A word with Ivana Zdeljar, president of the Criminology Student Association

“If you have an idea and you want to do it, I will support you and find a way to do it.”

Image courtesy of Ivana Zdjelar

By: Criminology Student Association, Staff Writer

Fast Facts

Name: Ivana Zdeljar 

Pronouns: She / her / hers

Departmental affiliation: Fourth-year criminology student

Hobbies: Zdeljar enjoys trying out new places to eat as an avid foodie, singing and dancing around her room, and cooking.

Work experience: Zdeljar worked at David’s Tea as an event organizer and started off as a CSA secretary prior to her CSA presidency. She currently works at Lush. 

Fun fact: Zdeljar’s favourite colour is yellow and she loves sunflowers.

“I love that people are so ambitious and so passionate about a lot of things [ . . . ] you can see that anything is possible.”

Those were the words that Ivana Zdeljar spoke without hesitation when I asked her about her favourite part of being in the Criminology Student Association (CSA).

In the midst of a busy summer semester, clubs and student unions have been itching to put together activities and mixers that appeal to students. Organizing these types of events may seem simple on the surface, but a lot of compromising, leadership, and delegation goes into making it all come together. For Zdeljar, a huge part of her presidency revolves around fixing the small cogs in an overall big wheel with the help of her colleagues. 

Zdeljar began her journey at the CSA by getting dragged to a meeting by her sister who, at that time, was the CSA’s faculty representative.

“If you go to the CSA Instagram page, you will find a picture of little me in first year,” Zdeljar said laughing, ”[ . . . ] so that was my first introduction to that.”

As time went on, Zdeljar became involved in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, but soon realized she wanted to do more volunteering. Since she was already part of the CSA, she thought it would be a perfect place to start taking on more responsibility. 

“One thing that is important to me is being of service,” Zdeljar explains.

Even though Zdeljar did not necessarily set her sights on the secretary position, she was motioned into the position by other members of the union. Although Zdeljar admits it was terrifying at first, as the secretary is one of the four core executive positions, she went into it with an open mind.

“It’s not even that people were giving me a lot of responsibility. It’s that I was asking for it,” Zdeljar says.

After the previous CSA president took her leave, it was a natural choice for Zdeljar to take on the role. However, such a position is not without its difficulties. Zdeljar explains that this year, it has been tough juggling her personal life and the CSA.

As it turns out, there is a lot of planning and compromising that revolves around this position. As a person of authority, one of the most important things is to practice having empathy toward colleagues. Zdeljar had to learn this firsthand at the beginning of her semester; the dynamic of the club always changes a lot when a new person takes the lead. 

“As soon as you’re a president, people either love you or hate you — that’s just it,” Zdeljar explains. “You’re doing well or you’re not.”

Zdeljar goes on to explain that it is crucial to not take any of these criticisms personally, as the best approach to others is an empathetic one. 

“The way I run [CSA] is that, if you have an idea and you want to do it, I will support you and find a way to do it. [ . . . ] I want to [empower] people to do what they want to do,”

For Zdeljar, this rings true for many events that the CSA host, like start-of-semester mixers and fundraisers. Even the upcoming pub night run by Pre-Law and the CSA has been made possible through the cooperation and collaboration of her colleagues. 

“Leadership [is] moving people in a direction, but it’s also like rowing, you need others to help you, and [in turn] support them.”

Zdeljar is a strong believer in the idea of shaping your own journey around what makes you happy and what you are most comfortable doing. Even in her own professional pursuits, Zdeljar has been struggling with the realism of her future. While criminology is her biggest passion, she feels strongly about countless issues that leave her torn about what she wants to do in her career — a relatable situation for many fourth-year students.

As a kid, Zdeljar loved watching Forensic Files, which she assumes was a big influence on her current love for criminology and exploring the unknown. After becoming more knowledgeable in her department, Zdeljar wants to bring awareness to the inaccuracies and the myths of crime statistics. 

“People jump on these numbers and these buzzer words and are like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God! Murder is everywhere!” Zdeljar says. She suggests that while awful things do happen in the world, we need to recognize that the world is not as terrifying as it is portrayed on the news, once you take a more critical look at the facts. 

As someone interested in the practicalities behind criminology, Zdeljar is also passionate about advocacy and promoting change, which she hopes will be encouraged by the CSA.

For Zdeljar, it is important to acknowledge the existence and emergence of certain crimes, but people should also pay attention to over-representation in media and become educated about the numbers. 

In particular, as someone well-versed in Canada’s judicial disciplines, Zdeljar also emphasizes that we must hold our legal systems accountable for the genocide of Indigenous peoples and communities. She goes on to explain that society can’t afford to be complicit, since the justice system is a reflection of people’s attitudes and values. 

“I don’t want to sound really pessimistic because change is very possible, we are seeing that in a lot of places” Zdeljar says, “but I think we have completely let down the Indigenous [communities].”

Zdeljar suggests that the legal system must do more, and one of the first steps is admitting that there is a cultural genocide that is happening. She expresses her concerns that many people may need to familiarize themselves with the word “genocide,” as the common definition rarely encompasses what is happening with Indigenous communities in Canada. Zdeljar emphasizes that once people start educating themselves on this, we can begin to see more pushback and more advocacy. 

Ultimately, Zdeljar wants to bring people together and help new ideas flourish through her presidency at the CSA. By hosting events and volunteering, she hopes to inspire others to take the reins of their own passions.