York University’s president picks up backpack as student takes reins in role reversal

Sayjon Ariyarathnam
Sayjon Ariyarathnam
Sayjon Ariyarathnam
Sayjon Ariyarathnam

On Sept. 29, York undergrad Sayjon Ariyarathnam takes the reins of the University as he swaps roles with President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri  for the ultimate of experiential learning adventures.

Ariyarathnam is currently a student senator and the president of the Student Council of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (SCOLAPS). He is also an active member of York’s Tamil Students Association and the Criminology Society.

As the President for a Day, the fourth-year student, pursuing a double major in criminology and human rights & equity studies, will learn about the management of the institution and attend presidential meetings and engagements.

“I have no doubt that the University will be in excellent hands for the day given Sayjon’s leadership experience and participation in a variety of student organizations,” said York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.

During the course of the day, he will experience it all, from one-on-one meetings with vice-presidents and vice-provosts, to a roundtable discussion with the president of the York Federation of Students and other President for a Day applicants. He will also undertake a speaking engagement at Our Blue Future, an event to celebrate the phasing out of water bottle sales on campus.

Ariyarathnam landed this select opportunity as a result of his winning answer to the contest question, “If you were appointed president of York University, what would be your top three priorities that would directly impact students?”

"Student for a Day" Mamdouh Shoukri
Mamdouh Shoukri

His entry expressed the need to promote and develop experiential education opportunities for students, to ensure students are aware of University policies and procedures that are in place to support them academically and to increase communication between York community members.

“Academic life and communication are both connected to the notion of community and belonging,” writes Ariyarathnam of the need to keep students informed and involved. “Community plays an integral role in the success of a university.”

This is the fourth consecutive year of the President for a Day contest at the University, and it is one of the few, if not only, such initiatives held at a Canadian university.

“This contest is one of the ways that we are able to receive direct feedback from our students so we can continue to enhance the overall experience for them here at York,” says Shoukri. “Every year, I gain a fresh perspective on campus life and what it takes for our students to be successful in pursuing their education here.”

As a student for a day, Shoukri will pick up his backpack and head to a workshop for graduate law students by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, followed by a Crime & Corporation class at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Shoukri’s busy schedule will also include an upper-body workout with the help of a personal trainer at the Tait Mackenzie Centre’s gym, before rushing off to chair a Faculty student council meeting in place of Ariyarathnam.

For more information, visit the President for a Day website.