UMSU Executive Candidates

UMSU elections

Vice-president student life

Christine Yasay

Christine Yasay is a fourth-year student pursuing a criminology honours degree with a minor in women’s and gender studies. She has served as the women’s representative for both UMSU and the Arts Student Body Council (ASBC) for the past year.

She has also served as a co-president of the Women’s Centre, social programmer for ASBC, director of internal relations for the University of Manitoba’s Sociology and Criminology Association of Students and as a member of the University of Manitoba Consciousness-Raising Association of Feminists. Additionally, Yasay has worked at the Academic Learning Centre as a program assistant and writing tutor for the past two years.

Yasay hopes to help increase student safety on campus by ensuring that proper safety measures are implemented, fostering a culture of mandatory consent and expanding Bringing in the Bystander workshops from student clubs, councils and associations to also include UMSU executives. According to Yasay, there has been a rise in sexual violence on campus since the return of in-person classes.

“I would really like to make sure that everything that can possibly be done to prevent sexual violence so that our students can feel safe is being put into action,” she said.

Combatting discrimination and racism on campus is another one of Yasay’s priorities if elected, and she aims to ensure that marginalized students feel safe and valued during their time at the university. She also wants to ease students’ financial burdens and reduce student poverty.

To do this, she plans to increase the number of scholarships and bursaries for UMSU members, raise awareness regarding the UMSU hardship fund and UM food bank, provide additional holiday hampers for non-western holidays and ensure the availability of free menstrual products at the university’s campuses.

“In the last few years, we have been faced with a lot of challenges and adversity, and it’s important to me that students feel like they are getting the most out of their university experience, that they feel seen, heard and valued in the broader university community,” she said.

Yasay is running unopposed.

Vice-president advocacy

Ivan Nuñez Gamez

Ivan Nuñez Gamez, former comment editor at the Manitoban, is a third-year political studies and economics student who is currently serving as UMSU’s governance committee chairperson.

He is also the ASBC racialized students’ representative, vice-president advocacy for the University of Manitoba International Students’ Organization and a founder of the University of Manitoba Latinx-Hispanic Student Association.

Nuñez Gamez said that during his time as governance committee chairperson, he has helped make changes within UMSU despite administrative obstacles, citing the creation of an UMSU racialized community representative position as an example. He hopes that by running for this position, he can advocate for and inspire students, especially those with racialized identities.

“Thousands of students come in with big dreams and aspirations and it’s devastating to see how they’re forced to renounce [their dreams] due to tuition increments or lack of support,” Nuñez Gamez said.

“I want to run not only to advocate for students, but also with them.”

Nuñez Gamez outlined an advocacy plan that focuses on collaborative governance and community-based advocacy. He plans to oppose a performance-based funding model for Manitoba post-secondary institutions, lobby for a tuition freeze, advocate for more accessible education delivery methods and address issues faced by international students such as health care access.

“Increasing security in public transportation, lack of grants and student aid and bias in the co-op program are just some areas that are yet to be explored in UMSU advocacy efforts and that I plan to shine a light on,” he said.

He also plans to improve collaborative governance by creating multiple student-led advisory boards within UMSU.

Nuñez Gamez said that he favours an education model that prioritizes students. He proposes that a third of a student’s final grade should be given before the voluntary withdrawal date, and that the school should implement a “life happens” policy that grants students one no-questions-asked 48-hour extension per course.

“When we mobilize all of our resources and unite student voices against the same force, we can bring effective change in a more efficient manner,” he said.

“That is what our union should be doing, and the only way to successfully achieve this is with the help of faculty associations and community centres.”

Liam Pittman

Liam Pittman is a fourth-year sociology major with a minor in psychology.

“I am running for this position because I believe in advocacy and the power of the student voice,” Pittman said.

Pittman said he decided to run because he can “understand the frustration that students have with UMSU and not feeling connected.” He aims to build connections and relationships with students in order to amplify their voices and implement change.

Pittman emphasized the significance of maintaining open communication between student executives and the students they represent. He stressed the importance of executives consistently and proactively engaging with students and student groups. That way, they can gain insight into their concerns and work with students.

“If elected, I will always make an effort to reach out to student groups and communities to better understand and advocate for the issues that matter to them, not the issues that only matter to me,” he said.

Pittman hopes to relieve some of the financial burdens that students may feel by advocating for free and open educational resources such as text- books and by opposing tuition hikes and performance-based funding.

“Students now more than ever are experiencing immense financial strain,” Pittman said. “It is my goal to create and implement sustainable policies to help reduce some of that financial strain.”

He plans to work with provincial political parties to improve policies for students regarding health care, finances and employment. Pittman also wants to communicate more with the Bannatyne campus in order to address Bannatyne students’ issues, and he hopes to craft a more “survivor- compassionate” approach regarding sexual violence.

Pittman said that a background working in advocacy and with marginalized groups has given him experience that qualifies him for the role, and that through this experience, he has learned that it is best to amplify the voices and opinions of the people being served.

