Connecting leadership, advocacy and purpose: student experience with Ashley McDougall

Leadership, advocacy and purpose

We can all agree that connecting passion and purpose may not always be an easy task, especially when discussing academic life and career goals. But what if, as a student, you had the opportunity to experience a seamless blend of the two?

Meet Ashley McDougall, a Bachelor of Arts student and the president of the UFV Student Union Society (SUS). With a passion for advocacy and governance, Ashley’s journey exemplifies the deep impact that student leadership can have on campus and beyond.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Ashley McDougall's portrait.I am a student in the Bachelor of Arts program with a major in Economics and a minor in Political Science. I have also completed a certificate in Advanced French Proficiency alongside my degree. Over the past 2 years, I have been involved in student leadership as the former Vice President External and current President of the Student Union Society (SUS). I have a passion for advocacy and governance; I am honoured to have the privilege to use this passion to help fellow students in my work at SUS.

  1. What motivated you to choose this field of study?

I chose to study Economics and Political Science because they are the subjects I am most passionate about and they fit in perfectly with my goals and career interests. I’m interested in working with economic policy in the future and I feel my studies in these fields have given me a vast background of knowledge that I will be able to draw on as I pursue a career in policy work.

  1. Congratulations on being invited to the UN Peace Summit in Bangkok, Thailand this year! This is such a great achievement! Can you tell us about this experience and what you shared and/or learned as a UFV ambassador?

The UN Peace Summit in Bangkok Thailand was an experience of a lifetime! I am so honoured to have been able to represent UFV at the summit. It was an incredible opportunity to learn from keynote speakers about peace-building strategies and hear first-hand accounts of resilience and strength from survivors of genocide. As well, I was able to form connections with other student leaders from around the world. I’m grateful to have contributed to and learned from such important dialogues on global peace.

Ashley McDougall in front of a blue panel that reads "Humanitarian Affairs Asia presents: 3rd Global Peace Summit 2024 - A world together." Ashley is smiling, standing and wearing a black suit.
Ashley McDougall at the 3rd Global Peace Summit 2024, in Bangkok, Thailand.
  1. You have also participated in other student organizations on campus. Can you share about your experience? What were the biggest challenges you faced, and what did you learn?

Outside of my studies, I have been very involved on campus with Clubs and Associations and SUS. I am the former Vice President External and current President of SUS. I am also the former President of the Political Science Student Association and current President of the newly-founded Economics Student Association. My experiences in these leadership positions, particularly with SUS, have allowed me to build community and engagement on campus and advocate for fellow students. In my roles at SUS, I was able to successfully advocate to UFV for the first Fall reading break, which began in Fall 2023. I was also able to contribute to hosting several events on campus, like Kickback, and initiated a new event at the Chilliwack campus, Backyard Bash! One of the biggest challenges I have faced is time management and mitigating burnout, which has taught me the importance of balance.

  1. How do you feel about completing your degree? If you could go back in time, is there anything you would have done differently?

I’m really excited to be nearing the completion of my degree! If I could go back in time, I would have gotten involved at UFV sooner.

  1. What are your career plans moving forward?

I’m really interested in using my knowledge gained in Economics and Political Science in governance and policy work, specifically relating to economic policy. My goal is to hold a political office one day in the hope of being able to create policy that makes a positive difference.

  1. What advice would you give to future students interested in your area of study?

Take risks and get involved! Gaining experience during your degree is one of the best ways to figure out what you want to do with your career and to build up your professional experience while still in school. Especially for students studying Economics or Political Science, running in SUS elections gives you practical experience with democratic processes, governance, policy and advocacy work.

Voicing Social Justice through Visual Arts – A story about Faria Firoz: BFA grad student and the recipient of the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal

Faria Firoz holding the award certificate and the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal
Faria Firoz holding the award certificate and the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal.

Faria Firoz is a BFA graduate student who has been living in Canada since she left her homeland of Bangladesh in 2016.

She has always been fascinated by art and studied art during her high school back in Bangladesh—but she wanted more. Faria combined her high-level skill set and passion for arts and social justice to raise awareness about important ongoing social, cultural, and political issues.

One of her most recent works was generated within the Black Lives Matter creative social justice art project, where according to Shelley Stefan, Visual Arts Associate Professor and Art Mentor for this project:

Faria’s participation in the Black Lives Matter creative social justice art project displays her commitment to the essential collaboration and unifying efforts needed to bring people together through creativity to support inclusion, diversity, reparation, poetic justice, and civic engagement. Her role in this project, alongside other Black, Indigenous, Mixed Race, and People of Colour, is a prime example of the type of bravery and leadership artists can embody toward the advancement of human rights in our communities.”

In recognition of her extraordinary work, Faria was the recipient of the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal: an award granted for standout students whose work promotes and integrates diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation. As stated by Faria: “It is a very unexpected honour. To be recognized and appreciated at such a high level is something I never would have imagined. I am so grateful.”

Read Faria’s full story at UFV Today.