MSA vice presidential candidate Heather Parrie talks interests, passions

“I fall in love with things very easily,” Parrie said. “I get very excited about the smallest of things and it’s easy for me to pick something that I’m interested in and dive 110 percent into it.”

Junior Heather Parrie is everywhere. Fliers bearing her name and face have been strewn about campus for the past few weeks as she and Syed Ejaz campaign for the Missouri Students Association vice presidency and presidency, respectively. The glossy pictures and posters can be seen everywhere from Speakers Circle to random bulletin boards.

In those pictures, Parrie is frozen in time, smiling but unmoving. In real life, Parrie is anything but stationary. She speaks quickly and becomes animated when talking, laughing and smiling frequently. She calls herself a “passionate person” who “deeply care(s) about people.”

“I fall in love with things very easily,” she said. “I get very excited about the smallest of things, and it’s easy for me to pick something that I’m interested in and dive 110 percent into it.”

Her close friend Jackson Davis attests to this. The first time Parrie and Davis ever hung out, Davis said, she argued with him about rap for three hours. Davis said he didn’t like rap music because he didn’t like the beat.

“Heather proceeded to rant and rant and rant and talk my ear off about how rap was a cultural thing — how rap conveyed a message, and if you listened to the words and you knew what those words were supposed to be talking about, you could feel it more,” Davis said.

He said he still dislikes rap, but now when Parrie plays him a rap song, he actually listens to the message and what it means to different people. The discussion they had about rap, Davis said, illustrates who Parrie is.

“Heather makes me see different things,” Davis said.

Davis said Parrie holds all the “typical friend” qualities, such as being caring and fun. But he said she is also many other things. She is driven and passionate, Davis said, and loves to learn.

“She holds herself to a different standard of education,” Davis said. “I have watched her sit in my apartment for hours on end just one day deciding to watch every social justice TED Talk she could find.”

Parrie, a dual major in sociology and business, said she has many passions and interests, ranging from hobbies to organizations. She enjoys photography and hiking, and she is a Kansas City Royals fan. She was in the Chancellor’s Leadership Class, and has since been a TA and mentor. She joined Tour Team her freshman year. She was a United Ambassador and is currently training to become a Diversity Peer Educator.

Davis said Parrie takes her skills and personal experiences and applies them to help other people.

“She knows that as a tour guide who has changed her major multiple times, she can utilize that to appeal to the freshmen who are kind of lost and don’t know yet when they get to college,” Davis said. “She knows that whatever job she does she can connect with the people she’s doing the job for or with. She definitely does not fake it.”

Parrie has also talked openly about her experience with depression and anxiety. In June, she penned a blog post that received 7 million views. She was diagnosed in April after a semester-long struggle with not knowing what was wrong. One day in June after having an “exceptionally bad morning,” she decided to get a tattoo of a semicolon, a symbol that has become synonymous with suicide prevention.

“A semicolon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to,” Parrie wrote in her blog post. “A semicolon is a reminder to pause and then keep going.”

She has always loved writing, she said, and wrote spoken-word poetry about her experience with depression. She then turned the poetry into a blog post, expecting the same 100 readers who normally read her blog. Instead, over 7 million people read it and she received many emails from people saying they were inspired by her blog post to get help.

“Depression took so much from me,” Parrie said. “It took months, it took involvement, it took relationships. And I was like, ‘Maybe something good can come from this.’”

Davis said one thing depression hasn’t taken from her is her passion. Davis has also suffered from depression and recalled losing drive during his struggles. He said that Parrie, while she had bad days and has “definitely suffered,” never lost her intrinsic passion.

“Mental illness usually curbs passion,” Davis said. “The fact that she kept that through everything is why she’s such a good advocate that she is right now because so few people with mental health problems are able to walk away with the personal drive to talk about it until after it’s done.”

Parrie says she is glad she shared her story because she feels it has opened up a conversation on campus that some were afraid to have because of the stigma around mental illness. She said that penning the post and having so many people read it has empowered her to take care of herself and not be afraid to ask for help.

Another one of Parrie’s defining characteristics is her “logical stubbornness,” Davis said.

“She’ll hold her ground and she’ll hold her values until you have proven (you’re right),” Davis said. “And then she’ll do a complete 180 and be like: ‘You are correct. I see where you’re coming from.’ And she’ll adopt that. She adapts to people and adapts to things very well. She sees things from other perspectives and adjusts.”

Parrie has been involved with Greek Life since she was a freshman and has held multiple leadership positions within Sigma Sigma Sigma. She said being involved with her sorority has allowed her to empower women, which she considers her life’s mission.

Another one of Parrie’s passions is social justice.

“Being an incredibly passionate person, it was easy for me to get angry about this stuff and want to make a difference and want to change things,” Parrie said. “It’s been a journey, but I’ve found what I love through sociology.”

Parrie said she hopes to go on to graduate school and get a doctorate in sociology. She would eventually like to teach sociology at the college level and rework the way universities teach introductory sociology courses or coordinate a social justice center.

“I would like to go to a school that doesn’t have very good social justice centers and create such amazing programs that we have now (at MU),” Parrie said.

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