My first post for the AUSU Executive Blog, for June 2017 – what topic? Community & gratitude. Okay, that’s two topics, but a worthwhile combined topic to me. When I reflect on the nature of AU, and listening to the continual concerns of the AU community, one of the large ones is community.
AU comes from the newer tradition of distance and online education and holds the title of a “Global Pioneer” in open, online, and distance education.I feel honored to serve students, as their needs arise. In reflection on a proper topic to write for the Executive Blog, I looked at previous posts.
I wanted to gauge the reported concerns and hopes for the community from the view of AUSU executives, past and present. Some of the topics included, in one word, waiting, advocacy, representation, AU, cheating, surveys, requirements, vacation, and affordability – more or less.¹
Shawna Wasylyshyn, Kim Newsome, Julian Teterenko, and Brandon Simmons, wrote those months’ Executive Blog posts. Happily, I have worked with each of them on council, and executive. To make a community, perhaps, a face and personality to the names may help the membership.
Since I was elected as VP Finance and Administration (VPFA), and before it, Shawna has been invaluable. I found her active, an engaged listener, knowledgeable of the organization and the needs of students, and unafraid to speak her mind and express concerns in a thorough way on behalf of students.
I also express gratitude to Kim Newsome (prior VPFA) for advice, calls, run-through’s, and general training for the VPFA position. She has been patient, and a valuable mentor.
Julian is the Vice President External Affairs (VPEX). We came into AUSU at the same time. He has a real strength in being direct, being quick on the response, and taking a firm stance on issues. He is a real asset to AUSU, and to the membership, as well. He is a part of the Ukrainian Scouts and the Canadian Forces Primary Reserves.
In fact, Julian and I worked intensively together in late May. We went on a business trip from May 22nd to the 27th for the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations (CASA) Foundations 2017 conference to learn about CASA, of which AUSU is a part. We worked together in a national venue, in Ottawa, with 20 or more university student unions represented by executives too. It was an extraordinary experience – humbling too – and an honor to represent everyone there. I am sure Julian would agree with the sentiment.
We got to know each other more. I saw sides of Julian, which I never saw before – and this made the experience of working and knowing one another even better. I am grateful for the experience and being able to work with Julian.
Brandon Simmons was the previous VP Extenral and Student Affairs.I have known him as a highly devoted family man, who makes sacrifices on behalf of familial ties. It is honorable. Now, he, and Andrew Gray, Amanda Lipinski, Robin Bleich, and Kim Newsome, are the non-executive part of council.
All of this gratitude, and sentiment, amount to reflections on community. Even though executive remains small relative to the council, and to the student body or to the AUSU membership, we build a small community within and with council.
It took time, effort, and an openness to see parts of one another – at least for me – we never saw before. However small executive is, or even council, relative to the size of the AUSU membership, it is a reflection of the AU community.
I also think about the staff making things run behind the proverbial curtain, including Donette Kingyens, Karl Low, Jamie Mulder, and the newly hired Jodi Campbell. I am eternally grateful for their help bringing the community together, because we’re in this…together.
Everyone asks, “How can we make more of a community feeling at AU – with everyone so disparate, so apart, and feeling so alone in their educational progress?” I do not like clichés. They feel banal. At the same time, they reflect, at times, some deeper truths.One such truth is that community takes time, effort, an openness to different avenues of building community, and – the big one – it is a two-way street. It rings true to me. Perhaps it will for you, too.
I am grateful for the community within council, and of AUSU students. I trust, with time and effort, we can make that community stronger, together.
VP Finance and Admnistration
¹ The rest included being on council, the Fort McMurray fire, sustainability of the university, the Bylaws of AUSU, prizes, CASA and AUSU, the “service standards,” the federal election, AU’s task force on sustainability, the stuff AUSU does for students, running for the By-Election, various AUSU work projects, AUSU and The Voice Magazine, decreasing oil prices and the situation with Interim President MacKinnon, the AUSU planner, app, and health and dental, changeover of the AUSU team, the “Call Centre” and the “Tutor” models, and the introduction of the AUSU Executive Blog.