Ameya Pendse, President of IRSAM

Ameya Pendse is the president of the International Relations Students' Association of McGill  (IRSAM) and an opinion writer for The Bull & Bear magazine.

 Katrina Kairys for Her Campus McGIll (HC McGill): What is IRSAM and what are its primary goals as a students' association?

Ameya Pendse (AP): IRSAM is a federally incorporated not-for-profit corporation with a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. As an accredited non-governmental organization, IRSAM is not the only group at McGill with this status, but it is one of the only student-run organizations in the world holding this special consultative status with the United Nations.

IRSAM’s mission is to facilitate youth empowerment, leadership, and awareness. We strive to do this by providing students with various platforms to become engaged and involved with  international relations. We do this by sending students to represent us at the United Nations Headquarters, participate in Model United Nations by hosting conferences such as SSUNS and McMUN, as well as competing at conferences hosted by other universities in the United States. We hold weekly meetings with different themes and guest speakers, such as an Ambassador or Consul-General. We volunteer both locally and internationally and we publish an IR Journal,The McGill International Review, in both print and online with contributors from all over the world.  IRSAM is the largest student group at McGill, serving over 3,500 people from around the world every year, most of them being students.

HC McGill: Can any student become involved regardless of their program or major?

AP: IRSAM is not only McGill’s biggest student group it is also one of McGill’s most diverse student groups. Our members and staff come from all faculties and programs (also from all over the world). When it comes to different programs and majors, just look at our previous executives . The team is comprised of members in Management, Engineering, Arts, as well as a Masters Student studying Occupational Therapy. IRSAM welcomes all McGill students to get involved. 

HC McGill: How long have you been involved in IRSAM and why did you choose to work in this organization?

AP: This is my third year in IRSAM. I joined the organization in my second year as a general member. I felt a huge gap in my university life after leaving residence and especially after my term ended as the President of the RVC Residence Council. For me university means doing more than just studying, so when I saw IRSAM’s table during Activities Night, I wanted to get involved. I went to the first meeting and learned more about the organization. I had never done Model UN, but tried out for the Model UN team anyways. I got selected, and went to compete at Cornell University. I continued to get involved with IRSAM by staffing the conferences, McMUN and SSUNS. I also continued to go on trips, and to all internal events. At the end of the year I was elected to be theVice-President of Internal Operations. I was named as IRSAM’s Main Representative to the United Nations by the organization’s Vice-President of External Relations after which I attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations with eleven other members. As VP of Internal Operations I am proud to say that I nearly doubled IRSAM’s membership, and created new initiatives such as working with McGill Orientation, and getting Ambassadors to come to our meetings as guest speakers. At the end of the year I was elected to serve as the President and CEO of IRSAM Inc. 

HC McGill: How would you descibe your experience at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters?

AP: Having an access badge to the United Nations, and the ability to just walk into the UN Headquarters is something I never imagined I would be able to do while I was at university. IRSAM gives students the opportunity to discover International Relations beyond the classroom - by actually letting you participate in it. Going to the 58th Commission on the Status of Women was an unforgettable experience. While we were there I organized meetings with different Main Representatives and different Permanent Missions such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. We got to learn the domestic policy of different countries with regards to women - from the countries’ official representatives. We also had the opportunity to work with other NGOs and partner up to achieve similar goals. The feeling of being at the United Nations, and sitting in on sessions is an honor because you know that you are the only young adult in the room, that you aren’t just representing IRSAM or McGill, you’re representing youth all over the world. 

HC McGill: You’re very busy as the IRSAM President, yet also find time to write about political issues concerning McGill and Montreal. How do you balance holding a position on an executive with studying and other activities?

AP: I see the two going hand in hand. Just because you are interested in international relations does not mean that you are not paying attention to local issues and problems going on around you and directly effecting you. If anything I think getting involved on campus makes you more aware of your surroundings, and in the case of IRSAM it allows to you to use the skills you learn in our organization, like researching, debating, writing, and presenting, and being able to apply these skills to these issues surrounding you. Its a lot of your time, and you do have to make some sacrifices, but if you love what you are doing you’ll always find a way to make it work. 

HC McGill: What are you planning to pursue with your degree?

AP: I am currently in my last year at McGill, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with minors in History and Education. I am planning to write the LSATs this year and hope to go to law in in the United States next year.

HC McGill: What’s the most important thing to do if you want to climb to the top of a club council or executive?

AP: When I ran for Vice-President of Internal Operations, I was a new member and I ran against a member who had a formal role in the organization. I won that election by only seven votes, and I remembered that number every day I was VP Internal because it reminded me how important it was to continue to build relationships with our members, as well as get the confidence of those who didn't originally vote for me. 

So my advice would be to get to know those around you, and build relationships with them throughout the year. That means showing up to events and doing more than just being present. You have to help, and you definitely have to participate, and get to know others. It allows those around you to get to know you and see that you care, and one day they might even vote for you if you run for a position. However, you need to give others the chance to get to know you. If you want to represent them you need to know them, and they need the chance to get to know you.  Also watching House of Cards doesn’t hurt…

HC McGill: What advice would you give to incoming students beginning their first semester at McGill?

AP: Get involved with everything, especially new things. I did that in my second year and I regret missing out on it in my first year. This is the time to figure out what you are interested in, and it may not be the things you were interested in before you came to McGill. I got involved with Model UN with no prior experience or any clue of what it was (the only time I’ve heard of Model UN was in The Simpsons), and now I’m the President. Pursue different things and new things, and make friends along the way. Most of my closest friends at university were made outside the classroom. University is much more than just studying and going to class - it's exploring, trying new things, and growing as a person.