While this past year is not how any of us would have expected, the 2020-2021 executive term is ending and it’s time for these WUSA execs to say goodbye. I know everyone at WUSA would agree that is has been an absolute pleasure working with Abbie, Megan, Alana and Nada. We had one final chat with these amazing execs to get the scoop about their time here, their successes and failures, some lessons they’ve learned along the way, as well as and what’s next!
What motivated you to contest for the role and what was going through your head when you found out you won the election?
Abbie: I think August 2019 working with Michael, the former president, on the long range plan and myself and the chair of the board at the time were going around and doing all these consultations with student societies and being able to talk with the societies and talking with students and running these consultations and focus groups on what WUSA should be doing, where WUSA should be, gave me a lot of energy and made me feel like I could make a difference for students just by being part of the drafting process. When it got closer to nominations, I was actually considering running for vice president, student life. And then I met Nada and she was perfect for the role. So, I was like, ok I have a couple options here. I can either run for a different position or bow out. And I decided to run for president so that I could continue working on the long-range plan and continuing that work that I’d already spent so much time on and make some changes to governance that I had experienced when I was a counselor myself in my second year.
Megan: I was motivated to run for this position because I was graduating, so I kind of had the time. Advocacy is also something that I had been kind of doing throughout my undergrad and that I really, really enjoyed. So, I kind of wanted to take the exec position almost like a gap year before diving back into the world of engineering.
Alana: I’ve worked for WUSA for six years now this May. I started as a host at Bomber and I worked my way up to accounting in commercial operations administrative assistant. This felt like my natural next available step to increase my contribution to the organization and Nada found Abbie and made that connection. There were a few times when Nada came up to my desk with a fellow coworker and was like, “you should run for VP of Operations and Finance with us”. And I said, “no, that sounds scary, I don’t know.” And then they did it over and over, like almost every day and so I was like, ok, you know what, maybe I can do this. And then I met with Abbie and Nada and we talked about it and then I felt a bit better and more capable, here we are now.
How has the role changed you and what would you say is your biggest achievement during your term?
Abbie: I think this role has changed me in a lot of ways. I would honestly say that my brain has changed a lot too, in the way that I look at problems…I mean, I’ve always been a strategic thinker, I’ve always thought, like, if we do this now, what does this mean for two years down the line, five years down the line, etc. But from this position I’ve had to constantly think like that, thinking about organization wide changes. And, if we change this, what or who’s that affecting, which has completely changed my brain and the way I think about anything, even in my personal life. At first, I was very content with just continuing my life as full-time staff for a university and kind of going forward with that. But now I have decided to leave the university setting and focus a lot more of my energies on not for profits that I care about and doing some of that, like strategic planning and like governance management for other organizations, because I have enjoyed it way too much. More than I thought I would, honestly. I love the ability to think about things that don’t exist and try to work towards those and make changes that kind of make sense for an individual organization instead of just copying and pasting. My brain loves that for some reason. I don’t know why. So, I’m excited to kind of take that knowledge and apply it to other not for profits. I think probably my only thing that I actually completed this year is the long-range plan. Put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that. And I don’t know, putting together a document that I think properly reflected the sentiments that I received in person from the societies and from our staff and from our students over the spring term. I feel very proud of the direction that the organization is taking and the things that we’re choosing to prioritize. And I’m just feeling really hopeful from that. It’s kind of cool to know that something that I worked on this year won’t just disappear next year. Probably it’ll disappear the year after that or maybe the year after that. But it’s kind of cool to leave something meaningful behind. So that was definitely my biggest and only accomplishment this year.
Megan: I think that this role has changed me the most just in terms of skills that I built. I didn’t have any experience with public policy or government relations coming into this role. I just kind of had like a passion for speaking for students to the people who can make the change and the people who matter in those decisions. I’ve learned a lot about government relations, how to talk to members of parliament and what to put in the letter that you’re writing to an MP. I’ve also really developed my policy writing skills in terms of like listening to issues that students are bringing forward and then researching and turning those into really strong recommendations that we can take forward to try and solve students’ problems. I think that like those pieces, and especially as they relate to communication, will be pretty valuable for me going forward. I’m kind of grateful for that experience outside of my comfort zone. I think that my biggest achievement in the term is probably a conglomeration of stuff that happened with external advocacy. Part of the challenging thing about my executive role in particular is that you spend all year talking to the provincial government and talking to the federal government and talking to all these people about what changes we want to see for students. But just because of the nature of how government and support services and things like that work, it can take a year just to be realized. So, I’m hopeful that a year down the line, I’m going to be able to see a lot of really tangible effects of the advocacy that I’ve done. And for the time being, I think I’m most proud of the time that I’ve put into our federal advocacy partner, the undergraduates of Canadian research-intensive universities, where I served as the advocacy chair, helping to build our very first policies and work on countless submissions to government.
