By: Noël Valade
When you think of Welcome Week reps, what’s the first image that comes to your mind? Chances are it is a bunch of extroverted, loud and excited students running around and dancing in brightly coloured jumpsuits. Yes, there certainly are those types of reps, but as someone who repped for Welcome Week last year, I’m here to tell you that isn’t necessarily true.
I definitely thought that to be a rep, you had to be incredibly extroverted and energetic, so as someone who is quite introverted and experiences social anxiety, I never thought I’d ever wear a rep suit. I never thought that I would ever consider becoming a rep because I didn’t fit what many people typically think Welcome Week reps are supposed to be; however, I became friends with a senior rep in my faculty during first year who encouraged me to apply. I was shocked when I was offered a rep position for Welcome Week 2017.
To be honest, I felt very overwhelmed during my own Welcome Week in first year – there were crowds of people, tons of loud noise everywhere, and I had no idea where I was going on campus. The most impactful moments for me during Welcome Week weren’t during large scale events like Faculty Fusion, they were the interactions I had with my own faculty reps one-on-one, who displayed so much kindness and compassion when I was feeling so nervous and alone. It showed me that people of all different personality types could be reps, and when I decided to apply to be a rep, I wanted to continue to show that same kindness and compassion.
Reflecting back to my Welcome Week, I felt like I didn’t see any reps who were like me – a large contributing factor to me repping was that I wanted to be visible representation for people with the same marginalized identities as me. I think this is incredibly important because there are first years that have all sorts of different identities, and reps are often the first source of contact at the university for them. Having reps of all different identities shows that all first-years belong here at McMaster.
I wanted to display representation for different identities that I belong to by painting them on my rep suit. On the front of my rep suit, I painted the logo and phone number for SACHA, a Hamilton organization that supports survivors of Sexual Assault, and painted the logos of 2 MSU identity-based peer support services on campus; the Queer Students Community Centre (QSCC), and Maccess (a service for students with disabilities). On the back of my suit, I painted the rainbow and trans flag on my pockets. I also put my pronouns on my rep name tag.
We need reps of all personality types, identities and experiences because each incoming first year student is unique – they are not a one-size fits all model. There are first years who love the hype events of Welcome Week and there are first years who get overwhelmed by the crowds of students and noise on-campus. A rep taking the time to have a real conversation with them one-on-one, who genuinely shows interest in them as a person can make a huge difference to not only their Welcome Week, but their university transition and even impact their university experience.
Reps do all sorts of duties during Welcome Week. There are opportunities for one-on-one interactions with students and more low-key events if that’s what works best for you.
I don’t regret my decision to rep last Welcome Week. I’m so grateful for the connections and friendships I made with fellow reps and first-years alike; however, I want to be real for a moment. Welcome Week in general is exhausting and as someone who has physical illnesses and with various marginalized identities, it was even more exhausting and draining. Welcome Week has much more work in becoming more inclusive and accessible so that any student that wants to rep, or any first-year that wants to attend Welcome Week doesn’t face barriers to accessing those opportunities and having a good time.
Some Fellow Social Sciences Reps and I at the PJ Parade. I am the Rep in the Maroon McMaster Sweater.
I hope that I can use my personal experiences to help make the changes that need to happen. If you want to get more involved in the Mac and Hamilton Community, care about creating community on-campus, and have the capacity to rep, I highly encourage students to apply to be a faculty, residence or SOCS (Society for Off-Campus Students) rep. We need all different types of students to be reps and be in leadership positions to make McMaster the best student community possible, and to remind all first years that they belong here at Mac.
Welcome Week is a partnership between many on-campus partners and students. I look forward to seeing how this partnership continues its efforts to make the week more inclusive and accessible in the years to come.
My Faculty Rep Team (Social Sciences aka Blu Cru) from Welcome Week 2017.
Noël Valade blogged for the Student Success Centre from 2017 to 2018.