CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION
2. THEMES & VISION
4. INTERNAL PRIORITIES
5. EXTERNAL PRIORITIES
6. OTHER PRIORITIES
Members of the 2014-15 Student Representative Assembly, The package in front of you is more than just a platform or a list of ideas. It is a collection of personal experiences, research, and discussions with students, administration, and faculty over the past three years. The ideas and knowledge I have acquired about this position have come not just from meeting with the current VP Education, Spencer Graham, but from multiple conversations with a number of past VPs Education. This package is an effort to reach beyond the MSU bubble and truly connect and engage with those who we, as the MSU, represent. This package is an attempt to empower students to connect and engage with this organization.
One thing that I have learned over my time at university is the power of reflection. There is strength and clarity in taking time to assess why you are doing the things you are doing, and how you got to that point in the first place. When I first began University, I entered with no friends by my side, but the desire to seek out a community to belong to. My first year was not filled with leadership or student politics, but rather experiencing the freedom of just being a student. It was near the end of my first year when opportunities began to present themselves, many of which came through the, at the time, unknown organization of the MSU. As more opportunities arose and I began to travel further down the rabbit hole, the more I was able to see the potential my actions had to make a difference, and with that, the more my passion grew. Throughout the past two years, I have seen this organization from almost every angle: through services; clubs; committees; advocacy; and more. Each one of these experiences has taught me new skills and provided new insights.
When I see the work the MSU does, especially from an advocacy perspective, I see an organization that truly can change the lives and experiences of thousands of students, both present and future, not only at McMaster, but across the province, and across the country. When I look back, I am proud of the first year me, of the student who was uninvolved and unengaged, and believe I am a testament to what a little bit of initiative, and a lot of hard work can do. I am running for this position to represent those students, to represent the majority of students who do not feel connected to the MSU, and do not know how to get connected. I am running to represent those voices, the voices of both the majority and the voices of the minority, who do not have a seat around the table. I am running because I truly believe that I can bring both my experience, as well as a unique and new perspective, that will help us create the best possible place to be a student.
Together in Education,
VISION & THEMES
Student Communication and Engagement
Creating Partners in Advocacy
Strong External Advocacy
Turning Discussion into Action
The foundation of my platform is the importance of student communication and engagement. I truly believe that the MSU is not able to successfully advocate for student issues if we are not making every effort to engage students and receive feedback on the concerns they are facing. The MSU should not be an exclusive bubble but rather a community that is constantly attempting to bring more students in. Throughout the work that we do, it is important to remember that we do not represent our own opinions, but rather those of a large, diverse group of interconnected students. It is, therefore, important to realize that advocacy isn’t the responsibility of a single individual or a single board position, nor is it effective when it is done this way. Advocacy is about bringing people together for a cause or issue, and through connecting and empowering different partners, drive forward a change. I believe there has been a considerable amount of fragmentation in our system, between the MSU and students, the MSU and faculty societies, and even within the MSU itself. This has not only created barriers in ensuring groups are on the same page, but it has also decreased our lobbying and advocacy capabilities. Next year is an extremely interesting year in terms of the political landscape. With their likely being a provincial, municipal, and federal election in the next year and a half, now is an extremely critical time for a strong focus on external advocacy. Not only is the VP Education responsible for coordinating, planning, and executing an election strategy for each of these elections, this time will prove a very important time to convey and lobby the concerns of students to candidates. It is crucial that the VP Education is making a considerable effort in reaching out to councilors, MPPs, and MPs from wards and ridings all around Hamilton. Furthermore, with Education becoming a lot more of a focus on the provincial level, as well as the very recent and pertinent challenges the MSU faces in regards to federal advocacy, strong external advocacy is not just important, but is necessary in ensuring successful future advocacy as well. Although I do believe there needs to be a higher emphasis on external advocacy, it is extremely essential that the VP Education does not neglect their obligations here at McMaster. Through continuing the amazing work that has been done this year, as well as bringing in new ideas and new projects, we must continue to focus on turning discussion into action. Although advocacy is a long process, where a VP Education’s accomplishments are often based on the foundation laid down by their predecessors, students still want and deserve to see tangible changes and projects.