Nada: There’s a lot of skills that you gain from this role and the nature of it. Those skills include, literally listening to everyone and anyone, no matter who they are, no matter what they’re saying, and sometimes you will listen to stuff that you don’t necessarily agree with morally nor ethically, but you still have to listen to it. So, I think that this role gave me the bandwidth to listen and choose whether or not to do something about something that I’m passionate about. I always talk about the club’s admin system and the updates that we’re getting. I’m very happy with the where that is at and the work that Dave, Rachel, James and Pratik are putting into it, it is a very much needed project that is progressing.
Alana: My answers to this are more personal than anything that I actually accomplish work wise. This job demands a level of confidence and strength in order to actually get things done that I honestly struggled with before ever having this job. And when I say that I wouldn’t take this back, it’s because of that opportunity that I’ve had to grow and learn to be confident and trust in the things that I think and the things that I know and make decisions and support the people that I work with. I don’t know how, if or when I would have learned this outside of this job, and I’m just really grateful for it. My greatest achievements, there’s some stuff that we did this year that have been awesome, but I think in terms of just personal relationships with a lot of the staff and my fellow executives and being able to be that support them when they need it and get that support when I needed it, and that sort of relationship that I have now with a lot of our staff is honestly my personal accomplishment from this whole year.
What’s something you wish you knew about WUSA as a first-year student and what’s your favorite take-out food from campus?
Abbie: I wish I knew more about how WUSA works because I was a representative on my high school student’s council, which is not the same thing as a student association at a university. I also wish that I knew more about the impact of a student association, because it really wasn’t until I would say probably about third year that I fully felt like I understood kind of what student associations operations are and kind of their purpose. I think maybe understanding our governance and kind of what happens at a student association would have been something that first year Abbie would have really liked to learn more about. My favorite take out on campus is definitely Wasabi Sushi and I have spent way too much money on Wasabi Sushi since being in the pandemic because it’s so good and easy and it supports your student association.
Megan: When I was in first year, I used to get campus bubble all the time and younger students might not know this, but WUSA used to operate like a bubble tea store, which is currently closed. And I would spend late nights in the SLC playing board games with friends and getting bubble tea. So that’s probably my favorite takeout food, which is a bit of a cheat answer because you can’t get that in campus right now. In terms of what I wish I knew more about, were the advocacy opportunities that were available for students because I really liked doing that sort of thing. I joined the Engineering Society Council and participated in advocacy through that avenue. But I didn’t know that there was all these opportunities to write policy papers or reports or articles or go to conferences with WUSA.
Nada: I wish I knew that Turnkey was very, very useful and very cool. I saw Turkey, but I wasn’t really sure what they did and because I was an introverted person in first year, I didn’t really engage in stuff that would require Turnkey, such as booking a room. I also wish I knew that the SLC was open 24/7, that people can go at any time. And what’s my favorite take out. So, there’s this vegetarian cooking INews used to sell, but now they’re not selling it. The vegetarian cooking bowl has guacamole, pineapples, edamame, everything amazing in a in a little bowl. And that was always my go to it would fill me, keep me going. But then obviously when it’s not there, Wasabi Sushi all the way especially the spicy crab rolls.
Alana: I wish I knew the impact that WUSA had on our campus and the volunteer opportunities. I also wish I knew about the sense of community that you have when you’re involved, I kind of just kind of stuck to myself with the small group of friends that I had in first year, because it’s all knew. I think that would have been a different experience if I had known more about WUSA and been able to involve myself. My favorite takeout from first year until a few years ago was the fries from Bomber. They were the best thing ever. Now I eat a Jamaican party and a coke from INews and that’s my thing.
What do you have in store for the future?
Abbie: I’m back to school. I’ll graduate in Winter 2022 and then go on to do my master’s, hopefully at Carleton in Ottawa. So, I’m kind of excited about what’s next. I’m really excited because my next project that I’ll be taking on is related to some of the work that I did this year. I’m really excited for what’s next. I am hoping to continue to work in not for profits and I look forward to being done my degree and supporting WUSA in whatever way I can, but mostly looking forward to leaving campus and coming back as an alumni.
Megan: I am very excited and fortunate that I am in the interview process for a couple of engineering companies where I did some of my co-op terms. So, looks like I will either be ending up in automotive or with a plastics recycling sort of company. I’m pretty excited to get back to the engineering world.
Nada: I need to finish my undergrad that I hopefully will be completed in April 2022 and then hopefully also see, there’s a lot of hope, go to med school. If that plan fails, then the contingency plan is to do a masters in anything related to brain and science and then reapply for med school, and then have more hope.
Alana: You have asked me a question that I have always had philosophical answers for. I have planned many things in my life and it has rarely turned out that way. I now just have a mental list of things that I would like to have happen in my lifetime. And I make small steps in that direction and then if it happens, great. But I have ceased to plan them in detail because it never goes as I expected it to. But short term, there are a few jobs on campus and within WUSA that I will be applying for. So, I’m not really going anywhere. I’m taking a course next term and. I’m buying my first car.
We wish you all the very best in whatever comes next and will continue to follow your journey from afar. Come back and visit us anytime!