Campus Celebrity: The ladies of TRU-VRA for BOA

Election season is upon us. From SFUO to your Fedbody, February to March is a time when the campus is covered in posters and filled with class talks. Amongst this crowd is a group of four women who want to make a truthful and impactful change on campus. Ally Clark-Vachon, Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, Caylie McKinlay and Mikayla Vattiata are running as a slate, called TRU-VRA, for the Faculty of Social Science BOA (Board of Administration) seats. Their campaign is founded on Truth, Responsibility, and Unity. They support the Health Plan Referendum (which all students should learn on Facebook) and they have a list of real changes they hope to make on campus. These ladies are a collective of identities and wish to make uOttawa a place for everyone to be proud of and comfortable at. In this interview, they discuss who they are, what they love most about this univeristy and city and what they plan on achieving.

Her Campus: Where are you from?
Caylie McKinlay: I'm from London, Ontario. UOttawa is oddly a main base for London high school graduates.
Ally Clark-Vachon: I’m also from London. Caylie and I attended high school together.
Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi: Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec and moved to Ottawa when I was 6.
Mikayla Vattiata: Born and raised in East York, Toronto. Yes, the real Toronto.

HC: What program are you in? What made you decide to come to uOttawa?
CM:  I'm in my third year of Political Science and Communication, and in COOP. I always wanted to live in Ottawa after a magical elementary school field trip. I think the promise of political engagement, proximity to French language/culture and ability to get away from a town I've lived in my whole life all factored in.
ACV: I’m in Political Science and Communications. The decision to come to uOttawa was a pretty obvious one for me. Other than the amazing entrance scholarships the university offers, the co-op program, proximity to parliament, and engaged campus, all made uOttawa feel like a place where I could grow.
LMT: I’m in International Development and Globalisation. As a multidisciplinary program I was excited to have the chance to be at a university surrounded by a diverse possibility of experiences in this field… also I’m from here so money was a big factor.
MV: I'm studying Conflict Studies and Human Rights. I came to visit the city in grade 10 for a rugby tournament and took a tour of the school. I immediately fell in love with the campus and the program and knew this is where I wanted to study.

HC: How have you been and how are you currently involved on campus?
CM: In past years, I was involved as a RAUO (Rez Association of the University of Ottawa) Communications volunteer and an SFUO Campaigns volunteer. I've always been engaged in IPPSSA (International, Political and Policy Studies Students Association) and I am currently the VP Philanthropy and Activism. I’m Co-President of the uOttawa Film Society and Series Director for the Students Against Stigma Mental Health Committee. I also helped create the new uOttawa Sexual Violence Protocol through the Sexual Violence Action Committee.
ACV: Most of my campus involvement has been within my own fedbody, such as being a 101-week guide, taking on a leadership role in Model Parliament, and volunteering for IPPSSA. However, I really hope to collaborate with others outside of my own fedbody, which is why I am running for the BOA.
LMT: I am currently VP of Philanthropic Affairs of the DSA (Development Student Association). I worked on the Against Stigma Committee, Black History Month Committee, along with many other experiences that have allowed me to get to know many students.
MV: I am currently the VP of Social Affairs for the Conflict Studies and Human Rights fedbody. I also work as the Volunteer Supervisor at the SFUO Pride Centre and I am on exec. for Ottawa's chapter of Get REAL. I have volunteered with the WRC (Woman’s Resource Centre), worked as series director on the Students Against Stigma Mental Health Committee, sat on the Black History Month Committee, and have otherwise tried to be involved in any aspect of student life possible.

HC: Can you tell us one thing that students don’t know about you?
CM: I guess this isn't really a secret, but I can and will recite every Kanye West verse ever written.
ACV: I’m really into weightlifting. I’ve been powerlifting for quite some time now, and I recently started Muay Thai. It’s a lot of fun!
LMT: I’m 6foot5 jk! I wanted to be a neonatologist until I reached Grade 12 then had to face the fact that I suck at math and science.
MV: Ever since I was a kid, I was always exposed to - and then ended up falling in love with - Asian culture. I spent seven years as a professional classical Indian dancer.

HC: Can you explain what the BOA is, since a lot of students may not be aware?
CM: The BOA is the 2nd highest decision-making body of the SFUO. It consists of directors elected to represent their respective faculties. They vote in monthly meetings on constitutional amendments to the SFUO, hold the SFUO accountable for things like budgets, and work to leverage collective bargaining with university administration.

HC: Briefly tell us the main foundations of your campaign.
LMT: We decided to run because a lot of us have been privy to the realities and stories of other students as active members of our communities, as well as our own, in navigating an institution that they have paid thousands to participate in. Unfortunately, a lot of these realities have not been positive. Having been invited into the lives of these students it is hard not to take their stories to heart and to forget that many others will go through these same experiences. This is why we decided to run. In an attempt to make that change at our universities even if it’s just an attempt.

HC: What inspired you to run together as an all-female slate (#quadgoals)?
CM: I think we have a pretty diverse group of identities on our slate, which is incredibly important because we are here to represent students that reflect that diversity.
LMT: #beyoncetaughtme

HC: What are some of the changes you plan on making on campus in the future?
MV: We don't want to go into this election with promises we can't keep. Our goal is to use our position on the board to bring to light the issues that our student body sees as relevant on our campus. We hope to create better communication between students and the executive members, facilitate more discussion on different campus services/business hours, accessibility and to review program courses with more input from students.

HC: What is your vision for uOttawa as a whole?
CM: I want to see a uOttawa that people are proud to graduate from. We have tens of thousands of students - yet many don't know how or care to get involved and improve campus experience. As a commuter campus, there are challenges presented, but there are so many unique and awesome things always happening on this campus - we just need to bring them to light!
MV: I want to see a campus where all identities and lived experiences can be discussed, can be taught and can flourish with acceptance. I think that the recognition of the different realities that our students live is the only way we can create a united campus.

HC: How do you see yourselves making a difference within a large BOA system with only a small number of seats?
MV: I think that although we are running for a small amount of Social Science seats, we will ultimately be sitting on a board of students who share similar goals and experiences. I think finding common ground and voicing our opinions, as a board will allow us to hopefully mediate differences.
ACV: I think the key to making a difference is communication, both with our peers in social sciences and with the rest of the BOA members. By virtue of consistently communicating, we will foster a collaborative environment in which we are voicing the needs of social sciences students, and working with other BOA members to ensure they are heard.

HC: Where is your favourite spot around Ottawa to go for a night out?
CM: Any type of outdoor summer festival, Babylon, and 1848. I like places where I can feel safe, dance a lot, and know my music requests will be well respected by some quality DJs!
ACV: 1848 is my go-to place on campus, though I can’t turn down karaoke at FnS!
LMT: It used to be Wonton Mama, but it closed. Then it was the fields in Barrhaven. At the fields, you could do anything you wanted that was semi legal, like yoga or picnics, but now houses have been built there so I am on the lookout.
MV: Lookout is probably where you can find me on Saturdays for Drag Night! It's a great space to just let loose with people who are so comfortable in their own skin.

HC: Where can people find out more about your campaign? Or where can they get in contact with you?
CM: we are all on Facebook! Feel free to message us individually, or check out our Facebook page at: VRA pour CA Sciences Sociales / TRU for BOA Social Sciences.

HC: Finally when are the elections and where can people place their vote?
CM: The election period is February 9-10-11! There will be voting stations in nearly every building on campus, most notably the lobby areas of FSS, SITE, DMS, and outside the SFUO office in the UCU.

Vote TRU-VRA for the Faculty of Social Science BOA!


Sources: pictures provided by Caylie Mckinlay