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In high school, Kay Turner was into theatre. She might not have known it at the time, but she was already picking up skills that would serve her well in university, where she found a new stage on which to tread: student politics.
"You do learn how to put yourself out there and that's something that has worked well for me," said the new President-elect of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU). "But I'm also just a fairly outgoing person."
"I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would end up being a VP and certainly never thought that I'd be President," Turner admitted, but it didn't take too long for her political career to begin taking shape.
Following in the footsteps of her older brother Charles, Turner arrived at McGill four years ago, interested in finding ways to get involved and meet new people. She soon joined her Inter Residence Council and "found out that there's a lot of really great stuff that you can do in student politics, a lot of change that you can make."
A double major in Political Science and International Development Studies, Turner became an Arts Representative on the SSMU Council in her second year, and by her third had been elected Vice-President (External) of the Arts Undergraduate Society. Her political journey well under way, the next stop was office of Vice-President (Internal) on the SSMU executive, a position she continues to hold until she takes over as President on May 1.
As a VP, Turner's plan was "to work to make our events more inclusive to a broader range of students, and to 'green' those events." She made progress on both, having for example made Frosh more bilingual to make francophone students more comfortable, and having introduced environment-friendly plastic mugs and Frisbee plates.
"We've done a lot of good things on the environmental front this year," Turner said. "We have really high consumption events," she explained, "so when you're feeding 2,000 people, you want to do everything you can to mitigate the environmental impact of that."
The green mission will remain an important part of her tenure, and one where she feels students are behind her. "It's something that's personally important to me, but also something that we have a really clear mandate on from students."
Student life issues also figure prominently in Turner's plans. She fears harm will come to the McGill community if nothing is done to curb the growing trend of events moving off campus due to "rising costs from the administrative side and also more regulations. This is not to say that [costs and regulations] are always unmerited," she stressed, "but it would be such a detriment to this university if all of student life went off campus, which it is starting to do."
To this end, Turner hopes to promote the campus as the hub of student life. "Students should feel that this is their campus," she said, "that this is where the heart and soul of McGill is. It's on their campus, it's not in downtown Montreal in various other venues."
Student life issues will undoubtedly take centre stage in relations with the McGill administration, where Turner sees an opportunity to co-operate in improving processes for students "so that it's not as difficult for them to say 'OK, we can still do this on campus.' There are a whole lot of other issues that we can talk about, that we can find commonalities on," she said. "And if not agree, then at least we can talk about them and have a healthy discussion."
Turner feels SSMU's ability to effectively represent student interests will in large part be her measure of success. "I would like to look back on this year and think of it as a success because it was a year in which everyone felt that they knew what SSMU was doing for them. SSMU has something for everyone, and I wanted to be a uniting figure."
For the time being, Turner is simply glad this "intense" campaign was her last. But for how long? "I definitely think that at least for some period of time I would like to be involved on some level in either Canadian or American politics," she said. "I mean, I don't plan on being the Prime Minister, and I probably won't even run for office."
Of course, that's what she thought about running for SSMU.