Sunday, April 13, 2008

Many thank yous

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to thank you all for all your support before, during, and after the election and campaign. I couldn't done it without you. I really appreciate all the extra campaigning, the help with the video, putting up and taking down posters, tell your friends to vote, putting up with my stress, etc. I am really excited to start working in May, and I look forward to serving as your VP Academic for 2008-2009. Thanks again,


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lowering text book costs

We pay a lot to go to school. It is even harder when you find out the class you just registered for has a $120 text book too. I will work with the book store and professors to ensure students are getting the best value for their dollar. Hopefully, we can also increase the number of books bought back by the bookstore.

One reason text books are so expensive is because professors get other products with the books that they may never use. These add-ons include made-up test questions, presentations and other resources on CDs. Many times, profs don't end up using these things, but the cost is passed on to the students in the class who all have to buy the text book. One thing I will work on is educating the profs about these costly resources, and hopefully pass along the savings to students.

Online Book Exchange and Online Professor Review

If elected I will increase usage of SMUSA's Online book Exchange and Online Professor Review.

The book exchange is a great tool for students to use and find cheap text books. If you are looking to get ride of a book you no longer need, chances are there is someone out there looking for your book. I will work to make this service more user friendly, increase advirtising and usage, and make sure students are getting as many used books at a good price as possible.

The Online Professor Review system is a place where students can make objective reviews of professors and classes. This site is much better than I will work to increase the number of students using the site, as well as the number of classes and professors reviewed. The main way I will do this is to promote the site during peak times when students are looking to review a prof, such as the end of each semester.

More study space

A big problem on campus for many students is finding a place to study, quietly do work, or access a computer. This gets even harder late at night and during midterms and exams. One of my goals, if elected, will be to work with the university and library to increase the number of places available to study after hours and during peak times.

Solutions to this problem could be to open up a wing in Loyola for late-night studying, as well as an extra 24 hour computer lab. The library also closes earlier than most people like. While it may not be financially feasable to keep the library open late every night, it may work during peak times (midterms and exams). While most of us may be graduated by the time the Atrium is built, this project will also help to alleviate crowded study spaces on campus.

Eco friendly SMU

What would you idea of a sustainable campus be?

While campus sustainability is not directly mandated in the job description of the VP Academic, I think each Exec also works on what they are passionate about and what effects the students in a positive way. Helping to make Saint Mary's a more environmentally friendly place is something I believe very strongly in.

Previous successes:
-Currently sit on the SMU Sustainability task force
-Environmental Studies major
-Helped create and implement SMUSA's new Sustainability policy
-Working on organizing SMU's first annual Sustainability day
-Hot and Sexy Recycling program in Residence

Future plans if elected:
-Continue to work to make SMU more environmentally friendly and sustainable
-Implement and improve initiatives such as the carpool ride board, bike racks, etc.
-Lobby the university to aquire a Sustainability coordinator and open a sustainability office
-Implement a university wide sustainability policy

Student Services Map

Wooot for stealing ideas! Another great idea that the University of Alberta Students' Union has in an online university services map showing all the available services on campus. This is great for students who aren't sure of all the available resources on campus. The map is layed out over a map of campus and looks like a subway map. It is available online from a link on the students' union website. Each "subway line" relates to a different problem. The "Money line' links all services related to money. At SMU this would be the Financial Aid office, Scholarships and bursarys, food bank, and the career centre. Other subway lines include Personal health line, Study line, and the Life line.

If elected, I will work with the various university student services and our website provider to create this map for Saint Mary's.

Advising for academic advising

The recent SMUSA Student Services Report, entitled "Measuring up: Reaching the Industry Standard in Support Services for Students", demonstrates the need for increased Academic advising resources at Saint Mary's. Our school, when compared to schools of similar size, such as the Unversity of Lethbridge, has a disproportionate number of advisors per student. This means that for key areas like program requirements and course selection there may not be enough resources.

If elected, I will work with the university to increase the number of academic advisors and other resources for students.

Let's get to the issues

One of the ideas I would like to implement would be issue-based awareness days. These could be a monthly event, similar to the annual AIDS Awareness week. The reason behind this is to pair academic learning with experiences outside the classroom. Various topics each year could cater to students in different faculty. For example, some of the topics could be corporate social responsibility, the environment, ethical investing, water, violence in Halifax, war in Afghanistan, etc.

Buddy program

Once again, other schools have this, so why can't we. The SMU Buddy program would pair first year students or high school student with upper year students. The point of this program would be mentorship. 3rd and 4th year students would get a great volunteering opportunity, and a chance to better their university. Topics to help out with could include what classes to pick, how to declare majors, where to apply for research opportunities and scholarships, etc. The science faculty at Dalhousie offers this program. They find it helps with retention of students as well as increasing the number of students on the right track.


If elected to the position of VP Academic, one of the biggest part of the job is the 14 university committees this position sits on. Some of these include Academi senate, Curriculum committee, Academic appeals committee, Academic regulation committee, etc. Running for this position, I realize the large time committment to these committees and I am prepared to work closely with the other committee members to be productive, effective, and do what's in the best interest of the students.

A large focus of the VP Academic position should also be to research other school’s policies and practices. This will ensure we can lobby the university, when appropriate, and reach some of the goals that SMUSA sets.

Being Transparent

Any well run organization is transparent to the members. For SMUSA, this would mean that the students have a good understanding of what the Executive is up to, what they are working on, and where resources are being allocated. As VP Academic, I would like to increase the amount of transparency that SMUSA has. I'm not saying we are bad at this, any student is welcome to come to the SRC meetings (held every third Sunday), anyone can drop by the 5th floor to chat with one of the Execs, but we could be doing a better job of this.

I'm really not exactly sure how to go about this. There could be a town-hall style meeting on the last Friday of every month where students could drop by and ask questions, hear about what each VP is up to, but I don't know if anyone would come. Maybe, if elected, I could put a weekly feature in the Journal about what I'm working on. What is your idea?

Info Link

I'm not going to lie, I stole this idea. I was once told that if someone is copying you, it is actually a compliment. So I think we need to compliment the Student Union at the University of Alberta. They have this really cool system that we can duplicate and make really relevant to the students at Saint Mary's. It works as an online Frequently Asked Questions site. Most of the topics are academic related

My idea is to create this FAQ system online for students to ask about classes, programs, appeals, student rights, volunteer opportunities, etc. There could also be an academic glossary, referrals section, information about plagiarism, and other resources. This would help students find information quickly and easily.

Getting back graded material

One big problem for students is when the date to withdraw from a class comes around, and you haven't received any graded material back yet. Did you pass that assignment? Are you doing well on the weekly quizes? It is importanted to know this information prior to withdrawing from a class or not.

I will continue the work of current VP Academic, Courtney, and look into this issue. An important component will be working with the Registrar as well as other professors. The practices of other similar sized universities also needs to be looked into.

Really? Am I qualified?

I believe I can draw on a variety of previous experiences to be a great VP Academic. Here are some of the things I have been involved with over the past few years:

-Science Representative, Student's Representative Council, SMUSA
-Board of Governors, Halifax Student Alliance
-Student Council President, Cobequid Educational Centre
-Frosh leader, and an active SMUSA and university volunteer
-Residence Assistant (RA) for 2 years with the SMU Residence Department
-Campus Ambassador (Tour guide), SMU Recruitment
-Cultural Assistant, SMU TESL Centre
-Past Executive board member for 3 years, AIESEC Halifax
-Currently 4th year Bachelor of Science, Environmental Studies (Honours) and Biology, Co-op program