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Last year 4th year dentistry student Natālija Šilova took the position of Head of the Student Council at Rīga Stradiņš University.  This year she chose not to run for re-election as she has resolved to devote more of her time to academic issues and dentistry studies.  

This year the duties of the head of the Student Council have been entrusted to Linda Skulme. Natālija is looking for new challenges, she cannot sit idle and requires constant movement.

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Natālija Šilova taking part in a discussion on current issues at the Student Leaders Forum, held by the Student Union of  Latvia. Photo from the Student Leader forum archive

With the New Year approaching, we usually look back on the previous year. What was 2017 like for you?

This was a very fast and intense year and for myself – a successful one. I certainly had the understanding I was taking up a challenge, however the challenge turned out much larger than initially expected. I am glad that I managed to cope with it. Have I been successful or not – I will leave this for the students and members of the Student Council to decide! 

What is the Student Council busy with at the moment?

In December there have been two boards of the Student Council  – the new one is learning from the outgoing, i.e. from us, taking over different tasks and assignments that need to be outlined.

We finalise different tasks and projects. One such project, for example, is the Student Council’s history corner at 16 Dzirciema Street. It is a small step towards the 25th anniversary of the Student Council, to be celebrated in 2018.

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When you ran for the position of chair of the Student Council, you certainly had some ideas which you wanted to implement in practice? Did you succeed in implementing them?

Yes, I had many ideas. I am glad that we managed to open the new premises in the Old Town in Palasta Street where students have access to spacious study and recreation facilities that are used for holding workshops, various events etc. The preparatory work for the rector’s elections was a huge job. We had to bring together 24 student representatives, ready to participate in pre-election debates and look for the best candidate.

What do you expect from the new rector prof. A. Pētersons, who took office on 1 January 2018?

I would love it if quality would prevail over quantity. We have to maintain and increase the requirements for students so that our graduates can be excellent professionals in their field. Of course, we have to develop and we should not be afraid of students dropping off, as we need to concentrate on and work with those students who remain at the university and have worked hard for their study place.  

What was the hardest task for you as chair of the Student Council?

The hardest thing was to coordinate people. I remember that during the first week of office I was shocked to have a team of twelve persons and I had to know so many things about each one of them  - what their duties are, how they are doing, how they feel on any given day and amidst all this I had to understand what my duties as chair of the Student Council are. This was an intense course in HR management. 

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In front of the RSU main building in August 2017, at the opening of the annual freshmens' seminar run by the Student Council. From left: project leader Dāvids Orlovs, Natālija Šilova, seminar mascot rabbit together with RSU rector Jānis Gardovskis. Photo from the Student Council archive.

What was your team’s biggest accomplishment with you as chair of the Student Council?

One instrumental thing we have achieved is that from 1 February 2018 the library on the ground floor of the RSU Central Building at 16 Dzirciema Street will be open 24/7. Two self-service machines for borrowing books, checking the user’s account, for returning the loan or for one-off renewal of items have already been available at the library since September 2016.

Another fundamental issue that has been solved are changes in the dentist certification procedure. Cooperation between RSU Student Council, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science has resulted in amendments to the Cabinet of Ministers Regulations No. 943 which regulate the certification procedure of medical specialists (medical practitioners, dentists etc.).  

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Student Council members at the closing event of the Student Council Board  elections on 17 November 2017. Natālija Šilova is fourth from the right in the second row. Photo from Student Union archive

What was the best lesson you have learned this year?

I already learned my lesson while working for the Student Council, however when taking the position of chair of the Student Council I was reassured once again that one should not be afraid to speak out, in case you have an idea or objections.  It is important to speak out loud in order for you to be heard, particularly in case you have some objections.

Another thing is – be open. In case you have a disagreement or something is not working properly - you have to meet up and talk. Face-to-face communication is of vital importance!

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Did you want to run for re-election?

At the beginning of summer I thought about running for office once again, however, having evaluated my options I resolved to devote more time to my studies and to hone my professional competences in dentistry.

Is there anything that has remained unaccomplished while taking office?

There is one thing. I had committed to find proper premises for the Communication Faculty’s student photo studio. They have premises in the Medical Education Technology Centre, however these premises are designated for the training of nurses and have been temporarily allocated to the photo studio only because the room stood empty for some time. I was planning to return these premises to the nurses and to find a place for the studio at Dzirciema Street, however when I took up my duties I soon came to realise that there is a shortage of free space at the university and therefore, unfortunately, my promise has remained unfulfilled.

The new chair of the Student Council is 3rd year physiotherapy student Linda Skulme; what would you wish her?

Certainly, endurance ­- as this will not be an easy task, and to remember that she will not only be the representative of RSU students but will be also working together with them and should always listen to what they say.

By the way, a prospective physiotherapist has never taken the position of chairperson of RSU Student Council and therefore I am convinced that Linda will bring a breath of fresh air to the work of the Student Council.