Step right up, don’t be shy
Freya Wasteneys // Contributor
Andrew Willis is a whirlwind of a person. He talks fast, walks fast and his voice projection is a drama teacher’s dream. He’s also a bit of a workaholic; between balancing school, a part-time job, his own radio show, and his work as the vice president academic of the Capilano Students’ Union, he is constantly on-the-go.
When asked how he balances it all, he looked a little sheepish, and pulled out a big, black agenda. “Now, I don’t show this to everyone,” he said conspiratorially, “I don’t use a CSU agenda – there’s not enough space. No, if it’s not in this book, it doesn’t happen. Everything is written down here. I live by this.” But at 28, no one would accuse Willis of living by the book. “My world is really weird, and different, and strange.”
Willis is driven by his interest in people, and unquenchable curiosity. “I love people, I love being around them, I love engaging with them,” he said, putting an emphasis on his desire to create more of a sense of community at Capilano.
Despite only being in his second semester of a Communications degree, Willis has wasted no time in bringing about the change he wants to see. “I ran for student VP because I knew it was somewhere I could affect how things are done for students,” he said, “Right now I’m focused on Open Education Resources [OER].”
The push for OER is an excellent way to bring down the cost of textbooks, something Willis acknowledges as an issue and a barrier for some students. “It’s also just a neat way of learning,” he said, “I was surprised how high my grades were because I wasn’t just chained and shackled to, say, chapters three through chapters six, and I was provided handouts relevant to what we were learning.” Willis also said he noticed a lot more student engagement and is keen to get more instructors to utilize this tool.
He has also played a big role in the recent launch of Capilano’s new student residences. “I saw an opportunity, and I asked how we could make it a unique experience,” said Willis, “it’s a way to connect them with me, each other, the student union, or whatever interests them.”
As a natural interviewer, Willis is obsessed with learning about what makes people tick. As a perpetual do-er, he is gripped with the desire to help people achieve their own goals. “That’s really what I wanted to do,” said Willis, “I want to be a presence for people at Capilano, and figure out what they want to do, and how we can make that possible. I’m always wanting to figure that out.”
Willis attributes some of his passion for people to his own challenges and is aware that the learning process is sometimes a long journey. “It’s been 10 years of working and working, being very miserable, but then finding little things that worked for me, and finding people who were pointing me to the right areas that I wanted to go in.” For him, it’s all about knocking on doors, and utilizing the many resources that are available.
In the meantime, Willis will continue to live his eight different lives, orchestrating operations from his excessively large California king-sized bed. “I sleep with my work – literally, I’m on one half, and as soon as I get home I have my laptop, I have my books, I have my binders, I have everything laid out, and inevitably I will have two microphones sitting there, and an audio pack, and I will just multitask from my bed,” said Willis, “I just really love to work.”
If only we all had that problem.