March Executive Blog

In case you haven’t yet heard, AUSU just had our annual executive election. All three executive members from the 2018/19 term were re-elected into their present positions, which is great news! That means I can spend another year with my amazing team members in order to work toward the goals of our student council. Best of all, we can continue to do so without needing a transition period.

One year ago, I entered the world of student governance, and I really had no idea what I was getting into. I tried my best to build a perception of my new role as VPFA, but with my experience level, I did not fully grasp everything I would encounter on the road ahead. I was assured by Jodi, our executive director, as well as our president, Brandon, that my skill level was not a problem and that these positions were built for students who had no experience.

With that reassurance in mind, I went a bit easier on myself and started to observe. I immersed myself in meetings that, in the early days, were really difficult to wrap my mind around. I sat and listened to the lingo and “alphabet soup” being used so nonchalantly that it would normally inspire unease in my stark lack of knowledge, but the team has really always been great about education and I was comfortable with asking for clarity. Over this past year, my knowledge of the structures of student, university, provincial, and federal governance and politics has followed a steep curve of exponential growth.

The first month on council passed by quickly; this was my shadow period. On my third day in my position, I made a presentation for the Faculty of Science and Technology (FST) on student perspectives. I was terrified. FST’s amazing Dean, Dr. Lisa Carter reassured me, “You did so great, we really love to hear from the students.” The AU community has been pretty supportive.

I had no idea I would be making presentations to faculties, but I thought that was pretty cool. It is an excellent way to have a voice heard on a level you never imagined you’d have access to. The months passed by, and I have been able to learn a pretty decent depth of knowledge on the finances and policies of AUSU. I’ve now been through a whole budget cycle, chairing finance committee meetings along the way (did I mention we had a crash course in Robert’s Rules of Order?). I’ve been working through regular policy review, and also have just completed a major overhaul of our position policies thanks to support from my colleagues. The ability to complete such a meaningful project in one term is an accomplishment I’m rather proud of.

Along the way, I’ve been able to sit on internal committees within the university, including the General Faculties Council (GFC), Student Academic Appeals Committee, Student Awards Committee, GFC Executive Committee, and various faculty councils, to name a few. This has given me the ability to voice concerns and represent students directly to the university – a very valuable role that I did not realize I’d have the opportunity to take on.

The committees don’t end there, though. AU has had a very busy year as well, and I’ve been able to sit on the Search Committee for AU’s new VPFA, the Faculty of Health Disciplines Dean Reappointment Committee, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Symposium, and be a part of student resource consultations. These opportunities to help shape the university on such a fundamental level is so important, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from participating in these opportunities representing AUSU and its student members.

This past fall, AU hosted a Star Party alongside other Canadian institutions in celebration of the 150th birthday of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The event was a huge success despite the poor weather, with a turnout of over 200 individuals in Athabasca. I was able to sit on this planning committee as a representative of AUSU and provide children’s activities and volunteer coordination. In turn, AUSU was recognized as a partner, and this type of collaboration should help to further our relationships with our university.

I was also able to travel to Ottawa to take part in Advocacy Week with the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations (CASA), where we lobbied to federal government officials on numerous topics developed through the year. The week was an amazing experience for me and the exec team, and I am forever grateful for the chance to experience Canada’s capital city in this way. This trip produced memories I will always hold dearly.

I’m now researching career services for students and working on an AUSU services evaluation tool. I’m also watching all of the initiatives my fellow executive committee has been working on unfold, including a new AUSU podcast, and new website and branding.

It’s been a lot of fun to take on the various roles and responsibilities of this position, and an honour to be a voice for students of AU. I’m inspired to see the goals and projects of our organization coming to fruition, and it’s so exciting to be able to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2019/20 term brings – at least this time I know what I’m getting into.

Natasha Donahue
VP Finance and Administration