The First Six Months as an AUSU Executive

This past March AUSU council had an election and saw 13 councillors, some new and some old, become elected to be the voice of students. I was one of the new councillors, excited at the prospect of having some kind of influence in shaping the Athabasca University experience for my fellow distance learners.After learning more about the way AUSU works and what the position entails, I ran for vice president finance and administration and was successful.

That brings us to today – it’s hard to believe it’s already been 6 months!

Six months ago, a complicated world of university governance unfolded in front of me. Though I felt I had prepared myself well for what I’d be doing as the new VPFA, I was definitely in for quite a learning experience. I knew right away that I’d have those opportunities I was hoping for when, on my second day, I gave a presentation to the Faculty of Science and Technology about the student experience from my perspective. It was refreshing to be in front of a room full of academics and course planners and be heard and respected, and my voice taken seriously. Since then I’ve been a part of faculty meetings, mental health strategy planning, Indigenous support discussions, the search committee for AU’s new VPFA, and was able to help plan our institutions’s first annual Star Party. All of this among many other things I’m sure have slipped my mind. Being able to advocate and bring issues to the forefront of the conversation and speak up when needed at such a level has been such a wonderful part of this journey.

Aside from being so involved in the inner-workings of AU, I’ve also found a wonderful environment in our AUSU family. This past summer, we were able to have an in-person council retreat in Edmonton, and that was such an excellent experience. Not all councillors and staff were able to attend, but the group we had made some fantastic memories that I will hold forever. From our councillors to our staff, folks over at The Voice Magazine, and our student members, we have such a strong foundation for a community growing and I am very excited to see how that will translate into a larger student community as time goes on. Over these past 6 months, I have watched our systems and procedures strengthen and become more and more transparent, while at the same time fulfilling our executive work-plans on schedule.

2018 AUSU Executives

2018 AUSU executive councillors.Left to Right: AUSU VPEX Melinda Goertz, AUSU President Brandon Simmons, and AUSU VPFA Natasha Donahue

Working with Melinda (VPEX) and Brandon (president) on executive committee has given me a good outlook into what strong team should look like. We are open with each other and supportive of each other, and I always feel comfortable expressing concerns and comments I have to both of them, along with our fantastic executive director, Jodi. The range of perspectives everyone presents alongside the passion we each have for different initiatives really complement each other, and we work together pretty seamlessly in our progress. The four of us are unstoppable in my opinion! I have learned so much from this team with how we problem-solve, plan, and what we’ve accomplished.

It’s been a real pleasure to be able to work collaboratively with AUSU and AU as well. As a group, we’ve been able to contribute to the Learning Framework Steering committee and hold a series of Meet & Greets and student consultations to gather student opinions on how AU should look in the next 50 years. We’ve also had the opportunity to speak with key individuals at AU for a resource planning student consultation, which was a really exciting opportunity for us to express what we believe the students are concerned with the most for the future to ensure the university is delegating the appropriate funds to those areas of concern.

Individually, I’ve been really excited to be able to contribute to the student experience through specific goals in my work-plan. This year I’ve been looking at career services, how we outline our position policies (and thus our stances on topics we’d like to advocate for), and helping to develop an evaluation tool for services among a couple other administrative goals. Aside from this work, I recently had the opportunity to create a video on behalf of AUSU for a campaign lead by the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services, called #IBelieveYou … Now What? Having the chance to express my thoughts on this campaign, being a sexual violence survivor myself, was an opportunity I was very grateful for and I hope it will help others to feel confident about speaking up as well.

It’s been a pretty jam-packed 6 months. This post could be more jam-packed, but these highlights stand out in my mind and have shaped my perception of my journey so far. I’m sure the remaining 6 months in my term as VPFA will be just as eventful, if not more so. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Natasha Donahue
VP Finance and Administration