Meet Michelle Zhang, a second-year Innis student and the ICSS Equity & Outreach Director!
Hey! My name is Michelle and I’m a second year double majoring in Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies and Urban Studies, with a minor in Political Science. I love connecting with the people around me, and honestly the people at Innis can’t be beat. I’m lucky to have called Innis home as a first year, and to still be constantly surrounded by engaged and interesting individuals in this small but tight knit – dare I say – family.
Along with my partner Megan Pham-Quan, I direct the ICSS Equity and Outreach Portfolio. Together, we work to make Innis a safe and inclusive space for all students, as well as start conversations about some of the most pertinent issues our student communities face on a day to day basis. I might have also greeted you with a “good morning” at 1pm when I work at the Innis Residence Front Desk, or you might have spotted my name under “Managing Editor” on the Innis Herald Masthead.
There is certainly a lot of responsibility that comes with work around equity issues, as the positions we take can interact with peoples’ lives in very tangible and far reaching ways. Megan and I often act in an advisory capacity both within and outside of council, and that often means constantly thinking through all the toughest issues at UofT. Additionally, our outreach duties require that we constantly be engaging and connecting with students and other campus groups during and between our events. Being conscious of that round-the-clock responsibility can be mentally exhausting sometimes. That being said, when I see people come out to learn and enjoy themselves at an event we organize, every early morning meeting, every late night spent with emails, every last-minute dash to Metro, becomes totally worth it. After all, building a sense of inclusion and community is a big part of what we do, and being able to see the results of our efforts in the smiles of Innisians is always thrilling.
I’ve lived in Toronto for almost my entire life. However, I look around me and see things like the breakneck speed of recent neighbourhood gentrification, intensifying income inequality, the wavering state of our public transit expansion plans, and I am struck by how quickly my city is changing around me. I am especially concerned that my city is becoming one where the right to exist and occupy space is reserved for an increasingly exclusive few. Without going into too many specifics, I have actively written and voiced my support for policies and initiatives that I believe will move us toward an equitable and diverse Toronto that is capable of protecting its own integrity.
Be spontaneous and live in the moment, and don’t take things too seriously! All sorts of people and stories and opportunities will come your way. Even if you don’t recognize what’s knocking at your door, make sure you invite it in for a coffee and a chat before passing judgement on it. No matter what, though, listen to your gut. You already know deep down who you are and where you stand. Breathe, listen, trust, and stand up for yourself. And if you’re still stuck, know that there is a huge support network at Innis that is there to help you.