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The Fulcrum shines a spotlight on Victoria Paller, Angolina Hamel and Demetra Sainas

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 faculty of health science 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 faculty of health science has four candidates for the two available seats: Victoria Paller, Angolina Hamel and Demetra Sainas. The last candidate, Lyazid El Fatouan, did not respond to the Fulcrum’s request for an interview by the deadline.

For those who wish to get familiar with the candidates, here is the transcription of the interviews they did with the Fulcrum. All answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The Fulcrum (F): Can you introduce yourself in two to three sentences?

Victoria Paller (VP): I’m Victoria and I’m a third-year student in French immersion. I’m from Vancouver and I really enjoy fitness. I want to help students with issues that I’ve faced throughout my three years at the U of O and I’ve definitely seen positive changes happen, because I’ve been around the U of O to see there’s a lot going on that needs to be changed.

Angolina Hamel (AH): I’m Angelina, I’m an up and coming second-year student at the University of Ottawa. I am passionate about Francophone representation, sciences, arts, as well as amplifying voices for all. 

Demetra Sainas (DS): My name is Demetra Sainas. I’m a third-year health sciences student with a focus on population and public health, and a minor in public admin, and I’m running for re-election. So I was fortunate to last year have been elected to this position and I’m looking to continue my work.

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

VP: I’m on Health Promo on the mental health team at the U of O and I want to use this to help other kids, because this year has been tough. I’m also a writer at HerCampus uOttawa so I’m involved with a lot of the girls who also write. I also do intramurals and I’m involved in fitness so I definitely want to make changes to physical activity to make it accessible and get new equipment. 

AH: Since my first year was entirely online, I didn’t get to really involve myself in the university. But with previous years in high school, I used to participate with fundraisers like Movember and Christmas Cheer, which would help the food banks and men’s mental health and prostate cancer awareness. I was also in the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets organization, which enhanced my leadership skills, and allowed me to become a better communicator and a better leader.

DS: I’ve held this role for a year now, I was elected to the board last May. During my time as a student leader, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to just connect with students, mostly [in] health science, but definitely students from all across campus on various issues. So that’s really given me a unique insight into what sort of challenges students are facing. Other experiences that have helped me along the way here is spending a lot of time with various clubs across campus, doing some presentations. In my work, I was a guide on Parliament Hill and I’ve worked on my interpersonal skills through that. 

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

VP: We represent the students. Each faculty has seats that make sure that every faculty’s voice is heard and once a month, there’s a meeting where we bring issues that our students have told us where we talk about mandates and pass votes and motions To make sure, honestly, that student voices are heard and represented.

AH: I have four main pillars of my campaign. My first one is bilingualism, my next one is equity and intersectionality, my third one is feedback and collaboration and there’s also mental health as my fourth pillar. 

DS: I think the main key role that a board member occupies is just being a representative of the students, towards the University of Ottawa Students’ Union. And then by extension, that means advocating on behalf of students and more specifically health science students to professors, faculty, UOSU, the administration, whatever it might be.

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

VP: I think joining some [committees] and I’m definitely going to do what they’ve done and take their ideas if there are some that haven’t been fully executed and work on them. If anyone has issues, I want them to be able to reach out to me and know that I’m accessible. I want to be the one who can make ideas come to light and just work with whatever ideas they got and bring some of my own to get the ball rolling. 

AH: I have seen some impressive work done by the student union and really fighting against the systemic racism built at the University of Ottawa. But I would also like to enhance that and I would like to amplify that voice because I don’t really think the fight is over. 

DS: Well, I’ve had the opportunity to be a member of three committees. So a lot of the work that we’ve been doing throughout the year and we still have some projects and files that are uncompleted, or there’s still work to be done there. So I have some projects that I’ll be looking to continue and just finish up.

F: What often gets overlooked for your faculty? 

VP: Honestly I think it’s pretty small. So I think it’s definitely like a lot of times we don’t get as much networking, we don’t get as many opportunities post graduation and I want to make sure that our faculty has those connections. I can make sure that our students will get the opportunities to learn what they can do with their degrees and just honestly not be so overlooked. 

