Student of the Week: Vanessa Wattamaniuk

This student of the week was nominated for her work on the executive team of the Women in House program. 

Q: What’s your dream job?

A: I would actually like to be a parliamentarian eventually. Or [something] where I could work to impact policies … but have a chance to travel on the job and really communicate with people—facilitate groups of people.

Q: So some sort of mediation between parliament and the voters themselves?

A: Yeah, I guess that would lead me to lobbyist or something like that. I’m not shutting any doors, but I’d like to be able to create change, and work with people.

Q: What’s your favourite study spot in Montreal?

A: I really like McLennan, there’s this little nook in the back of the first floor that I like to study at.

Q: If you won the lottery, what’s the very first thing you would buy?

A: A trip to somewhere; maybe to visit my sister in South Africa. She’s interning [there] as a photographer.

Q: What’s the last song you remember listening to?

A: I may have watched the Phantom of the Opera last night. So the last song from that.

Q: What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘Winter break’?

A: Home. I haven’t been home for a year, so I’ve been looking forward to it.

Q: Were you in Montreal last summer?

A: I was just working here and really spending my first summer in Montreal, which I’ve wanted to do for a while. I [worked] at Provigo … but I got a chance to go to the jazz festival and do a little bit of travelling.

Q: What’s next on your travelling bucket list?

A: I’m planning to take a year off of school once I graduate. I would like to work in a different country; I’ve been to Europe a couple of times, but I’ve yet to do a real Euro-trip. I’d also like to go to South Africa to visit my sister.

Q: You were nominated for your work on the exec team for Women in House, can you talk a bit about that program?

A: It’s two days [in Ottawa], Wednesday and Thursday [of last week]. There are three coordinators, and each year it changes, so people who are participants in the program the year before get selected to be coordinators the following year. There’s not really any staff involvement; it is funded by different groups from McGill, but [Women in House] was really completely student run; just the three of us.

Q: So what do the two days entail?

A: The first day you just organize speakers; a lot of prominent parliamentarians. We [had] morning speakers … [like] Nancy Peckford, who’s the director of Equal Voice [an organization dedicated to electing more women to parliament] … and then we [took]a tour of parliament, [attended] question period, and in the afternoon we [heard] MP speakers. This year we had Elizabeth May and Niki Ashton [among others]. In the evening, we [attended] a reception hosted by Senator Fraser just for us. There are several senators and a couple of MPs who come, and it’s a much more casual setting. The second day all of the girls [got] paired up with a member of parliament, and they [got] to shadow them for the whole day.

Q: Are the girls paired up randomly, or do you and the other two coordinators have a say in that?

A: Each of the [applicants] writes quite a bit about themselves, so from that we get a general idea of their interests. From there we try to pair them with the MP that is most appropriate for them.

Q: Are you part of the process for selecting next year’s coordinators?

A: Yes, so [during] second semester we’re going to be getting applications for people who want to be coordinators next year. The three of us will see who works best together as a team, because that’s really important.

Q: How old is this program?

A: This was our 12th anniversary.

Q: Which MP did you shadow last year?

A: I shadowed Kelly Block from the Conservative party. Even though our political ideologies weren’t necessarily aligned, it was really interesting just going to the committee meetings, and hearing people speak about programs I’d actually heard of.

Q: What advice would you offer to other girls interested in this program to get the most out of it?

A: One thing I know I have problems with sometimes is, if they’re MPs, I feel they must be these supernatural beings that are so intelligent; and I’ll find myself hesitant to speak my mind. But just realize that they’re people, and you can just approach them and speak with them. That’s the way you’re going to get the most out of the program, [by] just speaking to them on a person to person level.

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