Advocate for Change: Amanda Hills on PSSA, Sexual Violence, and Balance

Originally from Boston, Amanda is in her fourth year pursuing Honours in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy. Currently, she is the President of the Political Science Students Association - one of the largest departments at McGill, she represents the Events Planning and Involvement Committee on the AUS Legislative Council and also, she develops workshops for the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education. In the past, Amanda has been involved with the McGill Pre-Law Society, Women in International Security, and Arts Frosh.

Amanda has always loved being involved at school and the PSSA holds a special place in her heart. She became a member of the VP Events Portfolio in her second year and hasn’t looked back since. Before taking on her role as President, she was VP External. “I love the strong, hardworking community of political science students, and it is truly an honour to represent our department as President.”

On her role as President, “When I first met with my PSSA executives last March, I told them that in the coming year we would work hard, be humble, and do right by our students. I strive each day to remain diligent in my pursuit of the things that matter most to my team and me, to represent our department to the best of my ability, and to be a resource to those in the community. I hope to continue providing top-notch services to our students while being open to change and improvement. The exec and I spent our entire summer critically assessing what the PSSA had done well and where we could improve; from there, we brainstormed ways to expand on our strengths and to remedy our deficiencies. Aside from my tangible goals, I really hope to make Political Science an increasingly welcoming, inclusive, and accessible community."

In the Summer of 2016, Amanda got involved with a worthy cause on campus. At the time, she was serving as the Director of Inclusivity and Equity for Arts Frosh where her goal was to expand the position to include responding to issues of sexual violence. “I sought to create mandatory training on the basics of consent for all incoming Froshies. I teamed up with some key stakeholders in the community, including Mitch Miller from Campus Life and Engagement, Bianca Tetrault from the O-SVRSE, and Chris Buddle, the Dean of Students”, Amanda said.  Since then, she has developed workshops for various student groups, from fraternities to student executives in hopes of raising awareness about this issue on campus. “I believe that the O-SVRSE is one of the most meaningful resources that exists on our campus; it is a team of brilliant and inspiring women who work each day to improve our campus, and it blows my mind to see the difference this office can and does make.” According to Amanda, initiatives like O-SVRSE are a step in the right direction towards eliminating sexual violence on campus and beyond.

That’s not all. Amanda was the Executive Director of Inclusivity and Equity for Arts Frosh this past year, an editor for the McGill Pre-Law Society, VP Events for our school’s chapter of Women in International Security (WIIS), and a tour guide. She also works at Bar des Arts, “aka McGill’s best campus bar.”

According to her, “it’s important to lead by example.” She strives to stay true to her principles whilst understanding the needs of her team and of the community that she serves. “I am always looking toward the leadership of others; people think of good leaders as invincible people who don’t need help, but all of my mentors have displayed a willingness to step back and seek the advice of those whose opinions they value. The moment you think you don’t need help is probably the moment when you need it most." She emphasizes that, “one should always seek confidence from within and not from others’ validation."

When asked about how she balances all her roles, Amanda states that it’s best to remember that balance is not the same as perfection. She feels that perspective is key, “some days I give up time with my friends, some days I give up a bit of sleep, and some days I let myself fall behind on my work. I don’t have a secret trick, all I can say is that it’s important to keep things in perspective. There is no objective standard for balance, success, or for what it means to “fall behind”. We decide those things for ourselves.” She looks for contentment in her daily life and tries to always remember that “nothing is the end of the world.”

In addition, she says, “I feel unbelievably lucky to be surrounded by people who keep me grounded and sane. My friends and I always remind each other that our health, both physical and mental, is paramount and that most things are just not huge deals.” 

On her future goals, “I’m looking toward a career in politics, hopefully working on campaign strategy, communications, or field organization. I hope to be on the front lines of increasing the representation of progressive, female candidates in elected office. Or at the very least, I’d like to one day have lunch with Jon Lovett.” 

As a fourth-year student, if she could tell her first-year self one thing it would be, “You’ll be fine. Go to bed.” 

Images provided by interviewee.