My name is Julia Pereira and I am the Vice President: University Affairs for Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union. On May 26, I was also elected as the President of OUSA. I’d like to introduce myself and express my excitement for the upcoming year with OUSA and the opportunity to advocate towards a more accessible, affordable, accountable, and high-quality post-secondary sector. As incoming President, I am equally excited to lead a Steering Committee full of passionate individuals who are truly dedicated to representing undergraduate students across all of our member institutions.
I recently graduated from Laurier with an Honours BA in Political Science and Communication Studies. My undergraduate degree helped shape my interest in political science and government as I was able to develop an understanding of the Canadian political system, as well as deepen my critical thinking and research skills. However, my experiences at Laurier beyond the classroom truly helped me discover my passion for politics and advocacy. From my volunteer roles held within the University Affairs department, as a Director of the Board, and my co-op experience with the City of Kitchener in the Office of the Mayor and Council, I was able to witness the true impact and successes of student-led advocacy.
I believe the voices of students are incredibly impactful and have an important role in activism, whether it be within one’s own institution, or throughout all levels of government. As a representative of the student voice myself, I take great pride in my commitment to be an accessible and engaged peer to all students. Though each student navigates post-secondary education differently and endures a diversity of challenges and opportunities, I am devoted to ensuring that these experiences are reflected and addressed across our advocacy priorities throughout the post-secondary landscape.
I first got involved with OUSA during my third year of University and was truly inspired by the passionate individuals who were dedicated to representing undergraduate students through evidence-based policy recommendations. This year, OUSA has taken a substantive step forward by pre-voting all six policy papers in advance, meaning that Steering Committee and additional student representatives will be formally authoring papers including those on Racial and Religious Equity; Indigenous Students; Housing, Transit, and Community Development; Environmental Sustainability; and a Comprehensive Access Strategy. This marks an exciting time for OUSA as our consultation process can begin much earlier to ensure that we can engage as many students as possible to represent the student voice more accurately when developing evidence-based policy recommendations that pertain to those specific topics.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be a blog post in 2020 without mentioning COVID-19, but it is important to acknowledge that students are experiencing an overwhelming amount of uncertainty and anxiety throughout these challenging times. Navigating post-secondary education in an online and remotely-delivered environment is new for many of us and has exacerbated a variety of student concerns, challenges, and barriers that many have faced. Furthermore, the transition to online learning has also created an entirely new set challenges that students have never had to address in their pre-pandemic lives. While I wish that it were possible to revert to the days where social distancing and Zoom lectures were not the new normal, it is important to acknowledge that it is unlikely that the post-secondary landscape will ever be the same again.
As a student, but also an advocate for post-secondary education, I feel that student voices have the opportunity to be more impactful than ever as we navigate these unprecedented times. These are challenging times to be a student, but also incredibly important and transformative times for the sector.As President and as a member of OUSA’s Steering Committee, I am looking forward to ensuring these student concerns are amplified and addressed in our future policy publications to support strong student-led advocacy efforts across the post-secondary sector.