Undergraduate, Gender, Sexuality, Women's Studies, Political Science

Undergraduate Student Profile: Rébecca Brassard, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and Political Science

November 28, 2018

Majoring in both Political Science and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Rébecca Brassard comes from a family of SFU alumni whose positive educational experiences encouraged her to pursue her education at the university. Her father completed his PhD in engineering, her mother is currently working on a PhD in education, and Brassard’s two brothers and sister completed undergraduate degrees in Anthropology, English and Contemporary Dance, respectively.

But while Brassard may have chosen the same institution as her family, she has forged her own distinct academic path, she’s chosen a challenging double major and puts in as high a level of dedication and time into her studies as she does into her activist commitments on campus. Brassard has volunteered with the SFU Women’s Centre, a space and collective established on campus in 1974 that is committed to providing space and services that are pro-feminist, anti-racist, pro-choice, sex-positive, and trans and intersex inclusive. More recently, she’s also volunteered with the newly formed Active Bystander Network, a campus-wide initiative to create a culture of zero-tolerance for sexual violence at SFU.

Prior to her SFU commitments, Brassard has been involved with Francophone Youth Council in BC since high school. She has participated in Francophone Youth Parliaments and continued to be involved with the organization throughout her time at SFU. She prompted the organization to address LGBTQ+ issues over the last two years and has helped make spaces inclusive for LGBTQ+ youth by running a workshop on LGBTQ+ topics in one of the French high schools.

Brassard says the motivation to get involved in activist issues on SFU’s campus came largely from joining the GSWS student union in her first year, where she “met some of the coolest and most dedicated students on campus who were involved in just about every social justice initiative that existed at SFU.”

During her time with the GSWS Student Union, Brassard has helped the union organize film screenings, fundraisers, and tabling events. She says when she stopped attending meetings in her third year, she immediately felt “detached from the SFU community and unaware of what was going on on campus.” Brassard says she was happy to reconnect with an activist community through the Active Bystander Network, and begin working with them to create a culture of care and consent at SFU.

When asked how she balances academic work with her political and activist commitments, it might be surprising to hear that Brassard often feels “restless and guilty,” that she is not doing enough, or that she sometimes feels “held back” from activist work by her job and school commitments. However, she notes, “I think it's important to recognize that the work people are doing, particularly in social science programs, in reflecting deeply about social issues and shaping their opinions on these things forms the basis of any future activism.”

Brassard adds that “even the most minimal form of activism, whether it's attending a rally or signing a petition, can be a source of motivation.” These acts, she says, “ground the work I am doing in school and reminds me of all the inspiring and dedicated people who are working their hardest every day to help improve the lives of those around them.”

This term, Brassard is focusing on finishing her undergraduate coursework and preparing for graduation. She intends to take a year off school after graduation to begin preparing for the LSAT and law school applications. This won’t mark the end of her volunteer work, however; Brassard is keen also to work or volunteer at organizations around Vancouver like Pivot Legal Society, PACE Society, or WISH Vancouver.