The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) has hired a new General Manager, Michelle Lee-Fullerton, thereby replacing the former position of Executive Director. The General Manager position is functionally the same as Executive Director, but Lee-Fullerton says that the new title “represents the turning of a new chapter for the UTSU.”
The purpose of the General Manager is to act as a link between the elected UTSU executive team and the operational staff that oversee the completion of projects. Lee-Fullerton told The Varsity that she will work with the incoming Executive Committee to help develop their overarching goals into a defined plan for the year, aiming specifically to get “operational needs met while upholding the organization’s fiscal responsibilities.”
A major project of the UTSU is the Student Commons, projected to open in September 2018 after a rocky path to completion. As of February 2017, the Student Commons had a projected deficit of over $800,000 over the first eight years, with a $300,000 loss expected in the first year alone.
With the opening of the Student Commons, the UTSU has the important responsibility of managing the building in its crucial first year. Regarding the potential of the Student Commons, Lee-Fullerton noted that “the opportunities and possibilities to support student initiatives and service from a capacity perspective is impressive itself.”
Another important topic for the incoming executive is the issue of possible defederation from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The CFS is an organization that the UTSU is a member of that lobbies for student issues. The incoming UTSU executive is in favour of CFS defederation, and Lee-Fullerton said that she is ready to seek direction from student leadership on this issue.
She noted the importance of the relationship between the General Manager and the executives, as the General Manager is there to respond to the objectives of the student leadership.
Lee-Fullerton cites seven years of experience with student unions as preparation for her new role. She anticipates being able to begin moving forward with the UTSU promptly due to her familiarity with student unions and their governing structures.
Lee-Fullerton told The Varsity that she has worked with two other student unions prior to the UTSU. She said that she was the Clubs Coordinator and later the Student Groups and Engagement Coordinator at the former student union of Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. She added that, similar to the role of General Manager in the UTSU, she had worked with the Executive Committee to create initiatives to increase student engagement. She also told the The Varsity that she was the Events Manager and eventually the Director of Programs and Services at the Students’ Association of MacEwan University, which oversaw a portfolio encompassing clubs, events, programs, and services across three campuses.
As a project manager, Lee-Fullerton said that she has also worked with student building projects in various stages, akin to the Student Commons. Aside from student unions, she said that she has also worked for a municipality and within the private sector.
“Over the years, I’ve been able to see and be a part of some great organizations that produce some really great work for students. I look forward to being part of a healthy and well-executing UTSU team.”