Student Spotlight - Sarah Simoes
Written by: Cleo Williams
Photographed by: Dylan Wee
As seen in the March 2019 issue of Lazy Faire magazine
A familiar face on campus, Sarah Simoes is in her final semester at the ASoB. This month, Lazy Faire caught up with her to chat about what it means to be an activist, and how she is using her voice to amplify the voices of others.
Could you explain what involvement on campus has looked like for you?
So, my first year, I lived in residence, and I didn’t really do all too much, but I was super involved in high school and I wanted get involved on campus, and the first place that I did was through the Alberta Public Research Interest Group (APIRG). I applied to be on the board, my first year, and I got a position as the CFO, and so I just helped with their financials, and that was a lot of fun. They’re a public interest group that really fights for people, giving people their voices, and giving them the opportunity to be heard. So I really enjoyed that kind of philosophy, and so I joined that group, and I learned a lot, so then I did it again in the following year, but I did a portfolio as the office portfolio on that team. Afterwards, I did RMBS as VP Logistics, and that was lots of fun, then JDC West. And last year, I was also the Co-Chair of the Alberta Not-For-Profit Association.
So, in relation to giving people their voices, what does activism mean to you?
To me, activism is similar to the way APIRG describes it - you know their philosophy is ‘giving people the opportunity to be heard’. Maybe it’s an unpopular belief, or not the status quo, and that’s ok, and people know that it’s ok to have an unpopular opinion about something. But just giving people the space and environment to be heard. You don’t have to be going to protests or going to major demonstrations just to be an activist. You can be an activist in your own life, in a sense that if you’re at a meeting, whether it’s a school club or a business meeting, it’s asking people in the room what their thoughts are. Sometimes, there’s people that are going to be quiet in the room because they feel like they might not be heard or that their ideas aren’t good enough. Just giving them the voice or the little push that they need to feel confident in their own thoughts. Putting them on the spot might not be a great idea, but after the meeting, you can go to that person and be like, “Hey! What are your thoughts on this?”
And in the next meeting, or the next time you meet, say, “This person had a great idea, and we talked about it after the meeting, and I thought we should highlight it because it was awesome.” If you’re confident enough to speak your own mind and someone else isn’t, you really do have a job to ensure that everybody else's thoughts and opinions are there and part of the conversation, because at the end of the day, decisions are best made when all thoughts are considered. That’s what activism to me means - it’s just bringing people up with you as you go through decisions in life.
How do you think this philosophy has influenced your life and your academic career?
You learn from other people. In school clubs, having an anonymous feedback form - that truly is anonymous and you have no idea who said it - is a great initiative. But the next step is taking that, and showing everybody, and being open and transparent. I don’t think you can truly be an advocate for other people or create a space and a culture that is open and inviting if you’re not transparent about what’s going on. So, when I was a Co-Chair, we ensured that our team had a feedback form, and then, when we had a competition, we had feedback forms. But not only did we read the feedback forms, we told people about what was said in the feedback forms, and how we’re going to fix it and improve things. I think that that might not be 100% activism, but it is taking the feedback, being open-minded, and creating change with it, and that’s kind of what the base of activism is.
It’s speaking your mind, to create change in society, and even if it’s just a small component of your life, school club, your family, or your group of friends, where you can make a change just by listening to someone, I think that that’s valuable.
Doing that as a Co-Chair, and being on different teams, and also asking for that real raw feedback without getting hurt and taking it personally. I firmly believe that, as people, we should always be looking to better ourselves in a sense that you should always be open to what others have to say. You don’t always have to follow with what they say, or take to heart what people are saying, but it’s important to understand different perspectives.
As you move into your career, how do you hope to influence those around you?
How? The impact I want to have is just being an open and honest person. I want to be able to have people come up to me, or to be comfortable saying what they truly feel, what they truly think about something. Whether that’s your friend group or at work, I really want to be that person that creates a space that’s positive in terms of giving feedback or stating an opinion; maybe it’s unpopular, but being supportive in a sense that I’m listening to you and I hear you. I really want to make that impact. Just being open-minded to different perspectives and learning. How I want to do that… I think, again, it’s very simple in that I’ll ask people what they think. At work, starting from the bottom, you have to listen to others and see what their perspectives are, and kind of just go with the flow. But also, if I have an opinion, I would like to use my confidence to say it, and to tell people how I feel and what I think. Because, if I’m only telling people to do that stuff and I’m not doing it, then I’m not really doing what I preach. I want to be consistent in that sense, where if I’m telling people to go out and say stuff that they feel, then I should be able to do that too.
I think a big thing, for me, is being a woman in the workforce - you read all the self-help books about “how to use your voice,” and “how to get a spot at the big table,” or things like that, and I really want to be a support for other girls and other women who are going through the same things, and are not afraid about talking about the hard things that we’re going through.
Not creating any taboos, because there are a lot on that topic. Just being open and honest, and being able to have those hard conversations, whether that be with a boss, a colleague, or a friend - just putting it all on the table and not being afraid of what’s next.