Student co-chair of the ELC Board Andhra Azevedo gave us permission to post her speech from the Student Awards event in January. We appreciate how Andhra puts into words what many people feel about UVic Law. We will miss Andhra’s energy and leadership when she graduates from UVic Law, but we know that she will do a fantastic job at the Supreme Court of Canada clerking for Justice Sheilagh Martin and beyond.
Good evening all. Thank you to Dean Webber for the kind introduction.
I am honoured to be here this evening to speak about what the UVic difference has meant to me in the last two and a half years.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge how grateful I am to have been able to go to law school at this university on the traditional territory of the Lkwungen-speaking peoples and where the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSANEC peoples’ relationship with the land continues to this day. The research and awareness of Indigenous law at UVic law has played strongly into my understanding of what I refer to when I refer to the UVic difference.
In my experience, there are two major factors that make up why UVic is different in a positive way as a law school. Of course when I say it is different, take it with a grain of salt, considering I have not attended any other law school.
First, is that UVic law clearly encourages students to study and consider law from the public interest (whatever that may mean)
Second, is that UVic law has managed to foster an attitude of collaboration rather than competition in a way that manages to encourage excellence without fostering division between students.
My experience with UVic law has exemplified both of these two factors. For me, this has specifically manifested itself in my experience with the Environmental Law Centre.
I was first introduced to UVic law through an informal tour that had been arranged through a family friend in my second year of undergrad.
My most memorable experience during this tour was being introduced to the Environmental Law Centre (ELC). I recognized the ELC by reputation, having been familiar with its work through my previous degree. I think I also had an expectation that law buildings would have a level of grandiosity that was above and beyond the underground science labs that I was used to. What I experienced was not what I expected, rather than the building that impressed (although I love the Fraser building), it was the energy with which students and staff described their work that left an impression. The memory that most stuck with me was when Calvin Sandborn, Legal Director of the ELC, handed me about seven copies of a book that the ELC had just published containing a series of law reform recommendations and tasking me with distributing them around Simon Fraser University where I was doing my undergrad.
I remember that while carrying those books back across the ferry and then wandering around through faculty libraries and student lounges trying to figure out where I could put them, I realized that somehow I already felt like a part of the ELC.
What I took away from this introduction to UVic, was that there was a place for me to engage as much as I wanted in applying environmental law to real world issues.
Through this introduction to UVic, the great degree of camaraderie between students and faculty, of working together for the greater good came through clearly, before I had even set foot in the building as a law student.
Upon choosing to attend UVic law, I became involved with the Environmental Law Club and witnessed the closeness with which students, staff and faculty worked to ensure that the Environmental Law Centre functioned
In my second year, I was able to participate in the Environmental Law Clinic, which allowed me to work on two projects for clients. Through this process, the emphasis on collaboration was made clear, we all were encouraged to help each other work through problems with our projects and pull from the diverse backgrounds that each of us came with.
I am currently the student chair of the Board of the Environmental Law Centre, one of our main roles is to approve the projects that students will work on each semester. This chance to be involved not only in the pro bono work side of environmental law, but also the broader functioning of an environmental non-profit society has provided experiences beyond what I expected in law school
The extent of opportunities available through UVic Law and the ELC is part of the reason environmental law at UVic is an area that has drawn and continues to draw so many interested and passionate students from across the country.
In addition, the longevity of the ELC (and the institutional knowledge it and the staff and faculty carries) is a learning resource in and of itself, for a student whose life is measured in four month increments, projects can sometimes be completed and fall by the wayside, but through the ELC stories of successes and developments continue and are communicated, offering a lesson in persistence and patience about effecting positive change.
My experience through the ELC is also my experience with UVic more broadly – the idea of cooperation over competition, of sometimes termed “aggressive collegiality”
It is a quality that I heard about when making my choice to go to UVic, but didn’t quite believe until I was here.
It is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy – students appreciate the community and work to build it more, to see how far they can go to welcome other students.
I think this attitude and an appreciation of this attitude towards the study of law as something done in the public interest and done cooperatively also originates in the donors to the Faculty as much as from the students or staff or professors
So I want to extend my heartfelt thank you for supporting a school like UVic Law with programs like the ELC, like Law Centre, that allow students to go to law school and study law with a view of studying in the public interest.
I know I am very grateful for this opportunity and to be able to meet you and thank you personally for your support of the “UVic difference”. I hope you have a great evening. Thank you.