Willis Opondo

Willis Opondo is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Social Justice Education (SJE) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Opondo is running to be the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTGSU)’s vice-president academic divisions 1 and 2. 

In an interview with The Varsity, Opondo said that his experience working with the SJE’s Departmental Students Association qualifies him for the position. He pointed to his desire to “strengthen student voices, especially the marginalized and underrepresented students,” and to increase support for mental health projects. 

If elected, he wants to “build an era of accessibility, accountability, and equitable representation at the UTGSU.” He found that, currently, there have been challenges with accessing the UTGSU, and he wants to change the lack of current participation in the union.

He concluded by stating that it’s “time for new faces” in the union. 

Dhanela Sivaparan 

Dhanela Sivaparan is a third-year doctoral student at the SJE. She is running for vice-president academic divisions 1 and 2. Sivaparan has served two terms as academics & funding commissioner: divisions 1 and 2. 

In an interview with The Varsity, Sivaparan said she hopes that in her third year as a UTGSU executive, she can finish the campaigns she has started, such as creating the graduate funding package extensions for students. 

Sivaparan noted that during her previous terms at the UTGSU, marginalized communities, including women, trans people, and international students, have become more active in the union. She said that her equity work on the union’s policies and her engagement with marginalized groups has contributed to making these groups more visible. 

Sivaparan is currently working on creating a career hub with resources for students having difficulties getting into the job market. “We can transition and find a mentorship… for all graduate students to connect them [to others in] a career pathway,” she said.

Sivaparan said she was also curious to see the effects of the UTGSU’s board restructuring and how the new structure would function differently to the existing one, but she assured The Varsity that she would be ready to work with any changes.

Voting for the UTGSU elections opens on April 8 and closes on April 14 at 11:59 pm.