Copyright © 2020 Federation of Students, University of Waterloo operating as Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association
Your VP Student Life moves on with hers
This has truly been one hell of a year. If you’d told me when I first came into office all the hurdles I’d have to deal with I never would’ve thought I’d make it through. We started off the year as The Federation of Students in the middle of the Student Choice Initiative and finished off as The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association in the midst of a pandemic. It was a monumental year to say the least.
Becoming a part of WUSA
Starting off the year in a rebrand was really exciting for me. Although I didn’t know it would be something my team would inherit I could see the issues with the Feds brand and all the possibilities of forging a new one. Being a part of this process helped me to think more about what our organization is here for and how we can best be serving students. It feels great seeing how many people are actively seeking out our resources and knowing that we’re finally reaching a broader audience.
Why I got involved
When I initially decided to run for this position in the fall of last year I was Coordinating for The Glow Centre. I never saw myself being a part of student government. For me, most of my undergrad was spent volunteering with the services and collaborating with other students and community members to organize and support local equity initiatives. If someone hadn’t told me to run, I don’t know if I would have even seen it as an option for myself. There’s a common misconception that you need to have been involved in governance in order to run but this isn’t true! the important thing is that you have experience working with students and you have the passion and knowledge to improve the student experience.
When I originally created a team to run, our goal was to improve the lives of students with a specific focus on the needs of marginalized students. Coming into office I knew I wanted to carry on the goals and values of my running mates. My priority for this year has always been to improve the lives and experiences of marginalized students at The University of Waterloo. There are countless barriers that hinder marginalized students from being able to succeed in a post secondary landscape, which is why I tried to take every possible opportunity to talk to administration about the issues that students are dealing with. This included discussions about mental health, policing on campus, substance use and support, anti-racism, and sexual violence.
What I've done
Upon getting elected I began meeting with my predecessor to learn how to best fill this role. While working on our transition we created an Equity Commissioner under the VPSL portfolio that would be responsible for implementing projects aligned with our long-range plan. Throughout this year I worked with Victoria Rodney to make this role what it is. Its been really exciting to see the new ways we can be supporting students. Something we worked on quite a bit was improving our Incident Reporting Form. Originally starting as The Glow Centre’s Incident Reporting Form we ramped it up to include our other equity seeking services so that we can holistically track and respond to instances of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, islamophobia... and more. When working on each individual case we could see how deeply students on our campus are still being affected by acts of discrimination and systemic injustice. Luckily we have numerous ways that we can each get involved. I found my passion working with Glow but there are so many other opportunities!!
We accomplished so many things throughout the year that I’m proud of but for now I’ll list my top 3.
- Service coordinator compensation!! This means that future service coordinators starting Winter 2021 will be getting paid!!
- Created and set up Equity Commissioner for success. I’m really proud of all the work Victoria and I did this year and I’m exited for them to continue in the role this coming year. I’m especially proud of the ways we’ve been able to reach students who hadn’t otherwise come to WUSA for support in the past.
- I began a research project aiming to look into the experiences of trans and racialized students within Health Services and Counselling services. This research consist of a survey and focus groups that will likely be held in the coming months. The research will then be used to advocate for best practices.
Finishing the year like this definitely wasn’t easy for me. I was so excited to start up focus groups and work on other unfinished projects. Unfortunately for us COVID-19 hit and wiped out our plans for the remained of our term and left us scrambling to figure our what a pandemic means for students and how best we can work to support you. This time feels incredibly uncertain and it feels incredibly strange leaving the university at such a monumental time. Having feelings of unfinished business feels like a bit of an understatement for many of us. Finishing a 5-year degree and my term at WUSA without the chance to say wrap up projects, pack up my office, convocate, say goodbye to profs, friends, and coworkers… it just feels like a huge lack of closure. Despite this less than ideal ending I still feel proud of what we were able to accomplish.
Doing advocacy work is not easy. Working to support over 30,000 students takes your blood, sweat, tears, but I wouldn’t take it back for the world. I can’t put into words how grateful I am to have had the support and trust of students. It has been an honour being your VP Student Life and I’m confident that our incoming executives will continue to advocate for your interests.
To all of my friends and coworkers within WUSA and the University I just wanted to thank you all for your support and kindness. I couldn’t have gotten through this year without you.
I may be done this position but I’ll remain in KW for at least the next year as I continue to work within the community.