Jesse Marchand now works in corporate communications, but continues to write and edit. Jesse is also a freelance editor for book publishers.
Alma Mater Society: When did you work at The Ubyssey?
Jesse Marchand: I was at The Ubyssey from around 2001 to 2007.
AMS: What drew you to working for the newspaper? Did you know much about the paper beforehand?
JM: I didn’t know anything about The Ubyssey, but I was always interested in writing and journalism. I had high school work experience in radio, TV, and print journalism and I was looking for something to continue that journey.
AMS: Who were some of your colleagues or mentors at the time?
JM: I was so inspired by the editors who were already there when I joined. The first person to welcome me to the office was Duncan McHugh, who ended up becoming a lifelong friend of mine. After volunteering for a while, I was considering quitting. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, maybe that I just wasn’t cool enough to be one of The Ubyssey crew. I ran into volunteer coordinator Graeme Worthy on campus, and he convinced me I was a valuable volunteer and that I should run for a position and be volunteer coordinator myself. After that, it was basically hard to get me to ever leave. I even came back for a year after graduating. I couldn’t possibly name all the friends and colleagues I met there. Each person holds a special place in my heart.
AMS: What was “the big story” at The Ubyssey during your tenure?
JM: I remember that when I started everyone was still talking about the Coke deal. The Ubyssey had been able to uncover the exclusivity agreement of Coke, making Pepsi products on campus a no-go. AMS slates (political parties) were also in the process of being abolished but before they were, there was a group of candidates who felt AMS salaries were too high and gave a portion of their earnings to the food bank. We were always trying to uncover some AMS scandal and while we did uncover some things, I think, in retrospect, we were too focused on our peers, who were just figuring things out and facing the same discriminations of gender, sex, race, ableism and class that many of us were.
AMS: List some of your favourite memories in both your role at the newspaper, and your time as a student.
JM: My favourite memories of UBC are the ones with classmates and friends. I had some amazing professors in the Classics department especially, but what I remember the most was running into classmates on the bus, and dancing with people at a beer garden or Canadian University Press Conference. Some of my favourite memories from The Ubyssey: Carrying a keg to Wreck Beach, (then) back up again, and ending up with it in the West End; The Ubyssey/Gateway dance off; building an edible woman, a Margaret Atwood cake [ed: inspired by the author’s 1969 work entitled The Edible Woman]; free sandwiches at the AMS council meeting.
AMS: How did The Ubyssey advocate for the student body in your role?
JM: We took our role as being the voice of the student body very seriously. Because students paid us a direct fee as part of their student fees, we felt we had to provide them with content that would benefit them. Sometimes that content was broadening minds in terms of culture, but other times it was more about digging deeper into campus life to uncover what was causing struggle for people. The Upass rolled out during my time there, and we were very critical of some of the earlier proposals for how the system would work. I believe that our advocacy through the paper actually helped make positive changes to how that program was implemented.
AMS: What did you take away from your role at The Ubyssey?
JM: Being the coordinating editor (the title at the time) created a lifelong career for me. The idea that it was a coordinating editor in an egalitarian cooperative (rather than a hierarchical editor-in-chief) stuck with me. I still look for ways to remove hierarchical structures, and to build cooperative teams where everyone’s skills can flourish.
AMS: Did you carry on in the media afterwards? How did working for The Ubyssey shape your immediate future?
JM: I went into book publishing straight from The Ubyssey, and after that I worked several years on a health and safety magazine so the skills I learned there were very relevant to my career.
AMS: What is your current job?
JM: I work in corporate communications and continue to do writing and editing. I’m also a freelance editor for book publishers.
AMS: Consider those in the same role who came before and after you. How do you feel to be a part of this lineage?
JM: I always felt like I was following in the footsteps of extremely intelligent people who I looked up to immensely. When I look at the editors today, I feel like they are surpassing what we did in terms of truly creating an equitable space that advocates for everyone. I’m proud to have been part of The Ubyssey.
AMS: How has your association with UBC advanced your life, personally and/or professionally?
JM: Working for the paper helped me to expand my undergraduate Arts degree beyond traditional academia. I would never have been able to spend so much energy on the newspaper without the support of my UBC professors, who helped me coordinate the deadlines of student life with the busy deadlines of the paper.
AMS: How did you make an impact on students during your time at The Ubyssey?
JM: I think I made the most impact in the office, working face-to-face with the various students who came through our doors, both to volunteer or work at the paper or to be featured in stories. I had a lot to learn in those days, but I think I made a difference in the lives of the students who I worked with closely: instilling a belief in them that they matter, and that they can make a difference in the world.
AMS: What advice do you have for UBC students today?
JM: Try as many things outside of your studies as you can and see what sticks. I know it can be hard to juggle anything on top of a course load (especially if you also have to hold down part-time work); but extracurriculars bring more than just lifelong friends — they bring connections that are integral to pursuing your post-university career.