Meet Arjay Villasis, Faculty of Social Sciences valedictorian

Name: Arjay Villasis

Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario (I am originally born/from Cancun, Mexico though)

What degree and subject did you pursue?
Honours BA in Economics & Political Science (Double major)

What made you choose McMaster?
Among several factors, the deciding one was the campus and how welcoming it looked!

What will you be doing/see yourself doing after graduation?
I will be pursuing a masters degree at the University of Guelph in Economics and hoping to start a career in the financial sector afterward

What would you say to your first-year self?
You are exactly where you need to be despite how many emotional, mental obstacles you are going to face. Everything works out, you just have to keep going to find out how.

Do you have any advice for current and future students?
Taking risks may be the biggest favour you can do yourself. If you succeed, then you propel yourself forward. If you fail, you learn and set yourself up to succeed against those who have yet to make the same mistakes you did.

How has McMaster shaped the person you are today?
I am a firm believer that we are deeply influenced by our surroundings. I had the privilege of meeting and sharing my experiences with many great individuals, professors and friends alike, that really propelled me toward being the person I am today.

What events did you enjoy the most at McMaster/Hamilton?
The three welcome weeks where I was lucky enough to attend as a social sciences rep. It was very fulfilling being able to represent my faculty and be a pillar of support for students year-round.

What is your definition of success?
I think success is less about salary, awards and things of that sort. I define success as the process where you discover who you want to be and make your decisions accordingly. This process is obviously difficult, but if you manage to become the person you are happy with then I believe those tangible things most of us strive for will eventually follow.

How has McMaster helped you create a brighter world?
McMaster has helped me create a brighter world by not only teaching me in the realm of academia but by allowing me to pursue experiences that allowed me to grow as a friend, an ally, a good listener. Sure, knowing how to find information and ask the appropriate questions help but I believe that means little compared to how you can change the world by affecting other people.

Who is your favourite professor?
I honestly wouldn’t be able to choose based on how much I learned but the most memorable professor I had during my undergrad was Dr. Todd Alway. He’s the reason I decided to also major in Political Science. You really don’t know how much you like politics until he’s yelling about it at 9:30 AM on a Monday.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Duplication. I imagine this would be vaguely irritating for everyone involved but also very practical.

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?
I would live in Switzerland! I travelled there once with my family and fell in love with the people and the scenery. As an aside, it’s been a life goal of mine to learn a third language so I would hope to pick up French while living there!

What have you been doing to self-care during the COVID-19 lockdown?
Once you graduate you realize how much being mentally/physically active for most of the week becomes a part of you. With limited work hours, I’ve tried to read as much as I can and started running a lot more now that the gyms are closed. This is on top of self-isolating of course.

What’s the hardest part about working virtually for you? The easiest?
The hardest part would be the lack in-person interaction. I love to socialize and all the better if its for the sake of reaching a goal for a project or work in general. The easiest part would be the being at home part. Home cooked lunch on break is a dream.

What would you advise others as we transition to a new normal?
Learn and appreciate the things that have been taken away from us. As we transition towards a new normal, I would advise that we do so in a manner that minimized the possibility of this happening again. A lot of the new workplace or social standards set in place such as general sanitation are things that should have been adopted long ago.

It is imperative that we don’t forget the practices we are being taught now in order to come out ahead.

While at Mac, did you receive donor-funded financial assistance (e.g., a scholarship, award, bursary)? Any thoughts on the importance of giving back to your alma mater to support future generations?
I received donor-funded assistance via a first-generation, post-secondary student bursary for my fourth and fifth year. I am in incredible favour of giving back to McMaster to support future generations. I want to contribute to a reality where students have even more opportunity to grow as people and academics through their undergraduate careers.