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On its Spring Elections ballot in 2018, the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) introduced the position of Vice President of Student Health and Wellness (VPSHW). Those who took on the role would be “responsible for working with campus and community partners to increase student involvement in wellness initiatives; to combat wellness-related stigma; and to educate students about resources available to them on campus and in the community.”
How fortunate it is, then, that Forensic Science and Psychology student Ethel Nalule was nominated and elected to VPSHW in both spring 2018 and 2019.
Now, full disclosure: I am very lucky to have considered Ethel a colleague over the past couple of years, and even more so to be friends with her. We have attended meetings and celebrations together, and even sat on a panel together. But she did not ask me to write this. That is simply not her style. She will be seeing this piece when it goes live online like the rest of you.
No; Ethel is likely to listen to the people around her, and give close consideration to detail when evaluating the situations in front of her. It is obvious in her photography, but it is also clear in her work. For instance, her efforts launching the TCSA Mobility Access program in January 2019 were made to improve physical access to Symons campus, mitigate financial barriers to accessing mobility devices, and challenge ageism and ableism.
Because that is something that Ethel also excels at: being mindful of the details while paying attention to the “big picture.” When the Ford government rolled out various changes for the 2019-2020 academic year through the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU), she was quick to defend Trent University Peterborough’s levy-funded groups and services from the “Student Choice Initiative,” and vocal about the changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) that would leave students with greater debt. She supported student-led efforts to decrease stigma and harm around the ongoing opioid crisis in North America at the local level. Ethel also invited students to approach the topic of mental health differently in January 2020, when the TCSA hosted Dr. Jennifer Mullan of Decolonizing Therapy to speak on intergenerational trauma and approaching mental health and healing from a decolonialized lens.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ethel has both taken on the VPSHW position with sincere thought and care, and transformed it into a position of great importance and possibility. Her holistic approach to student health and wellness should be a standard, not an aspiration, because students have complex lives to live while attending school. Now more than ever, we all know that students must be safe and well first and foremost.
All of this is to say that Ethel deserves some recognition and some rest. I hope that she knows that she has done amazing work during her time as VPSHW, and that it did not go unnoticed. Whether it was lobbying politicians in Toronto and Ottawa, showing up to meetings to understand the levy group community, or standing on the front lines of a rally, her presence was known and felt. Her absence from the TCSA will be as well.