Job Title: President, University of Alberta Students’ Union
Why She’s Top 40: She’s committed to a vibrant and diverse political life for her university, her city, her province and her country
Marina Banister is committed to empowering young people to get involved in politics at any level, so she leads by example.
Banister has served as chair of the City of Edmonton Youth Council, and as vice president academic of the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union before her current role as president. In 2016 she established GovWeek, a week-long conference at the University of Alberta to inform young people about opportunities for student governance. Mayor Don Iveson and Marlin Schmidt, the provincial Minister of Advanced Education, were keynote speakers at the event and encouraged Banister to run it again in 2017. And, indeed, Banister organized another successful GovWeek in September.
“Many of Alberta’s most prominent political leaders started their path in student governance,” she says, pointing out the signatures of previous presidents and vice presidents that adorn the concrete supports throughout the Students’ Union office.
As president, she’s in good historical company. As a woman, she’s in a more rarefied class. “I am only the 10th female president in the 108-year history of the Students’ Union,” Banister notes.
As if being president of an organization with 31,000 members wasn’t enough, Banister is also the only female in the SU’s senior administration this year.
So, Banister is leading a new university initiative called STRIDE, a cohort leadership program aimed at giving women the knowledge and community necessary to successfully run for student elected office. She hopes that STRIDE will make politics accessible to people from diverse backgrounds. “We need people from a variety of backgrounds in politics because they provide valuable perspectives.”
Banister was recently in Ottawa to represent post-secondary students at Malala Yousafzai’s honorary citizenship ceremony. The honour made her reflect on the advantages provided to her by Edmonton. “We are a young community,” she says. “And there has always been a ‘can-do’ attitude in Edmonton. It makes a lot of things possible.”