My SUE Story: Meet VP Academic Branden Cave

How old are you?


What year are you in?

4th year.

Where are you from originally?

Rimbey, Alberta.

What degree do you hope to graduate with?

I hope to graduate with, God willing, a BA Honours in Economics.

What is your position with SUE?

For the last year I have been the VP Academic with SUE as well as the Economics department representative for FASA (Faculty of Arts Student Association). That includes interacting with SUE and what better way than by actually sitting on the SUE council?

Describe your position with SUE in a few words as possible:

I am the person who is responsible for holding the department accountable for the quality of education in the economics department

Why did you choose econonomics and was it your first choice?

It wasn’t my first choice. My first choice was political science. But I took an econ major to make my mom happy because we fought like cats and dogs the summer before I came to university about “what are you going to get with a poli-sci degree?”. So I went in with a double major. I sat down in a poli-sci class one day and somebody said something that was just completely ignorant and stupid and I decided I didn’t want to be with these people anymore.

Political science is a lot of claims with nothing to back it up while economics actually uses evidence. The joke I always heard was that economics started with two old white guys sitting in armchairs in a smoking lounge and one says to the other “Do you know how we’re right about everything, but no one believes us?” and the other says “Yes. Why don’t we just use math to prove it!”. Economics was a lot more grounded I felt. In high school I liked math and I like social studies and economics felt like the natural combination of the two.

What is your favorite part about working with SUE?

I love being able to bring about those initiatives such as our study group program and mentorship program as well as advocating for stuff that students need. Bringing those needs to the attention of the department and seeing that they are willing to listen to us.

Least favorite?

When the department wont listen to you or if they immediately put their foot down automatically and aren’t really willing to work with us.

Most challenging thing you’ve learned how to do during the time with SUE?

The hardest thing to learn was how to ask for something. When you go into a meeting with the department head or manager or professor, having that ask and being able to get that across without sounding greedy, is one of the hardest things to learn. At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure students are represented properly and that they have the resources they need. So if it’s your job to ask, just ask. You aren’t doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for other students.

What is your favorite econ course?

Oh, that’s easy. I can’t really differentiate between the two very well but they are Econ 481 and 479, Behavioral and Experimental Economics. Those are definitely the ones I remember the most. Shubhasish Dugar, he was a phenomenal prof and excited little guy. But the stuff I learned in those courses was extremely applicable to my personal life. It was about how you can get people to react and do stuff based on incentives.

What is your favorite non-econ course?

I would have to say, and this is coming from a non-biased opinion, Math 271, Discrete Mathematics. Which is basically just a fancy way of saying proofs. It was the first midterm I ever failed and I truly deserved it because I did not give it the attention it needed but I learned so much about how to work a proof and set it up.

What is your favorite SUE event this year?

The first mixer in the fall that we combined with our mentorship program. It was so awesome to get so many people out. There was an awesome energy. It was the beginning of the year and we had so much still in front of us.

What is your greatest piece of advice for other students?

Get involved. Easily. I’ve been accused of being over involved, more often than not. I have, in the last three years, had at least three positions every year. It is where I have learned the most. I have learned how to go to professionals and say this is what students want, this is what I think, and this is why you should listen to me. It’s been a good experience for the things that you can’t learn in the classroom. You can learn as much as you want from a textbook, but at the end of the day if you can’t convey that information to others and put it to practical use that’s your downfall

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Probably that I’m a farmboy. I grew up on a family farm for 18 years and I spent more time with cows than with people.

What other clubs are you involved in?

I am the president of SASHA (Students in the Arts and Sciences Honours Academy), the economics representative for FASA (Faculty of Arts Student Association), I am a PASS leader for the student success centre for Econ 395, I sit on the resident’s appeal board, and am the freshly acclaimed VP of Op Fi for the Students' Union.

What’s your favorite place to study?

Last year I nearly dropped out of university. I was struggling and felt stupid. I didn’t have a peer group and I started getting panic attacks. So now I've learned to, when I start to get anxious, go to the library. I found that I don’t have quite as much anxiety when I’m around other students.

What’s your favorite place to eat on campus?

Noodle Express

What is the best job you've ever had?

I've only had two real jobs since I don't think farming really counts as a job, it's more of a lifestyle. So probably the summer job I've had for the last three years. I've worked as a summer student for the Rimbey gas plant. It was absolutely phenomenal because it was so different from school. Especially from economics. There was so much science, hands-on work, working on a crew. It was more casual and that was a nice break from the formality of school.

Is there a song, book, or movie that changed your life?

I'm going to the give the cliche answer that probably millions of people have given before and that would be To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it in grade 5, I think. It's still one of my favorite books of all time but I think that everyone wanted to be a lawyer after they read that book. It's been part of my thing too.

If you could give advice to yourself in first year, what would it be?

I don't think there's much I regret from first year. First year was pretty good. I was involved and got even more involved in my second year. I lived in residence so I had the opportunity to be a part of a community. My only advice to my first year self would probably be to meet more people in economics, more of the people in my classes. But in first year many of my classmates weren't econ majors so you can kind of lose those people along the way.

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