GSA exec takes the UW Swing Club to new heights

Many students pursue a graduate degree immediately after finishing their Bachelor’s. Equipped with his Honours Earth Science degree and a commercial pilot’s licence, however, Max Salman headed straight for the skies. As a geophysics surveyor, he spent months over the Amazon in Guyana and the United States, working for several high-profile clients. Salman then headed to Nunavut, Norway, Greenland and Iceland, flying low enough to see herds of muskox below the aircraft.

Max sitting in cockpit, flying plane

Alongside amazing travel opportunities, the UWaterloo grad faced 
intense physical challenges while working as a surveyor. “It’s like NASA training,” Max explains:

You’re going from 0 Gs to 2 Gs [force exerted by gravity 
while accelerating], back and forth, all the time, so everything in your stomach gets tossed. I won’t eat anything for like 7 hours and I sweat like crazy – especially in the south. It’s pretty rough. You have to make sure that the plane is flying in a straight line and you have to maintain a specific altitude. And because you’re so low you get affected by convective activity. We’re flying during the day, so we always get these updrafts and we always have to push down on the column, right on the controls. So you get positive Gs, negative Gs; positive gravity, negative gravity.

Man and woman holding hands and dancingIn January 2016, Max began his Masters in Earth Sciences at UWaterloo and wasted no time in cultivating his other passion – swing dancing – on campus. Him and his partner, Victoria Newell, started leading the UW Swing Club with unprecedented success. Almost 40 students registered for the club, and turnout remained high throughout the winter term, thanks to Vic and Max’s upbeat personalities, humourous interludes and high-energy teaching style. Club membership was surprisingly diverse as well, including both grad and undergraduate students, but also international students, domestic and exchange students:

Last term we had people from all over the world, both those who had and hadn't tried swing before: Canadians, Germans, Persians, Chinese, some Swiss... Everyone who wanted to dance was there and just had a good time.

Max on the tarmac with small plane behind himAs if being a full-time grad student, President of the UW Swing Club and DJ at Hep Cats Studio wasn’t enough, Salman has now taken a job with the Graduate Student Association (GSA). As External Affairs Officer, Max works with the Ontario Graduate Student Alliance (OGSA) and the Province of Ontario to ensure graduate students are represented in political discussions affecting their interests.

To get involved in the GSA, Max encourages graduate students to touch base with their departmental association:

Get engaged, talk to someone from the GSA and ask how you can get involved – we’ll be more than happy to help you out. This way, you can meet others, engage in meaningful discussion on issues affecting grad students and get the ball rolling.

For people new to swing dance, Max is even more straightforward in his advice:

Try it. That's as simple as I can put it. I was terrified when I went out for the first time, but people welcome new members in the swing community. Swing is a social dance. Of course there are performances, but you're usually just there to have fun. Even if you just want to groove on the dance floor, no one's going to stop you. We want to make it as easy as possible for someone to learn how to dance.

Max and Vic dancing in front of stage

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