Meet the 2021 UMSU community representative candidates

Images provided by Tolani Olanrewaju, Towani Mutawe and Tracy Ayebare Karuhogo

Tolani Olanrewaju
International students’ rep candidate

In her fourth year of an honours degree in microbiology, Tolani Olanrewaju is the current vice-president internal affairs at the U of M International Students Organization (UMISO). 

She has also served as a students’ program assistant at the U of M’s International Centre, an orientation volunteer and a mentor with the new student peer mentoring program.

“Before [joining] UMISO, I really didn’t have a lot of connection and interaction with international students,” she said. “Being a part of UMISO really exposed me to just being able to meet a lot of international students and interact with them and just being able to hear their stories and organize events.”

Olanrewaju recognizes that currently, engagement with UMSU from students is generally low. To boost student involvement in UMSU activities, she plans to introduce incentives — such as prize giveaways — and “challenges.”

For Olanrewaju, one of the most important aspects of the international students’ community is feeling support by the community — many international students rely on their connections here at the U of M.

“A lot of international students are here in Canada without their families, and what they do have to rely on are the relationships that they have formed,” she said, adding that a key component of this is having a strong representative to advocate for them.

Olanrewaju also plans to advocate for implementing a week to highlight international students, advocating for more mental health supports for international students and fighting for less synchronous sessions of online learning, recognizing that not all international students are studying in Canada and face issues due to being in different time zones.

“Not all international students are from rich homes,” she said. “That [perception is] really not true for a lot of people, and I [think] having [an international students’ week] really lets people be able to really see what international students bring.”

 

Towani Mutale
International students’ rep candidate

In her third year of political studies with a minor in statistics, Towani Mutale wants to bring her experience as a resident adviser and as a volunteer with the U of M International Students Organization (UMISO) to the role of international students’ representative.

For Mutale, a highlight of her experience volunteering with UMISO was the conversation nights the organization hosted. 

Through these experiences, Mutale said she has “learned to listen to people.”

“Because we all have very different experiences, I’ve learned what different international students are like and I’ve also learned how to work with people,” she said.

In addition, Mutale said her experience has taught her resourcefulness and how to ensure things get done — how to lead a group.

Among priorities for Mutale are adding days dedicated to international students to UMSU’s annual mental health week — which this past year was extended to a month.

Mutale would like to also work closely with the UMSU executive toward establishing a “more flexible” fee payment schedule for international students.

She would also like to get students engaged by hosting more events. 

“If you’re having, say, one event once in a while and [students] don’t even hear about it, how are they going to show up for the next one?”

“This year has been very, very hard, so I plan to go into this role giving it as much energy as I can because I believe that the role can only work if I’m willing to put in work,” she said. “Inasmuch as it’s not a paid role, I feel like I should attach to it the same amount of seriousness as I would if it were a paid role.”

“I would like to leave […] the university at least knowing that there’s something that I’ve done, something that I’ve affected,” she said.

 

Tracy Ayebare Karuhogo
Womyn’s rep candidate

In her second year of a bachelor of science degree with a major with psychology, Tracy Ayebare Karuhogo is a long-time debate club member and has served on the International College of Manitoba (ICM) student council.

“Not only women who are […] cisgender, I mean anyone who identifies as a woman,” she said. “Even the [transgender women], even the people who identify as women who are lesbian or bisexual […] I want them to feel like they’re not outside [of] the community.”

Karuhogo also wants to take steps to combat sexual harassment on campus. She raised concerns about the university taking an approach that requires survivors of sexual violence to disclose their experiences to the administration for data collection purposes. She would like to see survivors have more control over their information and be given the choice of how their data is used.

Mental health supports are another priority for Karuhogo. She views the available supports on campus as inadequate to serve women on campus as a community and would like to see them expanded.

She also wants to see more women in STEM courses and assist in making those traditionally male-dominated fields more welcoming to women.

 “The one way to bring women together is for them to know each other,” she said. “When people know each other, the knowledge about the resources is covered […] knowledge about who can help you, or who can do this for you is through knowing another person.”