Stephanie Ye-Mowe Obituary Waterloo Ontario, Former WUSA president, passes away

Stephanie Ye-Mowe, who was president of the University of Waterloo Student’s Union (WUSA) from August 2022 to April 2023, passed away. She was a committed and ardent advocate for student rights and welfare. The entire academic community, as well as Stephanie’s friends and coworkers, are left feeling empty by her unexpected death. Her significance and influence on the University of Waterloo are unquestionable, despite the fact that the cause of her death remains unknown.

Stephanie’s journey with WUSA began in May 2021 when she assumed the role of Vice-President of Education. Her commitment to student issues and her tireless efforts to make meaningful changes quickly propelled her through the ranks of WUSA. In the 2022 general election, she ran unopposed and was acclaimed as Vice-President, setting the stage for her eventual ascent to the presidency.

However, her path to the presidency took an unexpected turn when the sole candidate for WUSA president dropped out, leading to Stephanie’s appointment as president in August 2022. In an interview with Imprint at the time, she expressed a mix of apprehension and excitement, stating, “[W]hile I’m a bit apprehensive, I’m excited to see what this new Board has to offer the student body, and I thank them for entrusting me with this responsibility.”

Throughout her tenure as president, Stephanie Ye-Mowe exhibited unwavering dedication to improving the lives of University of Waterloo students. She was a fierce advocate for critical issues such as housing, affordability, accessibility, and more. Under her leadership, WUSA launched initiatives like the Representative Survey Platform, aimed at gathering valuable insights from undergraduate students to inform the organization’s work. Additionally, she spearheaded projects on satellite campuses, including the Supporting Stratford Project on the Stratford campus and the Micro-Market on the Kitchener campus.

Despite her many accomplishments and unyielding commitment to her role, Stephanie revealed the darker side of her presidency in a heartfelt post on the UW subreddit on September 7. In it, she described her eight months as president as “one of the most disheartening and isolating eight months of [her] life.” Stephanie disclosed that she struggled with feelings of distrust, unaddressed conflict, and a profound fear of students within WUSA, which deeply affected her mental well-being.

Stephanie cited specific instances, most notably the transition to a new governance style, as factors in her experience of isolation. She cited the Simon Fraser Student Society’s trial and eventual abandonment of a similar structure in 2020 as reason for her scepticism towards this concept. She went on to say that key figures inside WUSA had called students “selfish,” “short-sighted,” and “dumb” when they were making decisions. Building trust with the student body, genuinely including them in decision-making, and valuing their viewpoints were all important to Stephanie’s vision for advocacy.

In a heart-wrenching admission, Stephanie shared her personal struggles, confessing that she had attempted suicide twice during the summer. Her post highlighted the immense toll that her presidency had taken on her mental health, shedding light on the pressures and challenges faced by student leaders.

Despite her struggles, Stephanie remained a passionate advocate for change. She continued to champion the needs of students and never wavered in her commitment to making the University of Waterloo a better place for all. Her activism extended beyond her role within WUSA, as she actively worked on issues such as housing, food security, and accessibility.

In September of this year, Stephanie made the difficult decision to resign from WUSA’s Board of Directors. In her resignation letter, she cited her objection to the new governance structure and the ongoing feeling of being cast as the “bad guy” for demanding improvements within the organization. Her departure left a significant void within the student leadership, as she was a driving force behind several important initiatives.

Rory Norris, the president of WUSA, spoke fondly of Stephanie’s dedication to the students at the University of Waterloo. He noted her consistent advocacy for crucial issues, such as housing and accessibility, and emphasized the profound impact she had on the campus community. President and Vice-Chancellor Vivek Goel also expressed his gratitude for Stephanie’s activism, acknowledging her significant contributions to the university.

Stephanie Ye-Mowe’s passing is a sobering reminder of the challenges that student leaders often face while advocating for change. Her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of her fellow students, despite the personal toll it took on her, serves as a testament to her strength and determination.

Let’s remember Stephanie Ye-Mowe while also considering how crucial it is to prioritize and assist the mental health of student leaders. Their commitment to improving our educational institutions shouldn’t come at the expense of their own emotional well-being. We should be motivated by Stephanie’s legacy to foster an atmosphere that is sympathetic and encouraging for everyone who assumes leadership roles within our universities.

Let’s carry on the work she began in her honor, working to bring about good change, increase inclusivity, and create a better future for all University of Waterloo students. The people she inspired and the causes she supported will carry on Stephanie’s energy and dedication to activism.