July 12, 2021Print | PDF
The Lazaridis Students’ Society at Wilfrid Laurier University, more commonly known as LazSoc, is the governing student association that serves approximately 5,500 undergraduate students in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. For more than 50 years, LazSoc has strived to enhance the undergraduate experience by providing opportunities for student development and exploration. With 25 subsidiary clubs, committees, and associations, LazSoc oversees everything from case competitions and industry-focused workshops, to networking events and student socials.
The 2021/22 school year ushered in two new co-presidents, Thomas Andress and Catalina Garzon. We had the opportunity to virtually sit down with them to discuss their presidential vision, involvement with the organization, and plans to navigate events with the ongoing coronavirus uncertainty.
What are you studying/what year are you in?
TOM: I'm going into my fourth year of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program, with a minor in Economics.
CATA: Similarly, I'm going into my fourth year of the BBA program and completing a minor in Economics.
How long have you been involved with LazSoc?
CATA: This will be my third year on LazSoc. In first year, I was involved in the clubs community. I was in Laurier Consulting Group and competed as a DECA delegate. I joined the LazSoc executive team in my second year and they haven’t been able to get rid of me since!
TOM: Like Cata, this will also be my third year with LazSoc. I was semi-involved in first year and helped to organize Movember and Five Days for the Homeless—both of which are subsidiary committees to LazSoc. I formally joined LazSoc in my second year.
Why did you first get involved and why have you stayed?
TOM: This is my all-time favorite interview question and it’s going to sound corny, but it’s the truth. Not even 10 minutes into O-Day [Orientation Day] in my first year, I knew LazSoc was where I wanted to be. I knew one day I’d be walking on that stage giving a speech or sitting at a round table, helping to plan events. First year, I didn’t get accepted and I was super bummed, but I reapplied, joined the team, and every moment since has surpassed my wildest expectations. It really is a family here and I love the culture and what we do. I’ve stayed because I’ve loved it more and more every year, even in a virtual setting.
CATA: I first got involved because one of the past presidents and I worked together on the Laurier Consulting Group. In first year, LazSoc seemed really intense and completely unattainable, so to connect with an incoming president, who I knew as just another student and actually encouraged me to apply, made it feel more within reach. I’ve always been someone who likes to get involved and joining the club strategy team allowed me to do that in a way where I got to interact with the greater Lazaridis School community. Like Tom, I’ve stayed because I love the culture, and I truly believe what we do enriches the undergraduate experience.
Why did you decide to run for co-presidents?
TOM: Well, it’s funny. Cata and I both had it in the back of our minds that we wanted to run, but kind of just refused to acknowledge it. We knew firsthand the work and commitment that came along with the role, especially going into our last year. I think it was just a matter of accepting this as something we really wanted to do and reaching out to initiate that conversation. And once we did, it was immediate excitement for what this year would look like.
CATA: Yeah, I think we both just weren’t ready to let go of LazSoc yet but didn’t know if this was something we were prepared to take on. But having that background of working together before, sharing the same team-oriented mentality, and understanding how our leadership styles fit really gave us the affirmation to run. It was like this moment of, “Okay, now that we’re on aboard, this is going to be awesome.”
What are you excited to do with the team in the 2021/22 school year?
CATA: This is a really broad question because there's so much we want to do. From an internal perspective, we’re really excited to build a close-knit community—or family as we like to say. That was a big challenge this past year. Haleigh and Gaby, our outgoing co-presidents, were really successful at creating a positive team culture and fostering friendships even though it was totally virtual, and that’s definitely at the forefront of our plans. Better events come from people who are willing to work together and share that team mentality. Our team has set a lot of goals for new events, whether that’s bringing alumni back or doing something more geared towards fourth years, but I know we especially want to kick up our philanthropic initiatives and give back more.
TOM: I think I interpreted this a little differently and for me, it comes down to a huge if. If public health measures permit and if university guidelines allow for it, I really want to address the informal social aspects that some cohorts of students have missed out on. Without giving anything away, I think it’s really important we come up with new ways to address that, whether we are able to host in-person events or not. There are so many complicating ifs.
CATA: To build off of what Tom said, one thing we are excited for is to start playing around with the idea of hybrid events. Obviously, this year has been a huge technological shift, especially accessibility-wise. We have international students all over the world and if we are able to return to in-person in some sort of capacity, it’d be cool to see how LazSoc shifts our events to be accessible for students in Waterloo and those abroad. Even with the challenges posed this year, technology has a lot of potential to open new doors and we’re excited for that.
Your presidential platform included three key pillars: For You, For Us, and For Them. Can you tell us more about that?
TOM: It may be worth giving some context here. “For You” is the current Lazaridis student body and what you’ll get directly out of our presidency. “For Us” is the entire Lazaridis community and clubs, and “For Them” is the future Lazaridis students 10 plus years down the line and the legacy after we leave. Within those pillars, some of the big issues we focused on were inter-university collaboration, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), mental health, and philanthropy.
From an inter-university standpoint, one of our goals is to build closer ties with other schools beyond our community and better establish ourselves in the network of business schools. This year, we introduced a new portfolio for external affairs, led by Julie Tanna, to see what opportunities for collaboration are out there, like a joint case conference or philanthropy initiative. We want to focus on making those connections and relationships to help put the Lazaridis School on the map and show that it is an awesome school creating prominent future business leaders.
CATA: As far as EDI and mental health, I think this year sparked a lot of conversations about diversity, privilege, and activism, and we want to carry that momentum forward. We go to a very diverse school and we want to ensure that every student finds representation and empowerment within our community. All students under the Lazaridis School umbrella have equal access to events, positions, and opportunities, and we want to ensure it feels that way.
This ties a bit into mental health too. This past year has really stressed the importance of social interaction for mental wellbeing. Part of our student advocacy is creating social outlets where students can make friendships, feel safe, and share a sense of belonging. That comes down to making those opportunities inherently more inclusive. One of the main things we’ve done with EDI is working with the Laurier Centre for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to improve sensitivity training for ourselves and the clubs community.
Anything else you’d like to share?
TOM: To whomever is reading this, Cata and I are here to represent students of the Lazaridis School. Don’t be a stranger. If you have an idea, a question, a recommendation, or concern, please reach out to us. We're currently putting in place different ways of contacting us, but always feel comfortable shooting us a DM on Instagram or sending an email our way. At the end of the day, we’re all just students and if you have an idea that you think would improve the Lazaridis School experience for students, we want to hear it. And if you see us in uptown, stop us, and say “hi”. We’d love to meet you.
CATA: Like Tom said, if you’re a part of our clubs community or a current student at the Lazaridis School, or one who’s looking to join us here at Laurier, we are always down to talk. We’ve been in the same shoes as you and we have a totally open-door policy. Whether it’s a suggestion or a chat, please reach out because we want to hear your voice. We’re really excited for this year, regardless of the setting. We have big plans and a very ambitious team, and we hope to see you at some of our events.