Recent events south of the border and across the Atlantic have increased international interest in Canadian higher education. Despite the flaws that we are often quick to identify, this attention reminds us that that Canada’s education system is the envy of many around the world. I was born in a country where public education is not part of the social fabric like it is in Canada. Many young people there can only dream of the world-class education that is so accessible here. So, I count it a blessing to have grown up in Ontario. This sense of gratitude has underlain my interest in student affairs since serving as a Student Trustee in high school. It has impressed on me the importance of not taking our education system for granted. So throughout my undergraduate career, I have tried to contribute to it in whatever way I can. Over the last four years, I have done so though roles at the University of Waterloo (UW), UW’s Federation of Students and OUSA.
I attended my first OUSA General Assembly (a gathering where member schools approve policy stances) in 2014. At that conference, I learned about the many barriers to success that exist for university students in Ontario. I became aware of how important it is for student associations put pressure on major stakeholders in the sector–especially the government–to act upon student concerns. The following year, I joined OUSA at Queen’s Park to lobby the provincial government for major changes to OSAP. Several months later, OUSA’s recommendations were included in the Provincial budget, resulting in $350M of grants becoming available and more easily accessible. This experience taught me that in addition to student advocacy being important, it is effective. This is what drove me to continue in student affairs.
I have recently begun terms as Vice President, Education for UW’s Federation of Students and President for OUSA. Both of these organizations are respected for maintaining positive relationships with stakeholders and representing their members well. I hope to continue this legacy, especially as we approach next year’s Provincial election. At OUSA, we have our work cut out for us in ensuring that the voices of our 150,000 undergraduates are heard as platforms take shape. As President, I approach this challenge thankful for what we have, and hopeful for the partnership of all candidates to make postsecondary education in Ontario even better.