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Desmarais Hall is the seat of the Telfer School of Management. Image:Rame Abdulkader/Fulcrum
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The Fulcrum shines a spotlight on Nora Al-Akwaa, Jean-Simon Lavoie-Albert, Reana Agil and Prisca Simporé

The University of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) are currently holding elections for four different elected student bodies. This article will look at the races taking place for the Telfer School of Management UOSU Board of Directors (BOD) and the University of Ottawa Senate seats.

UOSU’s BOD has a varying number of student representatives from each faculty who convene monthly to guide the work of UOSU as an organization. The number of representatives per faculty is dependent on the size of each faculty. The positions are unpaid and the main role of the BOD is to vote on motions put forward by the UOSU and be members of a number of union subcommittees. 

The Telfer School of Management has four candidates for the three available seats: Nora Al-Akwaa, Jean-Simon Lavoie-Albert, Maxime Chouinard and Aziz Dhieb. The latter two did not respond to the Fulcrum’s request for an interview. 

For those who wish to get familiar with the candidates, here is the transcription of the interviews they did with the Fulcrum.

The Fulcrum (F) : Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

Nora Al-Akwaa (NA): My name is Nora and I am currently a part of the students culture club. I am a social media director in Telfer International and an investment analyst in the Telfer Finance Society Investment Group. I like finance and I like the numbers which is why I choose to do finance at leisure. 

Jean-Simon Lavoie-Albert (JL): My name is Jean-Simon and I am in my third-year of commerce and specializing in finance. I’m someone who’s been super involved throughout my university life in many different groups and clubs. I’m someone who wants to represent the best interest of everyone I meet, so that’s probably the main reason why I’m running for BOD. 

F: Can you talk about previous involvements in student life on campus or relevant experiences that would help you in this role? 

NA: In my first and second years, I was trying to navigate university as an international student so I was not involved in many clubs. This was a mistake on my end. During my third year I wanted to change that so I started participating in clubs. Before long, I was able to know how to communicate with a team, a team of my friends at the professional level and was able to solve advanced problems. Being able to communicate professionally with them really helped me.

JL:  I was actually elected to the BOD last year so I am running for re-election. Beyond that, I am someone who’s part of the Telfer Finance Investment Group with other people who like finance and we work together to create investment pitches. I’m also involved in case competitions at Telfer.

F: How do you plan on building on the work of your predecessor?

NA: I want to be able to improve the communication between Telfer students. I want them to be able to communicate their concerns, or their suggestions with the Board of Directors. And just to make them have a great experience and help their voices to be heard and for their suggestions to be heard and communicated through.

JL: I came into this position in November and since then I have been learning the ropes of the job so that if I am re-elected I can hit the ground running. There is a learning curve with the job and since I have already been on the BOD I know what to expect.

F: What often gets overlooked for your faculty? 

NA: I think mental health is very important and especially during these challenging times. There should be a bigger focus on being able to facilitate resources for students just for them to be able to feel like they’re being heard by their faculty and get them the help they need. I think there should be more mental health resources for students in Telfer.

JL: The biggest issue with Telfer right now is that they make a lot of decisions without considering what students would prefer or asking their opinions on it and it can be frustrating for someone who works on the BOD. What I think we’re trying to work on now and into the next term would be ensuring transparency so that students are aware of what is happening.

F: How do you intend to facilitate communication between students, the BOD and the Executive Committee?

NA: Between the students and the BOD, I would like there to be a platform. Whether that is a Google Doc or a suggestion resource that students can be able to anonymously provide concerns and suggestions and then the BOD can take that into consideration and see the most common concerns and work to address them. 

JL: Considering I am a student it is easy for me to communicate with other students through social media. Allowing students to actually voice their concerns. I love to do polls on Instagram or I’ll even ask people questions and people they don’t always have the time to send emails and make formal requests to actually be heard. So I’m just trying to facilitate the procedure when it comes to actually sharing your concerns.

F: Is there a particular committee you plan on joining and why?

NA: I don’t know yet.

JL:  I’m on the Finance Committee. I’m planning on rejoining that committee next year. This is to ensure the fiscal legitimacy of the UOSU. I am also planning to join the Governance Committee.

F: What is an area that you think the body you are running for can improve and how do you plan on helping to improve it? 

NA:  I think that promoting inclusivity is always important and more important than ever now. As a woman of color and international student myself, I do understand the hardships of getting jobs. And I think that the BOD can really help provide resources for students to make their voices heard and to help them excel even further with their career.

JL: Right now we have a lot of different channels that allow us to communicate with each other. I’d like to centralize all of those questions on one platform. I can probably work with the Executive Committee to make that happen, that’d be great. I think the biggest issue that we have is we have a lot of different channels that allow us to communicate and that can be confusing.

F: If you’re elected, by the end of your terms what’s the one thing you would like to be remembered for?

