In March 2018, Rachel Garrett received the “Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community” award for her advocacy work in the realm of gender and sexual diversity. During her time at UBC, Rachel volunteered at the Sexual Assault Support Centre and served as president of the Pride Collective, where she united and educated the UBC community on LGBTQ+ issues. She designed and facilitated more than 20 workshops for students, staff and faculty on a topics like Allyship, LGBTQ+ terminology and healthy relationships. Rachel also spearheaded a Transgender Day of Remembrance event and organized the ‘Queer U’ conference on gender and sexual diversity.
We asked Rachel to reflect on some of her most meaningful UBC experiences and share some parting words of wisdom for fellow Arts students.
Hometown: Delta, BC
Program of Study: Honours Political Science major, Law & Society minor
UBC Affiliations: The Pride Collective at UBC, UBC Sexual Assault Support Centre, CampOUT!, Go Global
UBC Awards: Bhagwan Kaur wife of Gokal Singh of Halwara Award in Arts, Sanderson Family Service Award in Arts, Vancouver Pride Society Youth Legacy Award, Go Global Award, Trek Excellence Scholarship, TD Scholarship for Community Leadership, Welch Leadership Challenge Award
Where can we connect with you? You can find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter!
What were some of the most meaningful experiences you had at UBC?
My most meaningful experience by far was learning the power of community during my time with The Pride Collective. I know it says I’m President somewhere here, but that really is just a title for the bureaucratic side of things. In reality, every single member of Pride is integral to everything we do. We’re a community. In my second year with Pride, I received a sudden slew of panicked messages in the middle of class, telling me our PrideWeek flag had been burned off of the flagpole. The thing I remember most about that day was walking into Pride’s office, out of breath from having run out of class and across campus, and feeling the immense comfort of seeing all the faces staring back at me of people feeling the same as I was. We dropped everything to be there for each other. After the events of that day hit the news, we received a few emails full of hate and abuse, but they were outweighed in droves by dozens of emails full of support and love from every corner of our community. That power of unity and community care is a lesson that I hope to take with me throughout my life.
What were your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?
I found myself facing a bit of a hurdle in my third year. I was doing a huge amount of organizing for Pride, volunteering for the SASC and CampOUT, working with the increased workload of the Honours program, and planning an exchange with Go Global for next term, when I was diagnosed with endometriosis and started being unable to do basic things like walking to class or climbing stairs due to a new and unfamiliar chronic pain. I had to drop some classes and take some time off of school for a surgery. At the time, it pretty much felt like the end of the world. But the guilt I felt from having to abandon many of my volunteer commitments in the middle of the term was challenged by my incredible community at Pride. I could not be more grateful to the amazing team of people that stepped up to fill my roles. With their support, two months after my surgery I was on a plane to France to go on exchange. I think you can’t ever really prepare for the challenges life might throw at you, but it’s so much easier to get back up again when you’ve got a support system in place. The only piece of advice I’d give to incoming students would be to make time for your relationships – whether it be family, friends, lab partners or life partners – life sucks sometimes and you’re gonna need someone to call when you’re crying at 3am.
What are the top three things every UBC Arts student should do before they graduate?
- Everyone says this, but JOIN A CLUB! Or work with a resource group, or volunteer with an AMS service, just think of something you’re interested in and go find a group on campus that does that thing!
- Familiarize yourself with the supports available on campus, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. From counselling to Speakeasy to VICE and the SASC, when you’re going through a rough time there’s probably someone on campus that can help you. Why not give it a shot?
- Educate yourself on social issues that are unfamiliar to you. Actually, even educate yourself further on the ones that ARE familiar to you. We are in an immense position of privilege to be at University here. Use that privilege to push for change. There’s such a lot of injustice in the world – educate yourself and take action.
If you had the chance to re-start your UBC experience, what would you do differently?
Honestly, nothing at all! I’m way too afraid of the butterfly effect. I feel so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and I wouldn’t change a thing. Unless I can go back and stop my first-year self from tripping over in the middle of main mall that one time. Books went flying. It was not pretty.
What’s next for you?
I’m spending the summer in Alberta working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, then I’m so excited to be starting law school at UBC’s Peter A. Allard School of Law in September!