Profiles in Leadership: Ayyaz Aamer June 11, 2012Posted by Crystal in Leadership.
Ayyaz Aamar, LGBTOUT (St. George)
Ayyaz wants to make university a great place. The third year English and Equity Students student found support with LGBTOUT when he entered university, and decided to get involved through the campus group. As the coordinator of the LGBTOUT drop-in centre, Ayyaz is able share his experiences and cultivate his love of helping people. His goal of helping create a space for every student adds to the diversity of our campus.
What is your definition of leadership?
A leader is a role model for students on campus. A leader is that person who takes a stand for something that they believe in, and do their best to ensure that it stays standing. It’s about caring for people, and letting them know that you care for them. It’s not about being rigid and inflexible, but recognizing the diversity that exists, without compromising the original goal, and not losing the idea that inspired you in the first place
How did you get involved at U of T? Why?
I felt that there wasn’t a space for me on campus – there were issues and experiences that I was going through, and I felt that support wasn’t there until I visited the Drop-In Centre. They helped me deal with some difficult things and provided support. After that, I wanted to do more. I wanted to make sure that other students in my position knew that there was a place that they could go to for help, that there was a place where they were recognized and validated, and to know they were not alone on campus. I was elected Coordinator, and have been involved since.
What are your favourite campus events?
I would have to say Orientation Week is my most favourite occasion of the year. It’s a fresh start, excitement is everywhere, and you get to run around yelling and screaming. I love the events that UTSU organizes, though I can’t always get around to them – I missed the Pancake brunch this year , which was quite sad.
How do you maintain the balance of your club, school and other responsibilities, especially at busy times of the year?
Organizing, prioritizing, and scheduling. I am very fortunate that the job I do is amazingly fun, and gives me genuine satisfaction that I can help people. It’s sometimes difficult to tear myself away and focus on school. I enjoy being busy, and so that helps as well – the pressure of staying on top of things , and solving problems that come up , all add up to making me feel that I’ve made a difference in the world today.
What do you feel you’ve gained from taking a leadership role in your group?
I’ve learnt to empathize very strongly with people, and have really gained a very solid understanding of the students at UofT, and admire the character and determination of all of them. The people that I meet, and the experiences they share, are all incredibly inspiring, and I feel that they have been the most incredible part of this leadership role. My time management and scheduling skills have also improved, so, that’s a definite plus.
What have you learned from being involved with student life?
Every student needs to be recognized, and it’s not enough to just have clubs and groups – the mandates behind it, and the people selected to uphold that mandate are all extremely important factors. It’s not always about the fabulous clubbing events, or the pub crawls, or the free food – sometimes it’s just about sitting and listening, and validating someone, eating some (free) pizza and watching a movie. Maintaining the small connections are just as important, if not more so.
When you graduate, what do you think you will miss the most about university life?
I’m probably going to miss seeing all the people that will have an impact on our future – each and every student has the power to change the world, and every now and then you meet one that you know will be doing something incredible. I’m also probably going to miss Robarts at 3am and the requisite late night Chinese take-outs.
What are your future plans?
Ideally I’d love to get into a social field of some sort, working with equity – potentially something in the law arena, or heading into journalism and bringing equity issues to the main masses. It’s a bit up in the air at the moment, but, there are a lot of things to choose from, and its tough narrowing it down.
Any advice for students who feel they want to get involved, but don’t know where to start?
Come by the Drop-In Centre of course! I would say ask yourself what it is you want to do, or even, what you want someone out there to be doing for you. What do you want to accomplish? What is the gut feeling that’s pushing you to do something? When you find what that is, you’ll know where to go – for me, I wanted to help people, and I wanted them to feel welcome and know that there was a space for them, because that’s what I would have wanted someone to do for me.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“No weapons… no friends… no hope. Take all that away and what’s left? Me.” – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Interview by Redon Hoxhaj, 2011-2012 Communications Assistant, Office of Student Life