The Athabasca University Students’ Union has long provided services to and represented the interests of undergraduate students at Athabasca University. But graduate students at AU have until recently remained without official representation, relying on the voluntary services of AUSU. With the inception of the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association, or AUGSA, graduate students now have a voice of their own.
On Thursday, November 5, AUGSA hosted its first open house, giving students the opportunity to learn about the history of the association as well as current projects.
Participants in the open house included current members of the AUGSA Executive, AU graduate students, and representatives from external organizations. Acting AUGSA President Ron Jagmohan welcomed over a dozen participants to the teleconference, calling the evening a ?historic event? for the organization. AUGSA’s ?journey has only just begun,? he said.
Students currently involved with the Association radiated enthusiasm throughout the evening. Heather Clitheroe, the AUGSA secretary, said that she was ?thrilled? at the number of participants, while treasurer Amanda Nielsen told participants she was ?excited to go forward? with the organization.
Robbie Chernish, AUGSA Coordinator, gave students an in-depth look at the history and formation of the association, explaining that while a steering committee was set up a few years ago to create an association for Athabasca’s graduate students (in accordance with Alberta’s Post-Secondary Learning Act) the distance nature of AU gave rise to a number of problems, and ?progress was slow.? After an initial council was elected by acclamation, though, AUGSA drafted its initial bylaws. It became an official organization in the fall of 2008 and began to charge membership fees in September 2009.
AUGSA is in the process of raising awareness of their existence and activities. To this end, AUGSA is preparing to launch a new website, and is also conducting a logo-development contest. Students were asked to submit their original logo designs by the end of October. Entries will be available for viewing on the new website when it launches, and AU graduate students will have the opportunity to choose their favourite design in a voting period at the beginning of December.
After Mr. Chernish’s discussion of the logo contest, participants heard from Kristy Kutanzi, the Executive Director, Communications, of the Alberta Graduate Council. She discussed the benefits of membership in the AGC, whose member associations include the universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge.
Also up for a vote in December will be health and dental plans being considered by the Association. Bryan Boechler and Cory Wright, representatives of Gallivan and Associates, attended the open house and gave a short presentation about the different options available. Wright explained that all the plans being considered would work much like, and be able to coordinate with, employee benefit plans. In the December referendum, students will have the opportunity to choose what level of health and dental coverage, if any, is most desirable.
During the same voting period in December, graduate students will elect a new AUGSA student council. Nominations are currently being accepted for representatives from all graduate programs, as well as for AUGSA president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and student services liaison. The Association is especially seeking representatives from less-common graduate programs, including graduate certificate and diploma programs, as well as Athabasca’s new doctoral program. Several students at the open house voiced their interest in joining AUGSA’s student council.
Acting President Ron Jagmohan closed the evening by thanking participants for their attendance. ?There was so much energy on the call, and so much participation,? he said. ?We’ve reached a turning point, and I’m very pleased.?
More information on the AUGSA can be found on their website.