On April 27, AUSU introduced its new Executive Director, Karyna Hoch. Karyna has been with AUSU since 2009 as Office Coordinator. Two weeks after beginning her new role as ED, and in the midst of training new Office Coordinator Donette Kingyens, Karyna took the time to speak with The Voice Magazine writer Barbara Lehtiniemi about her new role at AUSU.
You’ve been with AUSU since 2009. Did you ever expect to be Executive Director?
Never. In fact, during my initial interview for the Office Coordinator’s position, the then-Executive Director, Tamra Ross, asked me where I could see myself in five years. She cautioned me that the only position I could move into at AUSU would be hers. I didn’t know if I’d ever want all that responsibility. As the years went on I found myself quite satisfied with the Office Coordinator’s position. I was content and assumed I would work many years under Tamra.
Even when the ED position became open, I didn’t really consider moving into that role. I just assumed they would interview for the position and I’d continue on as Office Coordinator working under a new ED. It wasn’t until about two months ago, when I was asked if I would consider the position that I began thinking about it.
Being a long-time AUSU employee must be an advantage to this position. What experience from your former position of Office Coordinator will be your biggest asset in your new position?
I think It’s knowing the fundamentals of how the office is run. Also, having worked with a variety of AUSU student councillors over the past 6 years, and having made connections with AU staff, I have a solid grasp of the structure behind AU and AUSU.
Every job has a learning curve. What skill will you most need to develop in this position?
For me It’s the governance aspect. Tamra, the former ED, was proficient in that and as Office Coordinator I never had any real need to learn governance in a detailed way. It’s going to be a challenging case of learning as I go. Given the circumstances of the past few weeks it will be a bit of trial by fire!
What do you see as your most urgent priority as ED?
It will be maintaining stability while we rebuild AUSU and deal with the changes. We have a new president on council, the number of councillors has been depleted to six, and we have new staff. I want to see us evolve toward growth.
At the end of your first year, what would most like to have accomplished?
It’s a bit difficult to answer because in less than a year we’ll have another election for student council. However, what I’d like is to have the three executive positions on council and the AUSU staff to feel comfortable together. In order to serve the students we need to work together, consult the members, and come up with tangible benefits to offer AU students.
The AUSU office has been understaffed for a number of months. How have things been getting done and what plans are in place to re-staff the office?
I’m pleased to say that we have a new Office Administration Assistant, Donette Kingyens, who started in early May. For the month of April, I was on my own but the volume of inquiries from students was relatively low (thank goodness it wasn’t September!) so I was able to manage with a bit of juggling. It was a more significant challenge when we lost Tamra last October. Fortunately, at that time, Kim Newsome and Corrina Green helped out and we split up the work between the three of us. Now, there’s two of us in the office and as we implement new services, we’ll evaluate if we need a third staff member again.
The former ED did a lot of the website updates and technical stuff. How will that type of work be handled going forward?
We are using the services of a contract IT person. She and Tamra had worked on technical projects together previously, but eventually Tamra took over the lion’s share of those duties. This contract person is familiar with the design of our website as a whole and has some positive suggestions for improvements that we can work toward.
What would you most like to see from the newly-configured AUSU student council?
I’d like to see a renewed focus on the members. I believe we need to have an understanding of what our members want in regards to their university experience at AU, so that we can better understand what we at AUSU can do to assist.
Why should students care about AUSU?
I’d love to see our members more involved because when they are better engaged in the AU and AUSU community, they benefit from the whole experience. Right now, we offer services like lynda.com (link), and SmartDraw to our members, and we’ve recently implemented a health care plan. we’re always on the lookout for ways we can improve our members? engagement within the AU community. It makes being part of AU more enjoyable for students.
What new projects are in the works that AUSU members will be interested in?
Currently we’re working on a mobile app?AUSU is moving into the future! we’re hoping for a September launch. And we’re in discussions on a plan to offer mental health support. The intent is to engage an external provider to offer counselling sessions to assist with, for example, the stress students face with school, work, and family. This plan could become a reality in the next few months. I’m pleased to see that new council president, Shawna Wasylyshyn, wants to poll the members to find out what the members want.
In your bio on the AUSU site, you state that “AUSU members who are able to connect by networking and building relationships with others students enjoy their AU time significantly more.” What networking suggestions do you have for students who are flung across the country and the globe?
I find that most students prefer the unofficial AU Facebook group, with over 1600 members, to connect with other students. We also have the AUSU Forum pages, which have not seen as much traffic since we joined Facebook and Twitter. If students want to feel even more patched in, they can participate in the AUSU student council elections early in 2016, either by running for a council seat or voting in the election. We also have The Voice Magazine, where students can share their views and experiences and also read other students? views.
There used to be more in-person student meet-ups; for a time the Toronto meet-up thrived. There hasn’t been as much success in other cities. At AUSU, we’re always open to suggestions on how to help students feel engaged with other students and with AU.
Do you read The Voice Magazine?
I do, and more so in the last few weeks! I think recent events have brought more coverage for The Voice. On a regular basis, I read it once or twice a month
What AU course are you taking right now?
I’ll be finishing my current course in June: PSYC 388, Introduction to Counselling. I love this course?I’m finding it enormously helpful when students call in to AUSU. This course gives me the tools to listen and to provide comfort when students are extremely upset so that I can piece together what the issue it and how to help. Next I’ll be taking PSYC 395, Forensic Psychology. This is more for personal interest?for fun?rather than because I need it for my degree program.
What’s typically your first thought upon waking each morning?
“How do I get my six-year-old son prepared and dressed and out the door in 35 minutes?”
Do you sing when You’re driving?
I do. Quite loud.
Blue ink or black ink?
I use an extra fine point Sharpie in black ink.
If you were sentenced to life in prison (unjustly, of course) and could only take one book and one movie with you, which would you choose?
For a book, I’d choose The Bible. I’m a believer, and I think I’d need the comfort of reading in the scriptures about those who have been unjustly persecuted. For a movie, I think I’d need some laughter to distract me from my situation. It’s kind of low-brow humour, and not in keeping with my book choice, but I would choose Bridesmaids.
Is there anything else you want to tell students about AUSU?
I’d like to add that, as we’re re-building the organization, we really want to hear from students during this process. We want to rebuild an AUSU that students feel is helpful for them. I would implore members to come to one of our meetings to find out what we do. This is really a good time for students to give us input on what they’d like from AUSU.