VanderVeen elected as Briercrest's student body president

Posted: March 21, 2012

Briercrest’s new student body president wants to spread the word about his school.

“I just want people to know about Briercrest,” James VanderVeen said. “I think we’re really blessed to have a combination of great education, great academics and programs like that . . . We’re a community of students who enjoy world-class education . . . where we want to learn how to follow and serve the Lord with our lives in all areas.”

VanderVeen started his Briercrest education in the Kale´o program which is offered in partnership with Camp Qwanoes on Vancouver Island.

“I was originally going to go to a different school after Kale´o, but I was really impressed by the academics and the teachers and the people I met and decided to continue on at Briercrest. I’m really glad I did.”

The president-elect originally thought he’d like to major in theology, but a gospels class taught by Wes Olmstead, Briercrest’s VP Academic, changed his mind to major in biblical studies.

“I was convinced that what I needed most was to take an honest look at what the Bible said,” he explained. “From the start, (the gospels) class was probably the most challenging but my favourite by far because of the depth we went into, but also the idea of taking seriously what the Bible was saying and not taking shortcuts and trying to explain something that maybe isn’t as easy to explain, or simplifying things that aren’t that simple.”

The enthusiastic promoter of Briercrest didn’t always seek to hold a student government position. Some well-timed words spoken in a chapel nudged VanderVeen to consider running for college student body president.

“It began at the assembly when Will Con (a past student body president) talked about elections being opened up,” he explained. “He talked a lot about the idea of being called to run – not necessarily called to be president. So that really struck me.”

After praying about the decision to run for office and receiving encouragement from several people, VanderVeen decided to take the big step. But the process wasn’t easy.

“It’s definitely a risk,” he admitted. “Putting yourself out there to be assessed by the student body. It is a nerve-wracking thing and it took courage for sure.”

The newly-elected president has a quiet confidence that he can do the job.

“I’ve always been someone who likes ideas,” he said. “If I have the right people in place or enough motivation I can see it happen.”

Selecting the right people for his leadership team is VanderVeen’s next task.

“The process is just beginning,” he said. “I’m getting recommendations from the team that’s in place right now. From there it’s interviews and seeing what kind of team would work well together.”

The Schomberg, Ont. resident sees how his biblical studies major influences his leadership style.

“Coming from a biblical studies program, kind of having that interest. . . I see myself as more of a pastoral leader,” he said. “(I want) to take a look at the structure of student government and see what’s effective and what we could really improve on – whether that’s events or academics or whatever.”

One of the potential changes VanderVeen is looking at is how campus activities are planned.

“I see a big difference in the amount of free time between a freshman student and a fourth year student – especially in the work load,” he said. “For that reason I think it might be a good idea to have a more structured program of events and opportunities for freshmen – to use some of the free time they have. I’m hoping I can develop a culture where people are actively participating in the student life here and there are places for everyone to do that.”