Hey everyone, this is Justin Bedi, your new Research Analyst at the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance home office. I’m very excited to start my new role with OUSA and have already had some great experiences in just a week. My colleagues here and across Ontario have been extremely welcoming, and I can already see how well we are going to work together to further student policy priorities.
I’m originally from Victoria, British Columbia, where I spent my life growing up among beaches, rain, and the Pacific Ocean. The common theme here is that there’s a lot of water on the west coast. I also completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in political science here at the University of Victoria.
In the fall of 2013 I traded in the west coast for the prairies, and moved to Saskatoon to begin the Master of International Trade program at the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. There, I specialized in Canadian trade policy and gained the skills, experience, and education necessary to succeed in my new role at OUSA.
While trade and education policy don’t necessarily appear related, they are in fact deeply intertwined. If I may take a moment to nerd out, trade is based on the concept of comparative advantage—if Country A has a comparative advantage in producing computers they will export those computers to Country B, and if Country B has a comparative advantage in making tires, they will export those tires to Country A. In both cases, the country exports the product they have a comparative advantage in, and imports the one they don’t have a comparative advantage in.
The part that education plays in determining trade is by developing intelligent, resourceful, and innovative students who go on to do great things and create new comparative advantages in the field of their choosing. Ontario is home to world-class universities and an exceptional student population, and if given the proper environment and opportunities, students in these universities can make Ontario, and by extension Canada, even more competitive on a global stage.
Today is the era of the knowledge economy. That means it’s more important than ever to have an educated workforce that is capable of introducing new means of doing things, including on university campuses—whether it be developing a more welcoming environment for different types of students to facilitate better graduation rates, implementing effective programs that prepare students for employment post-graduation, or by advancing the research of Ontario’s students with more creative and well-designed opportunities.
If I accomplish one thing during my time at OUSA, I want it to be that I’ve convinced Ontario’s government and its universities that although students do need to make the most of their opportunities—those in charge have to make sure they provide those opportunities in the first place. Too many obstacles, including arduous red tape that prevents or hinders students from accessing desperately-needed financing, a lack of internships and co-op placements that provide invaluable professional development experience, and a prevailing and counterproductive sentiment that students are entitled and not hard workers, are all barriers to setting Ontario’s students up for success.
The good news is that the reason I, and OUSA, are in the business of lobbying for students is because we believe these barriers can be overcome. Together, I know we can accomplish something special.
I’m excited to hit the ground running and see what we can achieve in my time here. To the students I work for: thank you for having me. I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can.
Justin Bedi, Research Analyst