This week I sat down with Arts Undergraduate Society President, Jenna Omassi. Humble, passionate, and well spoken, Jenna is a 4th year double major in International Relations and Religious Studies with a focus in Islamic Studies. She explained to me that she only knew one person at UBC when she transferred from college in Montreal. This friend was involved in the AUS and it was through her that Jenna became involved in the Society.
Starting as a Coordinator in the AUS, Jenna explains what inspired her to run for President herself, “I’ve always been a huge proponent of the idea that if you want to see change you have to do it yourself, and you can’t just wait for other people to make the changes you want to see.”
In addition to being AUS president and a 4th year student, Jenna is also a Counselor representing Arts in the AMS, the Chair for the Legislative Procedures Committee in the AMS, sits on several AMS committees, is the Director of Recruitment Counselors for UBC Sororities and holds a position within her own sorority. How does she manage to juggle all these commitments? “I personally am someone who likes to be busy. You can ask my roommate- I don’t do well with downtime and relaxation, so I think that helps!” She cites time management and prioritization as the two biggest things that help her balance her commitments.
Describing the challenges she has faced as AUS President, Jenna points out that, “a constituency works much differently than a club or another organization on this campus because membership is not requested, membership is automatic. And so, engaging students isn’t as easy because you don’t necessarily have an engaged membership.” However, when asked what the most rewarding part of being AUS President is, she says two images come to mind: one at the Imagine Day pep rally and the other at the first year stARTup orientation event.
“Going to the pep rally and seeing a sea of students wearing purple and all so excited…that’s why we do this. We do this for those students.” For the Startup event, she explains that “each group had made their own cheer…there were little competitions and they were all cheering each other on.” Her passion for the positive experiences of students is palpable as she remarks, “Seeing students engaging in that way without you needing to facilitate it is probably the best.” However, Jenna qualifies her answer by saying she believes her most rewarding moments are still ahead of her.
“This is going to sound cheesy, but apply for everything,” says Jenna on the subject of how students can get more involved in Arts and on the campus as a whole. “Go for everything. What’s the worst that can happen? We all receive huge amounts of rejection. I ran for floor rep in my first year in Vanier and lost, and thought it was the end of the world. I thought this was going to be the future of my UBC career.” We both laugh. “Obviously that’s not the case at this point.”
What advice does Jenna have for her fellow student leaders? “Respect. 150%. You would not be a leader if these people had not trusted you. If you’re not respecting those whom you’re representing, then what’s the point?”
I ask what her goals as President of the AUS are.“Inclusivity. Inclusivity has also grown to be more of a topic on this campus as well.” She mentions her desire to support the University’s task force which recommended changes to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination against Aboriginal peoples on campus as a result of the disturbing events of the 2013 Sauder Frosh.
When describing her hopes for the future of the AUS, Jenna says, “creating Arts as a safe space for all these different Arts students is something really important. And this year it’s going to be a huge focus of everything we do, but I am hoping that in the future it doesn’t need to be a focus, that it’s something that’s just intuitive, that just happens. Not only in the Arts Undergraduate Society, but on this campus.”
Want to get involved with the AUS? Click here for more info!