WUSA: Understanding the Renew Waterloo presidency


Fifth-year nanotechnology student Nick Pfeifle ran during the most recent WUSA election and managed to win the 2024-2025 presidency. Now, Pfeifle and the Renew Waterloo party are eager to address several issues they feel are essential to ensuring the voices of students are heard. While chatting with Pfeifle about his vision and plans over the next year, it’s clear that Pfeifle’s greatest strength lies in his willingness to be upfront and transparent about achieving change. Rather than overexaggerate or embellish, his honesty offers a refreshing perspective on how to improve and displays his unique approach to a leadership role. Pfeifle’s willingness to speak his truth is an important reminder that choosing truth means choosing courage. 

Pfeifle’s Approach

What stands out about Pfeifle is his interest to seek student voices and address the issues that matter to them most. Rather than assume he knows all the answers or has all the skills, his ability to recognize his own weaknesses encourages us all to consider what it means to lead. “I have been putting an effort to try and fix those holes in my knowledge [and] where I don’t think I have the time or the skill set to handle,” Pfiefle admitted. “The big thing that I’m relying on here is making sure that I have a team that I trust and I dream and hope the student body trusts that.”

When describing his goals as president, Pfeifle stated, “I would like to act in a way that I would be happy to follow.”

Reflections on Voter Turnout

There is no denying that incentives are often effective ways of encouraging action, as evidenced by this year’s WUSA elections and voter turnout. With the chance to be entered into a raffle to win a MacBook, out of 35,325 eligible voters, 8,876 students voted. Voter turnout in 2024 rose to an unprecedented high of 25.17 per cent — six times higher than 2023’s record low of 3.2 percent. Asked about equity concerns in relation to these numbers, Pfeifle admitted, “[The incentive] is something that made us nervous as candidates. Like, hey, was this a fair election when so many people were voting with the possibility of a reward at the end?” Asked about alternative means, Pfeifle suggested offering smaller incentives, like a free sticker or snack after voting.

What Changes Can Students Expect?

Pfeifle and the Renew Waterloo presidency aim to take action on making third places more accessible to students and focusing on making major changes to the current WUSA governance. Let’s take a closer look at the changes Renew Waterloo has planned:

Third Places

Renew Waterloo’s Theresa Nguyen is passionate about incorporating a greater number of third places for students. Third places are areas meant for students to unwind and converse outside of the typical day-to-day settings like lecture halls, workplaces, and grocery stores. Third places do not include spots where one is expected to spend money to stay (e.g. coffee shop), silent study spaces (e.g. library), or generally isolated areas. Rather, they are meant to serve as comforting, safe spaces where students can casually come together to connect. This includes offering more faculty-wide unlocked lounges and restructuring of existing spaces, which can be a step towards creating a campus culture that recognizes the value of relationships and the wider benefits tied to reducing isolation on campus. 

WUSA Governance

Pfeifle has been vocal in expressing his dissatisfaction with WUSA’s governance model. He stated the current model resembles that of “a charity rather than a student council.” In his view, WUSA is treated less as a micro municipality, but more as a charity organization that works on student issues. The lack of student oversight on advocacy is one of Pfeifle’s main concerns with the current model. Pfeifle aims to make changes that will give students greater control over decision-making, particularly when WUSA’s decisions will have major impacts on the undergrad experience, and to facilitate these aims, Pfeifle is looking into the possibility of switching the presidency to encompass a council model.

Pfeifle On Winning WUSA Presidency

What did it feel like to win the WUSA presidency? Pfeifle’s immediate response was “distraught.” He explained that he would have felt disappointed to have lost, but likewise, was disappointed to have won the election. For Pfeifle, the benefit of winning was that “it was pleasant to hear that other students were frustrated in the same ways that I was.” Equally, he admits, “If students were supporting my ideas, that probably means that they aren’t seeing [the changes they hope for] being done on campus at the moment.” What about losing the presidency? Pfeifle would have been satisfied to know students were not as disappointed as he was about certain changes, but “[he] would have been a bit disappointed to move on from the university and not see those ideas complete.”

Closing Thoughts

What stands out most about Pfeifle and the Renew Waterloo presidency is their determination in seeking changes inspired by student voices. Rather than assume he knows all the answers or has all the skills, Pfeifle’s ability to recognize his own weaknesses and areas for improvement is inspiring to see and encourages us all to consider what it means to lead. Pfeifle expressed this sentiment, sharing,  “Being compassionate, with others, being compassionate with myself. trying to [see the] hope that remains.”