NA: I think being able to actually listen to the students, and just bring their concerns and their suggestions to life. I don’t want to just go to the BOD and sit down, I want to be the change, I want to listen to the students, and just help them with whatever they’re going through.

JL:  At the end of the day, I want to be there for people and I want to be people’s friends. It’s just an opportunity for me to actually allow people to voice their concerns and voice their opinions.

F: Why should students vote for you?

NA: I would rather not answer that question. 


JL: I have had the chance to already be on the BOD so I know what to expect and how to handle it. I am ready to hit the ground running because of this and get started on my work as of day one. I am also bilingual and I can communicate with more students because of this. 

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The U of O Senate has one student representative from each faculty. The U of O Senate is responsible for setting educational policies and dealing with academic issues. The Telfer School of Management has two candidates for one available seat: Reana Agil and Prisca Simporé 

For those who wish to get familiar with the candidates, here is the transcript of their interviews with the Fulcrum.

The Fulcrum (F): Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

Reana Agil (RA): My name is Reana Agil and I am in my second year of commerce at Telfer and I am specializing in finance. I am really involved in school, the first thing I did when I got to university was join the competitions committee for Telfer and I am now the vice president, academic for that so I handle all the trials. 

Prisca Simporé (PS): My name is Prisca and I am a third-year management student. I am a student who loves to be active and involved in activities where I can help others. I am hardworking, determined and devoted. 

F: Can you talk about previous involvements in student life on campus or relevant experiences that would help you in this role?

RA: As I said before I am the vice president, academic for Telfer’s Competition Committee and from that I interact with a lot of faculty and students where we form a delegation to compete against other schools in the commerce category. I also do a lot of outreach with the Career Centre. I have a lot of groundwork that would allow me to represent Telfer at the Senate level.

PS: Right now, I am working with the Career Centre at the University of Ottawa. This is my way to be involved with student life because employment is part of our lives. For me working with students through employment helps me hear their concerns.

F: How will you work on making the student situation better during COVID-19?

RA: The first thing I did with my campaign was create a Google Form and I sent it to all the students I knew to try and get their opinions. I have also talked to a lot of professor’s in focus groups to try and improve the workload for students. Telfer students are also not allowed a minor and I think in order to get more experience in the industry we should be allowed to have a minor.

PS: COVID-19 has been really hard on everyone and I think that we need more mental health support and career counsellors. We need more slots for students to sign up for support from their mentors. Since [school] is online now we need more webinars for students for support. There is also a training [program] called “More Feet on the Ground” that I currently have access to. It is a program that can help you identify when you need to reach out for support as well as there is a number you can call if things are not going well.

F: What often gets overlooked for your faculty?

RA: I think one of the things that Telfer overlooks is the balance of student life. There is a huge push to always have an internship or do all the courses and extracurriculars possible. There’s very little emphasis on personal development and I think that we could improve on that a lot as it is very important. 


PS: I believe international students are often overlooked by my faculty. I am an international student and we need more support once we arrive in Ottawa. The system in my country is very different from that in Canada so seeing an academic advisor or a counsellor would be beneficial. International students in their first year should have their intentions on studying and counsellors can help them do that.

F: Can you explain in your words what is the mandate for the role you are attempting to be elected to?

RA: Senate is the highest level of student bodies and it makes rules and regulations for students within our faculty. There is one representative to act in the interest of the faculty, however I found out recently that we are still required to act in the best interest of the school. My main goal is to put forward the interests of students and make change for them.

PS: This is where decisions about the faculties are decided on. So my work for me is to point out how students feel about things whenever decisions are made. Let’s say the university wants to remove a service that students like. I think my goal is to stand up for students and make their voices heard and tell them you cannot do that now because we are benefiting from it.

F: What is an area that you think the body you are running for can improve and how do you plan on helping to improve it?

RA: One of the biggest things I think would be to raise more awareness. Not many people know about this governing body where students can represent themselves as a voice in the school. I think there is a disconnect between the students and the faculty. We need to bridge the gap between the experiences of students and the faculty.

PS: I think the Senate can improve on having a bigger budget for things. I think things for student life to make sure students are part of a community.

F: If you’re elected by the end of your terms what’s the one thing you would like to be remembered for?

RA: I want to be remembered for the fact that no matter how hard it was I pushed for change for students. I know the change won’t happen overnight regardless of what the issue is. I’m a Muslim Black woman, so for me to be able to relate to other students is really important who are similar to me. I want to be remembered as someone who was really trustful and resilient.

PS: I would like to be remembered for not allowing other generations to go without the support that ours had. For example, I think we need a student guide that is given out each year to support students in what they can expect to deal with during that year.

F: Why should students vote for you?

RA: Students should vote for me because I am honest. I am here for anything, if students want to talk and I will push forward their concerns. I don’t have to be the one who gets us there or the one who gets to the finish line but to help push forward the change is really important.

PS: They should vote for me because I will be their voice and will definitely not hesitate to have an opinion on things.