Executive Blog: A Year In Review

As 2021 comes to an end, the AUSU Exec Team have taken a moment to reflect on the whirlwind of the past year.  

With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting our lives, advocacy has continued to look a bit different for AUSU. Our executive team continues to embrace the advantages of our online AU environment by advocating for AU learners from our home bases across Canada in Calgary, Brandon, Ottawa, and Toronto. We have accomplished a great deal and, as we head into 2022, are excited to share some of our recent wins and achievements, upcoming plans, and next steps!

Tuition – Affordability has been at the forefront of our advocacy, with rising Alberta tuition rates also greatly affecting out-of-province and international learners. As an organization, AUSU strongly advocates against tuition increases. Although we were disappointed to learn of the recent 5% hike (effective Sept 2021), in comparison to the 7% (or higher in some instances) for many other Alberta post-secondary institutions (PSE), we remain committed to advocating for reductions.

Learning Material Choices and Tutor Accountability – AUSU continues to advocate for choice in learning materials, including physical and e-texts textbooks, as we are aware that the one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all learner styles and experiences. Noting student concerns, AUSU also continues to advocate for tutor accountability and reasonable marking standards.

Compassionate Grading – After months of advocacy, AUSU is pleased that compassionate grading has finally been implemented at AU. Further information on how to apply is available on the AU website.

Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) – AUSU has been at the forefront of representing student voices since AU announced the Fall 2022 launch of the ILE. Further information is available on the AU website

External Advocacy – Advocacy on the federal, provincial, and municipal levels continue, ensuring that the unique needs of AU students are represented. VPEX Karen Fletcher is the elected Policy Chair for the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), while President Stacey Hutchings is the elected Treasurer for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). VPEX Fletcher is also a member of the Calgary Student Alliance (CSA).

President Hutchings, VPEX Fletcher, VPCW Iwanek, and former VPFA Almigdad Eldoma attended the Fall CAUS Counterparts Conference. President Hutchings, VPEX Fletcher, and VPCW Iwanek were also able to attend the Winter edition of CAUS Counterparts. Additionally, both the VPEX and VPCW attended the Alberta Student Congress.

Furthermore, VPEX Fletcher met with MLAs David Eggen, Deron Bilous, and Lorne Dach, and together, the VPEX and President met with Greg McClean, MP of Calgary Centre.

Most recently, AUSU partnered with the Open University Students Association to discuss distance learning advocacy. We attended the first International Distance-Learning Student Forum where we discussed various issues facing distance learners in Canada and abroad – so many similarities! Read all about it in Going Global: The International Distance-Learning Student Forum in The Hoot, Open UK’s student newspaper. We look forward to meeting again this coming February!

AU Donation – We were pleasantly surprised to receive a $90,000 donation from AU to further fund our AUSU Awards and Bursaries Program, community and wellness initiatives, and our Virtual Food Assistance Program in 2022. Stay tuned for more info!

AUSU Services and Awards and Bursaries Program – Since AU learners may face economic and food insecurity, this term’s newly launched Virtual Food Assistance Program and the Awards and Bursaries Program have both been doubled. We also continue to offer free resume review support through VMock and free access to LinkedIn Learning

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) – We have also extensively focused on EDI this term, with the creation of the EDI Committee, as well as the Indigenous Student Circle at AUSU. AUSU’s EDI initiatives focus on the needs of disabled, chronically ill, and neurodiverse learners, as well as those requiring mental health support and accommodations. The team also liaised with Nukskahtowin and Accessibility Services. Stay tuned for Black History Month in February!

Underrepresentation in Student Leadership Survey and the 2021 Annual Survey – AUSU recently conducted a survey to understand the systemic barriers that equity-seeking groups face when running for student leadership positions. The results are currently being used to create policies to better support underrepresented learners. Finally, thank you all for participating in AUSU’s 2021 Annual Survey! The responses will help guide our advocacy next term.

2SLGBTQIA+ Pride – After a successful Pride Month in June, AUSU did it again with its first official October Pride Week. Speakers included Joshua Whitehead and Dr Tobias Wiggins, a Pride-themed AUSUnights, Pride podcast, social media content, and great contests! AUSU also donated a bursary to the upcoming Trans Research Centre. For support year-round, come say hey on the 2SLGBTQIA+ Discord Server, which is open to friends and allies.

Mental Health – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, AUSU remains a strong advocate for increased mental health supports, including Homewood Health and Talk Campus.

Student Leadership Opportunities – In addition to the above mentioned EDI Committee and Indigenous Student Circle, we provide student leadership opportunities through the Member Engagement and Communications (MECC) Committee, Finance Committee, and Awards Committee.

Undergraduate Research Focus – We have also focused heavily on undergraduate research this term, supporting and attending AUGSA’s annual Graduate Student Research Conference. Stay tuned for AUSU’s Research Week in January!

Get Out the Vote – For the Canadian Federal Election, AUSU created a Get Out the Vote campaign including information for voters and a Virtual Election Watch Party.

Goodbye and Good Luck – Finally, we also said goodbye and best of luck to former VPFA Almigdad Eldoma who has been a champion for students and a member of the Exec Team since the last term. Thanks for all your dedication, Almigdad! Join us in welcoming the newest member of our team, VPFA Leah Campbell!

Wishing you all a safe holiday season and a fantastic new year, 

Stacey Hutchings (she/her)  – View Bio

Vice-President Community and Wellness
Natalia Iwanek (she/they) – View Bio

Vice-President External
Karen Fletcher (she/her) – View Bio

Vice-President Finance and Administration
Leah Campbell (she/her) – View Bio