A week ago we had the pleasure of interviewing Cornelia Börjesson Freitag, the president of BUR (biomedicinska utbildningsrådet). Between studying for exams she made time to meet us at MF-expen to talk about BUR’s work, and of course to eat some chocolate (here at Sonden we’re not shy of bribery).
Cornelia is 21 years old, from Vimmerby and is on her fifth term on the biomedical programme.
Hi Cornelia! If you were to describe BUR with one sentence, what would it be?
Hmm, I don’t know, maybe “Monitoring education” (Utbildningsbevakning). Or that doesn’t sound very fun haha. Rather: “BUR is more fun than you might think!”
What is the purpose of BUR, what does it include?
I think it is quite different from MUR (medicinska utbildningsrådet). In BUR we try to do a mixture of things, not only educational monitoring. We are pretty few students in the biomedical programme, and many tend not to become involved within MF, so we try to arrange social events and things like that to involve the students, making it more accessible to them. While at the same time still having big meetings and board meetings about education.
Do you feel that the biomedicine students have a stronger relationship to BUR than MF as a whole?
Generally I would say so, yes, but I don’t think anyone feels that they’re not allowed to go to MF events. I think many people prefer smaller, cozier events with more biomed students. Nothing against medical students, but often when going to events there are maybe 2 biomed students, with the rest being med students, meaning you might not know that many people there. However, when we arrange things with BUR you know that you will know someone there which might attract people to go to those events instead. But we are working a lot on pushing people to become engaged in MF – because it’s so much fun!
Are BUR’s events strictly for biomed students?
While the events might target biomed students more, everyone is of course welcome! On a purely practical level we’re not allowed to exclude anyone from participating, since BUR is a part of MF.
So what is it that BUR does, apart from arranging social events?
Well, let’s say we’re having a Big BUR meeting (StorBUR). First, of course, we have formalities and such. After that, class representatives from each term get to talk about how their courses are going. The course representatives are in charge of collecting the class’s opinions and bringing it to us. Either we try to solve possible problems right away, or me or Nadja (vice president in BUR) bring it with us “higher up” to the program committee (programnämnden, PNM) or management team (ledningsgruppen) with administrators and such. That makes for a closer relationship with the PNM with discussions, and an opportunity for them to respond to BUR’s talking points and to receive any complaints. Really, we are the link between the students and the programme board.
How many people are active in BUR?
We are 7 people on the board, along with 2 representatives from each class as well as representatives from different student committees. Usually we’re around 15 people at our meetings. Everyone is welcome of course, but now when the meetings take place over zoom the coziness level drops a bit, and there’s no fika hehe, so less people come “just for fun”. Usually people who happen to be at BMC at the same time come by to hang out, listen in and steal some fika. The different positions you can apply for, and thus the different board members who will be present, are: President, vice president, secretary, manager of social education, event manager, manager of the budget and the fika (vieri-ansvarig) and PR-manager. These are chosen at the annual BUR meeting, apart from the president, who is chosen at FUM. You can either present yourself as a candidate or get nominated by the previous board, or by any student.
What do you like the most about BUR?
Primarily I think it’s really fun, and I find it important to be able to influence what actually happens on the programme and what the courses will look like next semester. As the president it’s also important to remember that you’re representing others and not just talking for yourself. It feels great getting the opportunity to actually get other people’s opinions across. Often people have opinions about the courses, but without BUR it might be difficult to pursue them enough to see a change. So I think the work we’re doing is important.
Do you feel like the programme board listens to you when you have complaints?
Yes, most of the time they listen. As of late we’ve had some meetings where it has felt like we’ve had less student influence though. They are introducing grades on biomed starting this fall, which us students have been opposing strongly. It seems like they won’t budge on this specific question, but after several meetings everything at least feels more clear, and I think it’s gonna work out fine in the end. In these situations it feels like we’re actually doing something and making sure that decisions like these are evaluated and well thought through beforehand.
Why did you want to get involved in BUR in the first place?
To be honest, I’ve always been a bit of a bossy person, haha. I used to plan school trips and things like that in middle school. The first day of uni we had to select class representatives and, as per usual, not many people put their hands up. But me and two others did, and we stayed class representatives my two first semesters. Starting my third semester, I applied to become BRO-representative and event manager (eventansvarig) after the person who held the post before me asked if I would be interested in trying. BRO, by the way, is an organisation for all national biomedicine programmes, within which we exchange experiences and learn from each other. Apart from being responsible from that, my responsibility was hosting some sittings, game nights and things of the like. And I guess the next step after that was to become president!
Why did you choose biomedicine to begin with?
I have always been interested in biology, mainly the human body, never really plants and stuff like that. I even took extra classes in biotechnology in high school. By studying biomedicine, there are so many cool job offers that await you post graduation, like a career in the scientific field. That’s what appealed to me!
Have you been involved in MF before?
I was torn between applying for the president position in BUR or some kind of social position within MF, but in the end it was involvement in my own education that tempted me the most. I feel like, as I have two remaining years of school, I can get more involved in MF next year. It is something that I really want to do, it seems like a lot of fun!
So, the last question: How does one join BUR? And why do you think more people should get involved?
We have a great board! We share all the workload, which is good as it sometimes can become a bit overwhelming. We all feel a collective responsibility and you can always ask for help when you need it. As I’ve said, it’s also very rewarding being able to influence your education.
In spring there will be an advertisement of different positions to apply for, posted at BUR’s Facebook page. All you have to do is send a message to the attached email address. Then, you can be nominated by the board, or by anyone else, and eventually chosen for the position!