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Photos: Courtesy of Lindsay MacMillan

The University of Ottawa’s graduate students will have a turn at the polls next week as the Graduate Students’ Association (GSAÉD) elections take place March 17–19.

Eight candidates are running for seven positions, with the science student representative of the university Senate remaining vacant.

Last year’s election saw a single slate claim all five executive positions. This year, only one independent candidate will challenge a five-person slate called Alliance.

Finance commissioner

Matthew Lafrenière

Matthew Lafrenière is running for a second term as finance commissioner. The chemistry PhD candidate said he believes this year’s experience will allow him to continue improving the “efficiency, financial function, and budget lines of GSAÉD.”

He said he wants to continue improving communication.

One of Lafrenière’s goals is to revamp the “archaic” budget, which he said hasn’t been updated in a decade. Additional objectives include reducing tuition fees and finding accessible insurance for graduate students.

Lafrenière is also running for the Liberal nomination in the Simcoe North riding. He said during the debates that he would resign from GSAÉD if he were to win the nomination.

If he could meet anyone, Lafrenière said he would want to meet Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. Before he was decapitated during the French Revolution, the renowned French chemist had numerous accomplishments, including naming oxygen.

University affairs commissioner

William El Khoury

William El Khoury, who’s working toward a master’s in chemical engineering, said his first foray into student politics has been a long time coming. “I always really wanted to be involved in student movements, GSAÉD especially,” he said.

“Anything that concerns fighting for equality interests me,” he said, adding he has participated in women’s rights marches in his home country of Lebanon.

El Khoury’s main concerns are improving communication and social events and adding services for students with children. With the possible dismantling of the Faculty of Graduate and Post-Secondary Studies, transparent communication with the university and students is especially important in order to keep them rightfully informed, he said.

If El Khoury could meet anybody, he said it would be the fashion illustrator David Downton, a lifelong source of inspiration.

Giancarlo Cerquozzi

Giancarlo Cerquozzi, a veteran of the Students’ Association of the Faculty of Arts (SAFA), said he wants to continue working for students now that he’s pursuing a master’s in women’s studies. “I’ve always been dedicated to campus life and community,” he said.

If elected, he aims to increase face-to-face interaction between GSAÉD and its students through faculty meetings, create personalized emails to cater to students, and have more in-person and digital interactivity.

As the only independent candidate running for the GSAÉD executive, Cerquozzi noted that he’s a good candidate because of his versatility, experience, and dedication. “I don’t want students to pass me over because I’m not currently part of a slate,” he said.

Cerquozzi calls himself a history nerd, saying he would want to chat with Pierre Trudeau if he had the chance.

Internal commissioner

Antoine Przyblak-Brouillard

Antoine Przyblak-Brouillard cited his experience with other student groups as a reason why he would be suited for the position of internal commissioner of GSAÉD. He’s the current vice-president of the Student Anthropology Community of Ottawa and the vice-president of external affairs for the Sociology and Anthropology Graduate Students Association of the U of O.

“I hope to communicate with other executives and members of the graduate council to help them navigate the university system a little better,” said Przyblak-Brouillard, who’s studying for a master’s in anthropology.

Other goals include discussion about the restructuring of the Faculty of Graduate and Post-Secondary Studies, bilingualism within GSAÉD, and advocating to the Board of Directors against implementing post-residency fees.

Przyblak-Brouillard would want to meet Kevin Spacey if given the chance because of the passion and conviction he brings to every acting role.

External commissioner

Kelly-Dawn Clarahan

Kelly-Dawn Clarahan is working toward a master’s in public and international affairs with a specialization in environmental sustainability.

Clarahan said her experience with the Make Poverty History campaign taught her “how to collaborate with institutions, organize events, and mobilize people.” At the U of O, she has worked with environmental groups and the Board of Governors coalition.

She plans to continue building on what GSAÉD has already accomplished by organizing more events and outreach programs. She said she wants to make campus greener by introducing composting stations and working with the healthy transportation coalition. Clarahan also said she’s “passionate” about pushing for post-residency fees to make tuition more affordable.

Clarahan would want to meet Emily Murphy of the Famous Five because she was “pretty badass.”

Student life commissioner

Nicolette Addesa

Nicolette Addesa said that since she’s pursuing a master’s degree in communication, she knows the importance of face-to-face communication.

Addesa said she will also work on GSAÉD’s social media, including building on its Instagram account, to improve relations with students.

She previously serving as the Hyman Soloway building representative on the residents’ association. She said she has also worked with the university administration at all levels through her experience on the Board of Administration and as SAFA’s vice-president of university affairs.

She said that poor working conditions for teaching assistants is a “systematic problem across Canada,” and that she will work in solidarity with CUPE 2626, the TA union, to ensure wages and hours remain fair.

Addesa said she would want to meet Audrey Hepburn because of her “elegance and extensive humanitarian work.”

Board of Governors

Robert Head

Robert Head said that accessibility is going to be a cornerstone of his term as graduate representative on the Board of Governors. “Academically, I’ve had a varied career, so I can bring this varied experience with me,” he said.

Head said he has vast experience both inside and outside the university. He was the president of the research and marketing company Groupe Head Gagnon, he taught in Taiwan for eight years, and is a learning specialist for the U of O’s Student Academic Success Service.

Head is finishing up a master’s in education and will start his PhD next fall. Head said if he could meet anyone, he would meet God, “not to ask questions, but to listen.”


Ali Shaker

Ali Shaker, who is studying for a master’s in education, said he attempts to interact with graduate students regularly to get an idea of the different issues that are most important to them. Shaker said he’s worked hard over the past year to convince the administration to freeze tuition fees, and will continue to advocate for government funding to cover the majority of university costs.

He said maintaining a good relationship with the university is vital because that’s how students get their voices heard.

Shaker said he would love to have a discussion with Ghandi, one of his role models.