The McMaster Students Union president-elect Ikram Farah and captain of the Marauders football team Mark Mackie may have a lot of differences, but one thing that brings them together is their shared ability to be a leader.
Farah, a fourth-year Honours Political Science and Labour Studies student pinpoints her first real position of leadership as when she served as the social sciences caucus leader on the Student Representative Assembly in 2016-2017.
Being elected as caucus leader was validation for Farah that people believed in her. Being chosen for simply being herself made her realize that she had it in her to run for MSU president.
Defensive end and kinesiology student Mackie on the other hand fell into his leadership role due to seniority. Returning for his fifth year after being cut from the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos, he and the other fifth-years were the obvious choice to lead a team with such a large recruiting class.
The large amount of rookies posed as a bit of a challenge for head captain Mackie. Usually, the amount of recruits coming in is not that large, so it is easy for them to adapt to the team culture. Yet with so many senior players leaving the program before the start of the season, there was an imbalance of rookies and veterans.
“When you have that large of a recruiting class, it’s almost like we had two different groups,” said Mackie. “So getting used to that large of a group was challenging but fun,” he said.
For Farah, being the social sciences caucus leader gave her many valuable skills that surely transferred over to her being the successful presidential candidate. But one challenge she faced was getting over the fear of asking for help.
As a captain you set the tone how everyone else is going to act because everyone is watching you and trying to see what you will do during the play.
Captain of the Marauders football team
“I grew up very independent,” said Farah. “I always had my family and friends, but culturally you were supposed to be very goal-oriented and do things for yourself. The hardest time was during my time with the SRA, because I came in with one vision while four other people each had their own visions. As caucus leader I had to figure out how I was going to achieve my own goals and compliment everyone else.”
After three months Farah began to figure out how to collaborate and ask for help. Since then she has continued to do so with each new position and leadership role she has had.
Like Farah, Mackie has been able to apply the skills learned as captain in life in general, with one main skill being accountability.
“When you’re the younger guy you kind of just go with what everyone else is doing,” said Mackie. “As a captain you set the tone how everyone else is going to act because everyone is watching you and trying to see what you will do during the play.”
Many people expect a football to act up or create a scene due to the negative connotation that comes along with being a contact sport athlete. Though there are cases where this happens, it is not always the reality for the majority of players.
The fifth-year student has been previously awarded the Alma and Will Rice Memorial Scholarship, which is presented to the kinesiology student who proves outstanding academic achievements. Mackie also received the Ontario University Athletics nomination for the Russ Jackson Award, which “honours the football student-athlete who best exemplifies the attributes of academic achievement, football skill and citizenship.”
“If you get to know us a little bit more you will realize we are a special group of guys who come together and work really hard,” said Mackie. “It takes a really special person to balance both being a student and an athlete, so just because were playing a contact sport does not mean we are not working hard in the classroom as well.”
Farah, like Mackie, hopes to challenge how the student body sees her new leadership position.
“[I know people think that the] MSU president does not do enough, that you cannot do anything in a year and that it is just a role to put on their résumé,” said Farah. “That is fair to think but at the same time, I truly believe that depending on who you are you can do a lot in a year.”
The hardest time was during my time with the SRA, because I came in with one vision while four other people each had their own visions. As caucus leader I had to figure out how I was going to achieve my own goals and compliment everyone else.
McMaster Students Union president-elect
Now as president-elect, she is more confident than ever and is using the negativity as fuel.
“I want to be that person that people can look at and trust,” said Farah. “Obviously that is very optimistic, but I know my work ethic and I know I am the type of person to get things done and if I cannot get things done I know why I did not get it done and plan to be transparent about that.”
Although McMaster’s new MSU president-elect may not know anything about the National Football League, the Canadian Football League or even how the McMaster men’s football team did this season, the one thing she knows is there are life-long lessons that one can learn through football.
Being a football movie fanatic, Farah often quotes football coach Eric Taylor from the Friday Night Lights television series. She is also inspired by Denzel Washington’s performance as the head coach in Remember the Titans, where he was able to make the characters fight for something they collectively believed in — football — despite their racial differences.
“I think that’s a common theme within my courses and how I live my life,” said Farah. “Yes, we all have our differences and we all face adversity, but when you put that aside and put a collective goal first you’re unstoppable.”
Whether it be on the field or in the office, what it takes to be good leader remains the same. For Farah, this means being honest, transparent and someone who stands their ground. For Mackie, being accountable, a good listener and a team player are three things that make you a good leader.
As Farah prepares to embark on this new journey as MSU president and as Mackie returns to Edmonton for another shot at the CFL, both will be keeping these things in mind. They should also make sure to keep their eyes clear and their hearts full so that in the long run they will never lose.