The Centre for Student Involvement and Careers had a chance to speak with 2016’s Community Contributions to the Faculty of Arts Award Winner, Audrey Tong about her academic interests, UBC experiences and post-graduation plans.
Post written by Zining Wang.
Why did you decide to study Political Science and International Relations?
My passion for political science and international relations stems from an early decision to participate in the Co-ordinated Arts Program (Global Citizens Stream) in first year. After taking POLI 260 with Professor Robert Farkasch, I learned how important it was to develop innovative and responsible analyses, judgements, and solutions to address the social issues and challenges of a changing world. For me, political science and international relations are two very interrelated fields that encourage one to think critically, ask questions and explore all avenues when attempting to solve a domestic or global problem. I find this constant search for knowledge and innovation through new perspectives, whether it be from the perspective of the government, the private sector, or the civil society, extremely thought-provoking and rewarding.
How did you find a balance between involvement, co-op and academics?
Time management is key to balancing involvement, co-op, and academics! Each day has 24 hours, and you have the ultimate decision in choosing how you spend that time. I like to spend my time wisely – I set realistic goals, start things early, and prioritize my time so that I can maximize the 24 hours that I have.
Finding this balance is also really easy because I truly enjoy what I’m doing. As the first person in my immediate family to attend university, I have always had big aspirations and goals. The desire to do well in academics, the drive to act upon my research interests, and the motivation to be a global citizen and good role model are just a few of them. I think just firmly believing that I can do it and overcoming that fear of failure have allowed me to strike the balance between all my involvements.
“My involvement activities have taught me a few life lessons. First, just get started. Whether it means starting your paper or attending that first networking event – just do it.”
What’s an important life lesson that your involvement activities have taught you?
My involvement activities have taught me a few life lessons. First, just get started. Whether it means starting your paper or attending that first networking event – just do it. It can be daunting to get involved, but it only gets easier with practice. Second, ask questions. Every question answers a problem, but all the different answers to the same question make you that much more knowledgeable. This can be in a classroom setting, at the work place, or just with your friends – you’d be surprised to learn about all the different perspectives there are to a single issue. Lastly, surround yourself with people who encourage you, inspire you, and reflect who you want to be. From my honours cohort to the peers I went to Poland with, from the UBC Arts Co-op community to the friends I met through work and volunteer – connecting myself with positive people have motivated me to become better versions of myself.
You recently received the 2016 Community Contributions to the Faulty of Arts Award. What do you think makes a great Arts student leader?
A great Arts student leader can look like a lot of things – there’s no right way to be a leader as everyone brings a different skill set to the table. I believe a great Arts student leader uses their experiences and passions to motivate others and help them grow. A great leader should want to genuinely and positively contribute to a space on campus and in the larger UBC community. A great leader should have passion, communication skills, and teamwork skills; a great leader should be resilient and set a good example for their team. As the Co-President as the UBC Arts Co-op Students’ Association, I feel an important responsibility to take initiative, communicate and translate the club’s vision and mandate into reality, and empower not only my team, but fellow Co-op students as well. I’ve learned that when you’re motivated and excited about something, your drive and passion will rub off on others around you – the positive leadership cycle continues!
“A great leader should want to genuinely and positively contribute to a space on campus and in the larger UBC community.”
What is your next step after graduation?
Over the last five years, I have developed research interests in Canadian politics, global affairs issues, institutional design, and the development of civil society. Thanks to all the opportunities I’ve had with enriched educational experiences at UBC, in particular my Co-op work terms at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, I realized how important it is to develop public policy that accurately reflects the reality of the communities it is intended to serve. Wanting to gain a deeper understanding of policy challenges and solutions, I will be moving to Ottawa in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and public administration. My long-term goal is to develop public policy and provide strategic planning that works towards empowering strong and self sufficient communities.