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Roger Guindon campus. Image: University of Ottawa/Provided.
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The Fulcrum shines a spotlight on Mawaia Elkbouli

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 in the faculty of medicine for the UOSU Board of Directors (BOD) and 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 faculty of medicine has one BOD candidate for one seat: Toros Canturk. The candidate was unavailable for comment.

This Senate candidate from the faculty is Mawaia Elkbouli; she is running unopposed for the faculty’s one seat. The U of O Senate is responsible for setting educational policies and dealing with academic issues.

For those who wish to get familiar with Elkbouli, here is the transcript of her interview with the Fulcrum. All answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The Fulcrum (F): In two or three sentences, can you just introduce yourself?

Mawaia Elkbouli (ME): My name is Mawaia Elkbouli and I’m currently in my third-year studying translational and molecular medicine at the University of Ottawa. It took me a school year to realize it, but I’ve realized that I’m really passionate about students here, and their university experience and their academic achievements, I realized these issues really interested me.

So starting [in] second year, I decided to run to be a program representative for biochemistry. And after having that position, I really loved the idea. So ever since I’ve always tried to engage myself in some aspect of student life, politics and the university. And so that’s why this year I decided to [run for] the Senate because I found that given the COVID-19 pandemic, students’ education is a bit compromised — that’s why I’m really interested in this. Other than that, I’m originally from Libya. And I just moved to Canada less than six years ago. 

F: Can you talk about previous involvement in student government and other relevant experiences that will help you in this role?

ME: When I was the program representative for biochemistry, I had several duties. My two main duties were to help create social events and engage students and have them enjoy their university experiences socially. I also helped organize an academic event, something that can help them in terms of their courses, their program, their careers, possible career options and networking with professors. 

For the academic event, we had different professors come in and speak about different opportunities that students and biochemistry can have. So if they want to go research, we brought someone who [could] guide them [and] tell them where to look to get scholarships, [suggest] the person that they can speak to and various things like that.

However, unfortunately, that event was cancelled because of COVID-19.

Sad, but, I just realized that it was really interesting for me to engage with and have students come up to me and speak about different issues. So I really did enjoy counseling people and then eating with them as much as possible.

F: Jill Scott, the U of O’s provost and vice president, academic affairs has said the university plans to host 30 to 50 per cent of courses on campus. How do you plan on advocating for a safe return to campus? 

ME: That’s actually an excellent question because I was thinking about that myself as well. So I think that COVID-19 obviously, it’s a pandemic, and it’s horrible, and a lot of people are severely affected. And I mean, it’s different between each person and their experience with it. So I think, and I’m not sure if that’s possible, but I think that it shouldn’t be mandatory for students to have to come to school, it has to be up to them. Students should have the autonomy to decide whether they feel comfortable going to school or not. 

F: In your own words, how would you describe your mandate if you’re elected as a senator?

ME: I would say for the Senate, I am basically involved in the decision-making of editing courses, introducing modifications to courses and programs, then also helping with various academic regulations. 

My mandate would be that I have to act in the interest of what’s best for the students, but also for our school. If I do not have full power to change anything directly, I will work in a team, and then come up with a decision that everyone agrees upon. 

F: If elected, what’s one thing that you would like to be most remembered for at the end of your term?

ME: I really want students to remember that I am not just representing them for a title, I’m representing them, because I really do care about these issues. I want to build strong interactions between students in the faculty. And so I want them to be comfortable coming to speak to me about different issues that I don’t know about. Because I’m not really familiar with what the curriculum for medical students is for students who are in a [different medical field]. I just want them to remember that I’m always there for them. And that I really am doing this because I am a student and sometimes I struggle — I understand. I can’t remember a time or someone was there for me, so I want them to know that they have someone they can feel comfortable talking to. 

I want students to remember that there was once upon a time a student who they were comfortable speaking with about different things that they encountered and that when they weren’t comfortable speaking up themselves, they could be assured that that person would do it for them. 

F: Why should students of the faculty of medicine accept your candidacy?

ME: I think students should vote for me because I have a lot of experience with representing students in leadership positions. And not only that, but I am a very outspoken person and whenever I feel like or think that something needs to be changed … I always take initiative and send emails, contact people asking for what could happen or what should be done to change whatever is not working properly. 

I think that students, they’re looking for someone to represent them. They want students who are willing to fight for what they want but at the same time fight reasonably. I will.