“I do not have all the answers, but I recognize that and will continue to consult and learn from communities and groups that have lived experiences,” he said.

“Whether working with community-led youth programs, medical charities, student associations or as an UMSU executive, I will continue to give the voice back to those who I am serving.”

Vice-president finance and operations

Peter Akiode

Peter Akiode is a second-year student pursuing a degree in human resource management.

Akiode previously served as a treasurer for his student community in high school and later began to work for Neo Financial, where he is currently employed. He said that in his position at the company, he helps to make the banking experience of individuals easier.

He explained that he wants to improve both the welfare and financial situation of students, especially international students and individuals who are in less privileged positions.

“In conjunction with the U of M management, donors and support organizations, my priorities [if] elected [are] to increase or improve on financial aids and awards to students,” he said.

To do this, he plans to expand the automatic student scholarships. He also hopes to improve the process for students who are accessing student loans.

He said that he plans to “work toward increasing the international student award scheme to benefit more international students, especially students from poor countries.”

Vaibhav Varma

Vaibhav Varma is a third-year political studies and history honours student. He has held multiple positions in student organizations on campus, including president of U of M’s Campus Conservatives, and has political experience at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

He has worked as the UMSU board of directors chairperson, as a senator and director of academic programming on ASBC and as a fundraising co-ordinator and alumni relations co-ordinator for the Youth Parliament of Manitoba.

Varma explained that he is running for this position because of the lack of awareness that students have when it comes to paying their UMSU fees, and concerns he has over the union’s financial transparency.

“It has always been an aspiration of mine to seek positions where I can push for meaningful change by acting on the interests of the voters I aim to serve,” Varma said.

He said that he has also noticed a lack of representation for the South Asian community within UMSU, especially considering the contributions that South Asian students make to the university.

He described his platform as being centred around increasing financial transparency and accountability, supporting diverse cultural organizations, faculty associations and student clubs and bridging the gap between the student union and the student body.

“Every student deserves to know the salaries of their UMSU executives,” he said.

“Every student deserves to have a readily available and comprehensive breakdown of their union fees. Every student deserves to feel that their union works for them, and their executives are available to listen and hear their concerns.”

Varma said that his past experience with UMSU and ASBC has given him knowledge of how UMSU and student organizations work.

“UMSU does not need a VP finance and operations that builds a firewall between students and their elected representatives,” he said.

“It is imperative that this role is filled by someone who doesn’t serve the benefits of the status quo, but rather the hard-working students of this university.”

Vice-president community engagement

Elishia Ratel

Elishia Ratel is the current vice-president community engagement and is running for re-election. She has also served as a senator and director of communications for the Faculty of Music Students’ Association.

“My experience with UMSU has allowed me to see the intricate inner workings of the union, how it currently serves students and how it could stand to serve them better,” she said.

Ratel is running for re-election because she wants “to bring more fun events and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to our campus” and show students the benefits of engaging with campus life.

“With my experience in this role, I’m confident that the bar can be set even higher for what we can achieve, making it easier than ever to get involved on campus,” she said.

Some of Ratel’s main priorities include bringing fun events to campus, instituting new student discounts and perks and making more resources available for students. She hopes that more student discounts will “bring more value to student life.”

“I want to bring more student perks back to our community, such as more free breakfasts throughout the year and bringing back the pizza discount,” she said.

Ratel hopes to build upon relationships with the administration and community representatives in order to provide more supports to students.

“This includes providing more equitable access to resources, opening up more funding for community initiatives and collaborating with groups to support their work,” she explained.

“As someone who knows and experiences the value of community, I’m committed to building students up to ensure that they are receiving the full benefit from their community.”

Divya Sharma

Divya Sharma is pursuing a global political economy degree in the faculty of arts. She has served in multiple positions at the university including as an UMSU representative for ASBC, director of administration for the University of Manitoba Global Political Economy Student Association and as a U of M senate committee appointee.

Sharma’s past experience on student councils has allowed her to hear students voice their concerns. She said that her community values and experience as an immigrant in Canada has helped to inform her ideals of giving back and serving the community, and that she is determined to bring these values to campus.

“My priorities will include creating an immersive experience for students through the promotion of diversity and school spirit,” Sharma said.

She said she wants to “create a collaborative approach” so that the union can partner with faculty associations and student groups on campus when planning events.

Sharma wants to enhance the university experience for students on campus through partnering with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce to organize on-campus networking events, maintaining an events calendar on the UMSU website and hosting large-scale events to promote school spirit and celebrate diversity.

Some of her past experiences in community engagement involve the public and non-profit sectors, government and student politics. In the past, Sharma has worked with numerous organizations to organize educational events for various communities. Currently, Sharma works at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce as the diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

“I also believe that the role of community engagement is heavily reliant on co-ordination, time and project management,” she said.

“During COVID-19 I had the opportunity to create a national care packages program to honour frontline workers, for which I was thankful to be recognized by the United Nations.”