EXPERIENCE PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: McMaster Student Union Teaching Awards Committee Coordinator o o o
Planned and executed two nomination periods and an awards ceremony. Encouraged excellence in teaching through gathering, analyzing and using data Recruited and coordinated a group of volunteers.
Immunology Research Lab Research Assistant
o Aided in doing experiments necessary for peanut allergy research. o Attended regular lab meetings. o Analyzed and organized data. Dafna’s Swim Centre Swim Instructor o o o
Taught vital swimming skills to children ages 3+ Supervised and participated in swim birthday parties. Worked in a team and group environment.
Camp Tamarack Swim Instructor and Lifeguard o o o o
Taught important swimming and lifesaving skills to kids aged 7-16. Worked as part of a cohesive team with fellow staff and supervisors. Taught first aid skills as part of leadership courses. Planned and executed creative Camp wide programs for more than 400 people.
Mount Sinai Hospital (Surgical Skills Centre) Co-operative Education Student o o o o
Assisted in the set up, take down and running of a variety of medical courses. Studied the anatomy through dissection, learning and observation. Observed and participated in a plethora of training surgical procedures. Worked together with a team of many health professionals on a day-to-day basis.
VOLUNTEER AND RELATED EXPERIENCE: McMaster Student Union External Affairs Committee Elected Member o o o o
Responsible for writing a Mental Health policy paper for McMaster Communicate with different individuals in the university and community Attend weekly meetings Contribute to ongoing MSU projects.
McMaster Student Union Advocacy Street Team External Coordinator o o o
Helped facilitate programming for conference delegates. Assisted in various tasks to ensure the conference’s success.
Hamilton Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity President o o o o
Represented the MSU in discussing and revising OUSA Policies. Advocated for changes important to MSU students. Participated in important discussions regarding future federal advocacy.
Canadian Conference on Student Leadership Volunteer o o
Participated in weekly meetings Contributed to the changes made on By-Law 5 Did a thorough review of 1280
OUSA Spring General Assembly Delegate o o o
Communicate with various municipal, provincial, and federal groups Help plan and execute numerous advocacy campaigns Prepare information briefs for the Advocacy Street Team
McMaster Student Union Finance Committee Observer o o o
Acted as the external face of the chapter. Managed and oversaw the entire chapter. Ran both general and executive board meetings. Coordinated internal and external events.
Entrepreneurship Centre Academic Task Force o o
Helped with the creation of new entrepreneurship courses. Discussed the integration of academics into the future physical centre.
McMaster Red Cross Society Executive o o o
Act as the connection between the club and upper year students. Led the year’s penny drive campaign for Sudan. Sit on the Fundraising Sub-Committee.
Bachelor’s of Health Sciences Welcome Week Rep Social Media Coordinator o o o o
Helped facilitate the first year transition for first year students Led a group of students during Faculty day. Created and ran numerous social media accounts leading up to and during WW Participated fully in all Welcome Week events.
CLAY Leadership Conference Leadership Developer Logistics
o Led a group of diverse and unique high school students. o Acted as a link between the Executive and my group, to ensure safety and organization in the conference. o Helped teach, discuss and develop many leadership and communication skills. o Created an environment conducive to learning and openness. McMaster Get Swabbed! Canadian Bone Marrow Drive Volunteer Coordinator
o Recruited and trained over a hundred volunteers. o Was an executive member of the planning committee. o Helped to oversee the day-to-day operations of the event. BHSS Social Committee o o
Helped plan and run social events for BHSc Students. Aided the coordinators in ensuring events ran smoothly.
BHSS Academic Committee o
Helped facilitate academic events including pass it ons, group exam reviews, and study sessions. 7
INTERNAL PRIORITIES MENTAL HEALTH Mental Health is a topic that I have been very deeply connected to over the past year and a half, engaging in research and conversations and authouring a MSU Mental Health Policy Paper that was passed last week. I believe now is the time to act on the concerns students are facing, now, when the university and the public’s eye is very much on this growing concern. I believe we have made enormous strides in stigma reduction over the past few years, which is why I believe my recommendations are going in a different and right direction. I believe we need to focus on addressing those living with mental illness and those developing mental health concerns and how we as the MSU can really support those students. . Advocate for More Frontline Care One of the biggest issues in regards to Mental Health on campus is the lack of resources. This has led to increased wait-times for students, the lack of continuous care, and more students falling through the cracks. With the public eye very much being on the growing concern of Mental Health, now is an opportune time to lobby both the University, as well as the Provincial government for more funding towards front-line care. At the university level, the entirety of funding for psychologists and counseling comes out of the 56.71 that students pay into the health plan. I believe next year we can lobby the University to provide more funding for directly needed resources. At the provincial level, while the government has contributed 27 million dollars to post secondary mental health over the past year, this money has been used for projects such as a Help Line, rather than envelope funding for those experiencing mental illness in the form of direct frontline care.
