AUSU COUNCIL CANDIDATE – Melanie Gray
See http://www.ausu.org/election/candidates.php for a list of all of the candidates.
How did you first become aware of AUSU Council, and why do you want to be a part of council in 2004?
I started at AU in August 2002 and found my way to AUSU forums through website navigation which is how I found out about the Council and their programs. I have always been involved in my geographical and internet communities and would love the chance to represent students in my educational community.
Tell me a little about your experience with distance education: How many AU or distance education courses have you completed, and what have you found hardest, or most rewarding, about distance study.
I have a whopping 24 credits under my belt with another 12 credits in the next 6 weeks. While studying at a “traditional university” I took some distance education courses mainly because the classes were full. That was when I discovered that I excelled at distance education classes. I like not having to attend stuffy classes where the professor spouts the textbook verbatim and I love the fact that I can work at my own pace and get it done as quickly or not as quickly. The hardest part of distance education is the lack of daily face to face contact but the use of forums and chats can help lessen that aspect of distance education isolation.
What role, if any, has AUSU played in your AU experience so far? If AUSU has not played a role, what could it have done to facilitate your learning?
Last year I hit some hard times with my now ex-husband and I applied and received an emergency bursary from AUSU which made a significant impact on me at the time. In the university setting most traditional schools offer emergency funding in the way of a loan but that is always there waiting to be paid back. With AUSU it did not have to be paid back and I was not putting myself into deeper debt to stay in school. AUSU council have also listened to the posts on the forums and responded with help and caring, including issues with course registration by being an intermediary between me and some other students and AU. It has also been wonderful to have a website to keep everyone up to date on school issues and national issues relating to education.
What work or life experience(s) have you had that you feel will be particularly valuable to you in working with council?
I have been a community volunteer since I could walk, at the time helping my grandparents with the Knights of Columbus or Lions events. When I hit high school, I became a charter member of the Penticton Leo’s Club and treasurer. After moving to Alberta in my 20s, I joined the Kinette Club of Fort McMurray, where I also became bulletin editor. I have stuck with Kinettes, although I have moved a couple times since. With Kinettes, I have also become bulletin editor (again), secretary, and finally club president. While serving as bulletin editor I won an award for my bulletin beating many other clubs throughout BC and the Yukon. I have also won an award for an article I wrote about my Kinette club once again beating many people in the BC and Yukon for that honour.
If someone were to ask you why they should choose to attend AU, over other universities, what would you tell them?
Having been asked this already, I know what I would say. AU offers a huge selection of courses that are challenging and, in certain cases, fun. AU has everything that any other school has except dorms. You can work at your own pace and are marked accordingly. The tutors, academic experts and everyone else at the school are nice and helpful and the other students are helpful and friendly. What other school offers course that can be taken internationally and be applied internationally? The best is that you attend AU and get a degree from AU, not from a different school which holds distance education centre under its wing.
Speaking generally, what do you feel is the primary role of a students’ union (i.e., student advocacy, services, financial support, etc)?
Providing student advocacy has to be the most important role of a student’s union with all the other services coming close behind. It is the student’s union job to be the voice of the students and to be the go-between. Many students are on the periphery students union but it is important to listen to and communicate for all the students.
Is there one, most important thing that you want to do for AU students as a member of council?
I am determined to find a new forum and possibly chat format for the website, offering a more user friendly option for the students as well as bringing more students into the discussions, even if I have to call everyone myself and tell them where to go (but in a good way!!).
Working with AUSU council means working with a group. What do you see as the benefits and/or disadvantages of working as a part of a large group or board, rather than as an individual.
Working as a group provides the opportunity for more ideas to be brought forth and for those ideas to be better shaped for the students needs. The problems that can arise with large groups is when feelings get hurt but that can be sorted out as long as it is done at the time it happened and then group can move ahead and be victorious.