Four EngSoc candidates compete for vice-president of student affairs

Candidates talk mental health, equity, accessibility, and inclusion

Vice President of Student Affairs is the most contested EngSoc position this year.

 In the most contested Society election this year, candidates Kaija Edwards, Brian Seo, Sylvie Asija, and Rein Tiisler discussed their platforms for Engineering Society Vice-President of Student Affairs (VPSA) with The Journal. 

Kaija Edwards 

“We don’t have enough students in positions of power who are willing to stand up for students,” Kaija Edwards, Sci’22, said. “I know EngSoc can be better, and I’m ready to step up.” 

Regarding her prior experience, Edwards said she has “been all around the block.” 

Edwards held the position of Vice President of Sci’22 for two years. She was also a Frec, a member of Queen’s Space Engineering Team, and a First Year Project Coordinator, where she led a mental health day. This year, she has served as the Training Representative under the HR Department.  

Edwards’ platform can be divided into inclusivity and accessibility, better support for student clubs and teams, and ensuring a safe transition to in-person activities. Edwards said she would put the Accessible Spaces Fund into motion to increase accessibility, if elected. 

“The fund would be dedicated to fixing physical issues obstructing inclusivity and accessibility,” Edwards said. “There is currently no gender neutral washroom in the ILC, so creating one is a priority for me.” 

Brian Seo

Brian Seo, Sci ’22, is running on a platform of increased accessibility, continued transparency and awareness, and restoring the student experience. Seo said he decided to run so he can give back to the engineering community. 

“I want to make changes so that everyone can survive in the program,” Seo said. 

After transferring into the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science from Arts and Science, Seo is currently serving as the Director of Clubs and Conferences for EngSoc—a position through which he oversees 15 clubs and nine conferences affiliated with the Society. Prior to this, he was also involved in the Queen’s community as a Gael and the Logistics Coordinator for Queen’s Economics Society. 

Seo is passionate about increasing student initiatives and resources, with a specific focus on mental health. 

“We only have two mental health counsellors in the entirety of the engineering faculty,” Seo said. 

If elected, Seo said he’d work to increase resources and inform students of opportunities and support systems within the faculty. 

“I’m also an advocate for engagement beyond the Engineering Society,” Seo said. “My unconventional background makes me equipped to collaborate with different faculties. We’re engineering students, but we’re also students at Queen’s University.” 

Sylvie Asija 

Sylvie Asija, Sci ’23, wants to increase first-year student involvement, change the perception of EngSoc, and further Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives.

In previous years, she’s held the positions of First Year Project Coordinator, Tech Frec, sub-team member for the Queen’s Hyperloop Design Team, and First Year Section Representative. 

“There’s this perception that only a certain kind of student can succeed in EngSoc, which is simply not true,” Asija said. “Case and point, myself.” 

Asija said that, if elected, she would make significant changes and additions to EngSoc hiring processes to minimize bias as much as possible. 

Regarding EDI initiatives, she described the experience of being in a first-year design class where EDI was treated more like a joke than a real issue. 

“Any and all scenarios of discrimination they use are really exaggerated,” Asija said. “As VPSA, I would be speaking to the department and the dean regarding the need for APSC 100 and 200 to accurately represent the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.” 

Rein Tiisler

Rein Tiisler, Sci’23, said he “felt a strong obligation to run” for VPSA. 

Tiisler has held the positions of First Year Super Section Representative, Action in a Frec group, and most notably, his current position as the Director of First Year. In this role, he is responsible for the well-being and transition of all 1,100 first-year engineering students.

His platform has a common theme of openness and accessibility, with his main platform points being to continue the advocacy work of prior years, improve EngSoc’s image, and increase inclusivity. 

“There have been good changes in terms of Black Lives Matter and mental health, but there’s still more to do,” Tiisler said. “I want to ensure that changes stick, along with building on the work we’ve already done.”

To increase inclusivity while in an online setting, Tiisler would like to host more online events with small-group settings for students to get to know one another.

“There’s so much wrong going on in the world right now that people can feel really polarized. If students don’t feel included, nothing is going to change.” 

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