Training for Faculty, TAs, and Student Leaders While the Student Wellness Centre currently offers a training program – its in person nature, and the length of the training makes it difficult to implement, and inaccessible to a wide population of individuals within the University. I believe that we should be moving towards an interactive online training module that will be able to reach more people and allow more information to be retained. I have met with Dr. Anthony Levinson who is the Canada Research Chair in Health Science Educational Research and Instructional Design and a creator of an existing online mental health training module for within the workplace. I believe there is already an established framework in place that can be easily adapted and used by a multitude of individuals.
Centralized Resource Pathway McMaster students belong to a number of different communities, and as a result, their connections, and the pathways they take throughout their time here, will differ greatly. This holds true for mental health concerns as well. For one student, they may feel most comfortable approaching a Community Advisor; for another, that person may be a Teaching Assistant; and for some, they may not know
who they can go to at all. While these different communities is something we pride, it also creates fragmentation of resources, making it more difficult for students to receive support and more likely for them to fall through the cracks. This was an issue identified by the McMaster Health Forum as one of the top three concerns. Helping to set-up a centralized resource pathway, that both makes students aware of the numerous resources and supports available, but also allows the resources to be aware of other resources, will help reduce the fragmentation and ensure students are supported.
Bounce Back Program The Bounce Back program is one that is taken from successful models at other institutions and addresses a key group on campus of incoming, transitioning, first year students. Coming to University, which I am sure many students remember quite clearly, is a very nerve-wracking time, and one where many changes and new experiences occur. Students often have difficulty adjusting to this transition and experience problems because of that. The Bounce Back program identifies any first year student who receives less than 60% in their first semester, and pairs them with an upper year buddy or facilitator, whose job it is to help get the student back on the right track. This could include things such as helping them find academic support, or connecting them with students with similar interests (which could both be done through the President’s ideas for a Peer Tutoring Network and a Clubza platform).
COMMUNICATION & ENGAGEMENT It is important to remember the central purpose of the MSU, which is to draw into a true society, all students at McMaster. When I examine the current structure of the MSU and compare it with our purpose, I think there are still many obstacles we face in overcoming the exclusivity and status quo that exists. I believe that if we as a students union and especially as an advocating body, wishes to properly represent its students, we need to be doing more to communicate, engage, and bring students together. We need to change the way we think about outreach and find new ways of connecting students. MSU Idea Forum One of the central motivations for running for this position was identifying and creating ways the MSU can better communicate and engage with the students we represent. The creation of an interactive online platform, that allows students to contribute their ideas about changes and improvements they want to see within their university, addresses this issue. A forum where students are able to vote and comment on other ideas provides a medium that assesses the popularity of posted ideas or concerns and allows for necessary student feedback. In addition, having a two-way communication platform, allows the administration to comment and provide updates on the status of posted ideas. Furthermore, what I believe can truly change the way we engage with students, is the ability to actively message and invite students who post ideas to be a part of the process. This will allow more students to be drawn into the MSU and engaged in what it is we do.
Advocacy Team Meetings As previously mentioned, advocacy is not a one person job. It is most effective when different partners are on the same page and working together to bring about change. This is why I plan on holding regular advocacy team meetings which would include myself, the Advocacy Coordinator, the University Affairs and External Affairs Commissioners, the MSU Research Assistant, the First Year Council Advocacy Coordinator, as well as any other partners involved with a specific issue. These meetings will be important to ensure that everyone knows what the others are doing, and to identify ways we can support each other, to ensure we can address as many priorities as possible.