AH: Honestly, there is not a lot of women in STEM recognition and essentially, just cohesion and like having a lot of support for women in STEM. So just having those support groups and having someone there for them to listen would be great.

DS: I think, in speaking with health science students, a lot of times the main issues that come up are mostly surrounding mental health. There’s a lot of students in my faculty that are in nursing or pre-med and I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves. Also, I really do think that for the health sciences faculty, a lot more can be done for ensuring that there’s just more solid information, more communication and accountability.

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

VP: I definitely want to make sure that I have an email that anyone one can talk to. But I definitely want to make sure that whatever it is, if  it’s virtual, then there can be group chats in place with everyone. I also want to make sure that I attend every meeting and make sure that whatever the issues are, I have all the documents to make sure I know what steps were taken to deal with the issue.

AH: I would like to implement a more accessible way of reaching the UOSU such as complaints to a Google form, because direct complaints would actually really help us in order to fix things instead of just performing like end of semester checkups, as well as using social media platforms more. 

DS: Going into the next year, what I’ll really be looking forward to is strengthening those relationships with students and those avenues of online communication. It never happened, which is super unfortunate, but definitely will in the future is the Health Science Student Association. We’re going to have a town hall, which would just give students the opportunity to come talk directly to us [and] be able to speak more one on one which is a major, something that was lacking in this last year. 

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

VP: I really like student life, I think it’s a big one, I think kids need to be involved on campus. It’s important to make sure that kids are wanting to go to events, kids want to be part of the student community at the U of O. And I think the only way to do that is to really be involved and make sure that these things are appealing to students because it’s important, not just for social health, but mental health. 

AH: If there is a Francophone Committee at the UOSU, absolutely. I’ve been really passionate about Francophone voices.

DS: I’m definitely planning on returning to the three committees I was a member of. I’ve loved the work that I’ve done and just been able to do because they’re smaller groups, and kind of much more specific mandates.

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? 

VP: Well, especially with COVID-19, accessibility and accommodation. So as a student, I was out of province this semester and I’m three hours behind so I had big issues with the university. I think it needs to be pushed on the university, there’s a lot of issues with students having to take tests at random times, like not being able to attend classes live, and that being an issue with some professors. And I think it needs to definitely be changed.

AH: I believe that they can be a little bit more public, like on Instagram. I have just seen the Executive Committee on the UOSU Instagram, but I think the Board of Directors is also super important, especially with passing some specific laws. So I would like to make sure that everyone knows which laws are passing, because it could still affect us directly

DS: I think a major growing point would be to just put ourselves out there more to encourage more students to get in touch. Just to raise the profile of the Board of Directors and all the members that were elected to the board to help represent students and to help with whatever they might need to encourage a sense of community. So I think that’s going to be the main focus of the BOD, is just continue forward and ensure that students are aware of our presence.

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

VP: I want to be remembered for making sure that services and accommodations have been accessible and done. I want to make sure that there’s no more students having to look for things or don’t feel like they’re on their own. I want to make sure that students know even if they’re not in my faculty that they can reach out to me for these things.

AH: I like to be remembered, not only for all that I have done, but who I am. I’d like to be known as a nice person. I would like to be known as someone who actually got the job done and someone who really cares not only for students in health sciences, but also for students everywhere at the University of Ottawa.

DS: I think mostly the work on the mental health file, that was something I ran on, and it was my main platform issue for my first election. That’s something that would make me so pleased and to know that I have made a difference on campus for students.

F: Why should students vote for you? 

VP: I’m someone who’s going to get the job done. I’m someone who’s going to be super organized and someone who’s going to push for the things that I truly care about. If you want someone who’s definitely strong willed to get things done, it’s me. I know a lot of the issues that I’ve been through and I believe those issues need to be talked about and I’m going to be accessible for all who want to talk about them and make a change.

AH: I think that I have solid goals that are pertinent to students, and that I am a sociable person and I have the potential to really include myself within the university’s syndicate. I would really like to expand those choices and get myself recognized to be an accessible person at the university.

DS: I’ve definitely got myself settled and established. I’m confident in my abilities going forward to connect with students to represent them now that I know a lot about the Board of Directors and my role. I would love to be given the opportunity to continue that going forward.