Today is my last day working as the Executive Director at the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance or OUSA for short - a clarification that has become a permanent addition to my introduction after 4 years of working for this amazing organization. I have a lot of thoughts, memories, and thanks I want to share, but I’ll try to keep it (somewhat) brief.
I want to take this opportunity to highlight two messages:
- Student voices are important & should be the guiding force behind all student advocacy
- @ students - You can do this. Your voice should be taken seriously and you are well-positioned to speak on student issues.
OUSA is a student-led, student-run organization that is comprised of a board of directors who are all student leaders. OUSA also has four full-time support home office staff whose role is to support the research, operations, communications, and advocacy efforts of OUSA. Throughout my time at OUSA, the most meaningful research, policy, and advocacy work has always come when OUSA’s student leaders felt supported by OUSA’s staff and understand their full potential as advocates for students in Ontario. Student advocacy should always remain student-centric and student-run!
I am often asked what the most fulfilling part of working at OUSA is and my answer has always been the same. I love working at OUSA because I have the opportunity to support intelligent, curious, motivated student leaders learn and grow into themselves. I get to be a part of their transformation into confident individuals who are learning to believe in themselves, share their unique perspectives, and ask insightful questions. It is also important to acknowledge that many students in leadership positions experience self-doubt, flashes of imposter syndrome, and the feeling of being overwhelmed – these feelings are valid and normal. However, even through all these feelings, I have always made it a goal of mine to help them understand that they ARE very qualified and suited to share their student perspective. They belong in their positions.
Student voices are important and need to be nurtured, supported, and centred.
Okay, now that I made my point, I’ll finish with a few final thank yous. A huge thank you to every single Steering Committee member I have had the privilege of working with. Another thank you to all the other student leaders, post-secondary stakeholders, and public servants I have worked with over the years. And lastly, a special thanks goes out to my fellow Home Office staff that made my life so much brighter over the years: Sophie, Martyna, Deb, Ryan, Britney, Crystal, Chisanga, Malika, Irum, Shemar, and Octavia. It was truly ho_fun.
For student leaders and support staff engaging in post-secondary advocacy:
Please be kind to yourself. Surround yourself with support and put yourself in an environment that helps you learn and grow. Ask a lot of questions. Believe in yourself. And remember that students really do have the power to change the world.