Ceo of a Community
Andrey Bogdanov gave four years of his life to the Isla Vista Tenant’s Union. Andrey and the IVTU went throw a mutual growing period where both continually sought to self-improve. The Tenants Union aims to educate the residents of Isla Vista on property rights and raise awareness on injustices that are carried out by landlords, while also offering legal advice. Throughout Andrey’s involvement and leadership, IVTU has become a leader in the community. Investments in the Pardall Center, local parks, the Food Co-op, and Project Give have invigorated life into the area, “I liked using business management skills to improve the non-profit organization.” By transforming the IVTU from a student organization into a bona-a-fide non-profit under the “umbrella” of Associated Students UCSB, Andrey hoped to create an institution that would be able to run smoothly for generations to come.
It all began in a Russian literature class in Andrey’s freshman year where a classmate asked if he would like to get involved. “If somebody offered me anything in freshman year, I dove at the opportunity.” Not one to shy away from a chance, Andrey saw an opportunity to become Vice President in his sophomore year and took it. “When I became Vice President I grew more passionate about the work, because if you don’t like it, you won’t stick around doing it.” A peeking interest grew into an important component of Andrey’s time at college. “I felt that I had more to give and I wanted to use my skills for greater benefit.” This desire sprouted into Andrey holding the office of IVTU president in his junior year.
“[I took] a position of leadership, so that after I am gone there will be a more solid foundation for future generations to build upon.” In his time as president, Andrey reformed the IVTU. He took the staff from twelve positions to seven by combining titles and creating new ones. Andrey believed the organization was too large to make timely, impactful decisions. Furthermore, he sought out worthy investments in the community to use the Union’s budget on. An important lesson Andrey learned was how to manage the continuous recruitment process. “Since everybody joins [the IVTU] to do good and productive things, recognizing who might not be a perfect fit for your organization even if they are not already in it is a necessity.” Andrey would assess how serious his subordinates were in order to improve the overall function of the team. Going hand in hand with this is the skill to motivate a non-paying job. “A lot of it is working with people and listening to each member of the team and asking, ‘What are you really looking for.’” Andrey felt like in order to be a good leader he had to understand the needs and desires of his team in order to find their best fit within the organization. “Being a leader is not about you, it is about the people you work with.” Many individuals may have projects that they wish to work on, but are too shy to speak out about it. “Asking ‘what are you really looking for out of this experience?’ is important to understanding the needs and long term desires of people you work with.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. “I didn’t know how to do anything.” Reforming an organization takes time and communication. Working with the senate and implementing change was an arduous task that required drafting a piece of legislation and getting it approved. By communicating with his staff and looking outwards Andrey was able to assess the needs of the IVTU. For instance, “Successful organizations had finance directors and we didn’t have one for the past three years.” The finance director was one of the new positions his downsizing created. His business acumen improved the team, structure, and functioning of the Tenant’s Union. In Andrey’s last act as president he recognized that others were also qualified to be the president at this point and that his set of skills was better suited for the role of finance director. “We didn’t really get to see the positive results our changes yielded until today.” It seems as though Andrey has created a well-oiled machine in his time at the IVTU that will stand even after he graduates this June.
An important moment of Andrey’s civic engagement was the eviction of five families from the Abrego Villas. “We all talk about these problems, but we only talk about them. We don’t necessarily get to see them first hand.” The Tenant’s Union would hold weekly meetings with the family in order to keep them informed and support them throughout their struggle. “That was something that really changed for me, I hadn’t experienced that before.” Rallies of support were held and legal action was brought forth against the landlords and the first point of contact for these families was the IVTU. “It wasn’t just a project, it was people’s lives at stake.” Eventually the families were able to settle out of court and relocate on terms that Andrey considered as fair.
Having successfully applied his business model to the IVTU, I had to ask Bodganov about his opinions on how other campus organizations function. “They are quiet bureaucratic; we have to keep minutes and there are so many layers of checks.” Andrey believes that while many have good intentions, there is a lack of focus towards the long term. “I feel that they can get lost in current events, but how are you improving and growing your organization so you can have larger and more frequent events.” It is not an easy process and requires asking important questions and making sacrifice. “Maybe the fruits of your labor will become apparent two or three years down the line, when you aren’t here anymore.” Andrey spent four years in the IVTU in order to ensure that his changes would last, while many in other campus orgs they are elected for only one year and have limited time to observe their changes. Being under the “umbrella” of UCSB also limits their ability to inspire change.
The housing crisis is another issue that concerns Andrey, which has plagued students and families alike in Isla Vista and the areas surrounding it. “UCSB is still expanding with more and more students coming in.” Even if the UC monitors the number of incoming students based on housing availability, there is no data on SBCC enrollment in order to sufficiently solve the problem. The rate at which housing is being built is slower than the increases in enrollment, which leads to higher prices. While Andrey may applaud the UC’s efforts, he believes that there is still room for improvement.
While his time at IVTU is coming to an end, Andrey aspires to continue his community outreach. His career goal is to one day have his own enterprise that is profitable. “I wish to use those profits to set-up my own non-profit organization that would develop charitable initiatives in the communities.” Supporting and funding big ideas that lack support is something he has been thinking about for a while. Andrey hopes to put himself in a position where he can do these things for the public. Change is a painful task and Andrey endured it for the better. The IVTU improved and Andrey gained both self-fulfillment and valuable real world skills.