Emma Esselink: Redefining valuable advocacy

Emma Esselink, Canada

Cover credit: Emma Esselink

Cover credit: Emma Esselink

My name is Emma Esselink and I am a Canadian student. I graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. I will be completing my Master of Public Administration degree (MPA) this upcoming fall at Queen's University in Kingston, ON. My passion for social justice, equitable education, policy and foreign affairs have shone through my work, volunteer and extracurricular experiences.

My most valuable volunteer experience occurred when I was 18 years old. I travelled alone to Ghana to volunteer in an orphanage, monitoring education and health outcomes in the area.

As I returned home to Canada, I completed my own research on the side to study educational development and policy in Ghana.

That following year, I began my studies in social work. Throughout my undergraduate experience at Ryerson, I was involved as the 3rd Year Executive of the Social Work Student’s Union and had the opportunity to hold an annual event in regards to any prominent social issue occurring on campus. I chose to create an event in regards to sexual violence on campus and welcomed panelists, students and professionals to speak about their experiences, as well as screening the film, “The Hunting Ground” for students to see. I also had the wonderful opportunity to be the Executive Event Coordinator for Ryerson Oxfam, an organization committed to promoting women’s rights and food security around the world.

In my 4th year of Social Work, I had the opportunity to be an Academic Advocacy Student Intern at George Brown College in Toronto, ON, where I co-developed and facilitated an advocacy training program which trained student delegates in the Toronto area to become confident student leaders/advocacy experts in the academic world. The "Educational Advocacy Initiative," its title, is set to be implemented throughout the entire George Brown College campuses in the coming years.

Credit: Emma Esselink

Credit: Emma Esselink

The project spurred from the idea that in our increasingly tech-devoted world, face-to-face communication between professors and students is sometimes minimal. This social venture encourages faculty and students to come together in informal/formal sessions to create a discussion revolving around the academic formation of courses and programs throughout the college.

Student leaders are encouraged to speak out about academic or curriculum-related changes that they would like to see manifest in the academic setting, while knocking down the communication barrier between faculty and students.

The initiative seeks to create social change in universities and colleges, improve student and faculty satisfaction, and increase retention rates. This is one of my favorite passion projects and it aligns with Sustainable Development Goal #4: Quality Education.

The Educational Advocacy Initiative seeks to break the barriers of student success, develop quality education programs for students, and ensure that students have equitable access to creating social change in the academic environment.

I am very excited to share my ideas to the 2017 Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York City.