ENRICH RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MSU AND FACULTY SOCIETIES Peer Tutoring Network Peer-to-peer tutoring has been shown to be an effective learning tool that benefits both the tutor and student being tutored. I want to support the President in establishing a Peer Tutoring Service that is run and organized by the MSU. Students would pay a very low cost fee for a tutor while the tutor would receive a higher, competitive pay. I believe that it will be important for the MSU to take a coordinator and resource role in this project, while ensuring that faculty societies have the ability to get involved and feel active within the project as well.
Revamp Academic Affairs Council In the past few years, the Academic Affairs Council (AAC) has been a resource that I believe has not unlocked its true potential. The AAC is a council chaired by the VP Education, that is made up of all the VP Academics from each Faculty Society. In its current form, it has acted as a location where VP Academics can share information and events. While it is extremely important to share best practices and information, I believe this council can be doing more. I see this group of individuals acting as partners in advocacy and really helping to lobby on issues in their faculty. Despite my wishes, the VP Education does not have time to meet with every Dean and every Associate Dean on a regular basis. Faculty societies and VP Academics specifically, usually do have good relationships with their faculty administration. As previously mentioned advocacy is not a single person’s job. Through early advocacy training as well as providing constant resources, I believe we can empower these VP Academics to be advocates within their faculty, and help raise important concerns affecting their students. This combined and collaborative approach to advocacy will provide a stronger push, than just myself as a single individual advocating on an issue.
Teaching and Learning Teaching and Learning is something that is an integral part of the role of the VP Education, as ultimately, it is the reason why students are at university. My background in this field is very
privileged. Coming from the Faculty of Health Sciences, I have been fortunate to see and experience a plethora of effective and unique teaching methods. As the MSU Teaching Awards Coordinator, I had the ability to see the excellence in teaching that exists at our university, right from the mouths of students. As VP Education, I am confident that I will be able to advocate and work towards sharing that wealth, towards a system where all students have the ability to experience a high quality learning environment. Study Space Listing An issue that is brought up year after year is the lack of study space on campus. In thinking about ways we could address this problem, I began to think about how we can more effectively use the underutilized space we have on campus, rather than focusing on main locations such as the libraries. This led me to the idea of study space listing. The idea is both simple and tangible in nature. It would involve posting the schedules for every room online, in an easily accessible manner. This would provide students information about alternative study space, right at the tip of their fingers.
Continuation of Current Projects and Advocacy Efforts Advocacy and changes cannot always occur in a single year, in fact, the majority of time they don’t. That is why in order to ensure the completion and success of efforts, priorities must be transferred year to year. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Spencer over the past year. and have acquired a solid grasp on many of the initiatives he has begun, including Faculty and Teaching Assistant training, the establishment of an Entrepreneurship Centre, Teaching focused faculty, and the Course Wiki. As VP Education, although I will have other projects and other focuses throughout the year, I will work to see these projects come to fruition, as if we as the MSU take a step back, the other partners in these projects will do so as well.
More Student Involvement and Ownership Discussion and “support” are important tools for creating open dialogue between the MSU and the University, as well as moving ideas forward. Discussions, however, do not always equal concrete changes. I believe that we need to be empowering students to get involved and to help facilitate change, at the right locations to do so. A key example of this moving forward is Faculty Curriculum Committees. These committees are the bodies that review and examine current and new courses, and then present the changes to the Undergraduate Council. There are a few problems with the current workings of these committees. First, there are no guidelines on how student representatives on these committees are chosen, nor is the information about the members readily available. In the past, the majority of student representatives have been students, who one of the faculty members on the board knows and suggests. The second issue is that these committees have for the most part acted as stamping grounds, rather than places of critical review and changes. I believe we, as the MSU, cannot only be looking at this process but also supporting the students on these boards, and provide the resources to help make critical change where change is able to be made.
Increased Co-Op Opportunities Across Faculties In the changing job market, employers aren’t looking just for a degree, but rather for relevant experience. This experience needs to come during a student’s university experience, through methods such as Co-ops, internships, and experiential opportunities. In the Evaluate Your Education survey I put out last semester, the number one thing that students identified as missing from their education was Co-op or internship opportunities. I believe that the direction we need to be moving towards is a centralized co-op office, with faculty co-op programs acting as satellite offices. A centralized approach will not only be able to help bolster the opportunities available, but also open prospects to a wider array of students. I believe that through a creation of a new Co-Op policy paper, coupled with establishing this as an advocacy priority, we can begin making significant progress on this priority.
