the wheel of bureaucracy doesn’t turn overnight. It takes its own steady pace.