Tka Pinnock was recently appointed executive director of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) following the exit of the previous executive director. As executive director, Pinnock’s role is to maintain a long-term view of the direction of the UTSU and the development of the U of T community.
Pinnock has a history of youth engagement including work as a youth leader and resource development coordinator at Tropicana Community Services and as executive director at the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation.
This being a significant change from her previous work in the non-profit sector, and her first time working for a student union, Pinnock brings the skills and experiences she has acrued to her new position at the UTSU. Pinnock cites the opportunity to work with young people in a different capacity as a factor in taking the position at the UTSU. She hopes to contribute to the experience of students as they guide themselves through post-secondary education.
“These four years are really an opportunity to grow, to experience life, and to really start to shape your own opinions and world views,” she said, adding, “And what a wonderful way for me to help contribute to someone’s experience than through this position.”
Pinnock defines her role with two main rules. The first is to keep the institutional memory alive since the UTSU executive board is always a cycle of new people. The second is to assist the executive and the UTSU’s Board of Directors in achieving the vision that they articulated to the student body when they were elected.
“I consider myself a keeper of history of the union,” Pinnock said. “As executive director, I’m supporting the current board in creating a U of T that they would like those who follow to inherit, and keeping the institutional memory and successes of past boards alive as we go through successive transitions of young leaders and different boards.”
A UTSU executive member’s position is temporary, lasting only for a year at a time. With a significant annual turnaround, board members’ views and efforts in shaping the University of Toronto and its community are prone to being lost. “When the board and the exec go, I’m still here,” she said.
Pinnock acknowledges the challenges of working with the needs and priorities of multiple constituencies represented on the board. “I’m trying to keep my ear to the ground as to what those are,” Pinnock said. “Because I think my role as executive director is also to be a neutral filter, broker negotiations, and help the executive navigate the different constituencies that they represent and work with.”
Lastly, Pinnock notes her concern with getting young people to vote in the federal election in October. “There are lots of issues that impact us as young people that I don’t know if we’re very well-informed that we do have the opportunity to shape who gets to make policy and decisions on our behalf,” Pinnock said. “In particular with tuition fees going up and student debt being a very important issue.”