MUNICIPAL 2014 Municipal Election With a municipal election occurring in October and as it is within the VP Education’s job requirements to organize, plan and execute the election strategy for the MSU, this must be a focus in the upcoming months. This includes bringing together various partners to ensure that students are aware of not only how, when, and where to vote, but also informed about the issues pertinent to them. One of the principles of the MSU is that students should be active members of the community, and engagement in elections is a key aspect of that. In speaking to both past VP Eds who have ran elections as well as individuals from other schools, I believe that there are many tools that we can use to make this election reach a greater number of students. This will include the combination of both online promotions, collaboration with university departments, organizing a live streamed debate on campus, as well as many other means outside of the status quo. Additionally, we should be advocating for a polling station on campus to help increase student voter interest and turn out. Furthermore, it will be critical during and following the election period, to reach out to councilor and mayoral candidates and develop positive relationships moving forwards. An election period is an extremely important time for lobbying student priorities and for getting promises and commitments made.
Discover Your City This past year saw a very successful campaign to help connect students with the surrounding Hamilton community called ‘Discover Your City’. DYC was run through the collaboration of the VPEducation, SCSN (Student Community Support Network), External Affairs, and the Advocacy Street Team. In the upcoming year, DYC will be moving under the responsibility of SCSN. As municipal relations and student retention are principles of the MSU, I believe it is extremely important for the Vice President Education to be supporting the transition of Discover Your City from a campaign to a permanent fixture. In conversations with the Part-Time Manager, we have discussed ways that DYC
can further expand how it engages students, and brings both them to the city, as well as the city to them. Some of these ideas have included creating a Best of Hamilton within the MSU Website that students can comment, review and contribute to, as well as creating partnerships with local businesses to provide incentives for students. Another way Student retention and Hamilton stigma can be improved is by working with the University to shine a new light on the city right within the material that is sent out to future and incoming students.
Your City Survey II In 2011, the VP Education along with the External Affairs Committee put out the Your City Survey to gather students’ opinions about Hamilton. This upcoming year, especially after establishing and executing ‘Discover Your City’, as well as completing a Municipal Election strategy, it will be very important to assess how far we have come in the past few years. This survey will help us see the impact of our campaigns, students’ current perceptions of the community, as well as identify gaps moving forward.
PROVINCIAL Strong Provincial Advocacy OUSA, or the Ontario Undergraduate Students Alliance, has and shall continue to be one of the MSU’s greatest assets and partners in terms of external advocacy. Their approach to research based recommendations as well as developing strong advocacy priorities has helped OUSA be a strong voice in the provincial post secondary education sector. The VP Education is a member of the steering committee of OUSA and meets regularly to determine the priorities and direction of the organization. I believe that as VP Education, I can play a large role in helping to determine advocacy and policy priorities on a provincial level. A few issues that I believe will be extremely important from both an advocacy and policy perspective next year will be Student Health, especially Mental Health, Accessibility issues, Financial assistance with a specific focus on transitioning from credits to nonrepayable up-front grants as well as OSAP regulations, and International Students. Something that I have been investigating and believe could be extremely beneficial to MSU students, is taking more of a leadership role within OUSA through one of the VP positions, specifically VP Admin. After speaking to past VP Educations who have done so, as well as the outgoing member, I believe that not only does the position fit my skills and strengths, it will also provide more influence and more access to information during an extremely important political year.
Provincial Election Possibility There is a very high probability that there will be a provincial election within the next few months. As previously mentioned, it is the VP Education’s job to coordinate the election strategy and to convey information to students. While this will prove unique challenges due to the timing of the election falling outside of the regular academic year, it is still essential that the MSU is promoting election information pertaining to the issues related to students. As the provincial government is the body
responsible for post secondary education, there will be many priorities and issues that are directly affecting MSU students. Not only will we need to engage in a strong online campaign, we will need to be meeting with the MPP candidates from the surrounding ridings. Promises and priorities established in this election will be critical in terms of future advocacy efforts.
Hamilton Post Secondary Advisory Group
The Hamilton Post Secondary Advisory Group (HPSAG) is a group that brings together representatives from McMaster, Mohawk, and Redeemer, as well as our MPP, Ted McMeekin to talk about post secondary education and post secondary issues. I believe this group is an excellent tool to bringing forward issues on the provincial level, as well as sharing concerns and ideas with the other Hamilton post-secondary institutions.
FEDERAL Future Federal Advocacy Last Sunday, the SRA voted to drop down to associate membership in CASA. This was a decision that was made following much dissatisfaction with both the organizational structure of CASA, as well as its lack of advocacy results. The purpose of this switch in membership status is both to give the MSU the flexibility to leave CASA all together, as well as motivate CASA to change some of its ways. While there are a number of flaws with CASA’s current operations, federal advocacy must remain a principle and a priority of the MSU. In order to see the change we seek, we must not just sit passively, but be involved in the progress and the change. Saying that, regardless of the progress made, it is the job of the VP-Ed to ensure that we are actively researching and exploring every possible scenario. It is critical to me that we are investigating every option, and the pros, cons, costs, efficiencies, and any other factors involved. I do not want a year to pass by and the MSU to reclaim membership status purely because it is the safe thing to do, or because alternatives were not properly researched. I have already begun speaking to individuals at other institutions in terms of the best alternative routes for federal advocacy.
OTHER PRIORITIES Supporting the Board As a Vice President, your role is more than just your platform, and is more than just the advocacy work you do. You are also a chief officer of the MSU, but more importantly you are a board member. You are a support to the other board members, and of course you are a support to the President. Through both conversations I have had with him, as well as his vision, I believe there are two main
areas where the values and principles of myself and of the incoming President, Teddy Saull, align. The first and overarching theme is engaging the unengaged student, and expanding the community that is the MSU. The second principle I truly admire and associate with, is Teddy’s research based approach to situations. I not only look forward to working on projects that I mentioned earlier, as well as any other tasks mandated to me, but I am very much looking forward to developing both a great working and personal relationship with Teddy and the rest of the board members. While the VP Ed is often called VP Travel and Tourism, due to the time spent outside the office, something that is extremely important to me is ensuring I remember and stay dedicated to my position as a board member as well. For me, this entails a number of things including ensuring I am submitting my reports, attending board meetings, attending the MSU & You radio show, and overall, keeping close and constant communication with the rest of the board. As I’ve mentioned throughout this package, my approach to this job is not just a single position, but about building partners in advocacy. I want to be a support to my fellow board members just as they will be a support to me. I believe it is extremely important to keep the other board members, as well as the full time staff members updated and aware of the work I will be doing, and allow them to be engaged in those conversations and those projects.
Supporting Part-Time Managers This is a portion of the job, which I believe will be the easiest to transition into, due to both my managerial experience, and my direct involvement with both services. The Vice President Education oversees two Part Time Managers, the Teaching Awards Coordinator and the Advocacy Coordinator. Having been the Teaching Awards Coordinator this past year, I can be an incredible support for my successor in terms of providing any advice, answers, or help that she needs. Advocacy is also something I played a role in this year, acting as the External Coordinator for the Advocacy Street Team, as well as working with the incoming Coordinator on the executive team. I believe the combination of my prior experience with the service, as well as my good working relationship with the coordinator will help Advocacy to continue to run amazing campaigns, and bring light to important issues and events happening both at McMaster, and in the broader Post Secondary Education community. I believe that it is important that while providing support, I give the coordinator the autonomy to run her own campaigns rather than being dependent on myself. Additionally, I believe it will be important to sit down early on in the year with both the PTMs as well as the VP Administration, and really establish who will be the point of contact for specific elements of the job and to make sure everyone is on the same page throughout the year.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read through this package. In creating my platform, I wanted to ensure that I was connecting both the issues currently facing students, with the experiences, perspectives and skills that really set me apart. I believe now is the time for a fresh outlook, one that addresses the majority of MSU students who feel uninvolved and unengaged. I believe now is the time to move away from the current environment often filled with individualism and move towards a more collaborative approach where partners are coming together to support each other in making this a better place for students. I believe that this is an important period to ensure that we have a strong external voice during a time with much political fluctuation. I believe we must be looking at ways of turning discussion into tangible changes that will benefit students. Finally, I believe that I am the right candidate to accomplish these tasks and help change the way we engage, advocate, and represent our students.