Eight Questions for Eight Candidates

Voting for the AUSU By-election will start in just a few days (August 25th, watch your e-mail), and with four seats open on Council, this could have a noticable effect on AUSU’s priorities.  So to help you decide who’s going to best represent you, we sent a few questions to each of them.  Candidates were sent the questions later on Wednesday, August 12, and asked to have their responses in by just before midnight this morning, August 21–it’s that fresh!  They were also asked to keep their answers fairly short so that you can quickly decide what you like and don’t.  We’ll let you judge for yourself how well they did on that front.

Of the eight candidates, six submitted answers. Their answers are printed in the order that we received the responses, with no editing at all other than making the formatting work.  If there’s no answer for a candidate under a question, it’s because that candidate decided not to answer that question.

So, without further ado, let’s see what the candidates had to say!

What faculty are you in, if any, and how much longer do you expect to be studying at AU?

Karen Julia Fletcher

I’m in the Faculty of Science and Technology, studying Math, and expect to be at AU another 2-3 years.

Natalia Iwanek

I am currently in my third year of my Bachelor of Arts in English. I plan to continue at AU for my MA.

Amber McDuffe

I am in the Bachelor of Science program as a human science major and psychology minor.  I will be studying for another 2.5 to 3 years.

Jennifer Bouley

I am in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Program Student. I expect to be studying at AU until June 2021. I am also a graduate of the Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations Program.

Hannah Olsen

I am in the Faculty of Business working on my BComm in Accounting, which I will be finishing in approximately 2-3 years.

Mark Teeninga

I’m currently enrolled in the faculty of Science & Technology, part-time, and expect to be studying at AU for at least 3-4 more years.

Aside from tuition, what do you think is the most important issue AUSU needs to address for students?

Karen Julia Fletcher

Keeping tutors and markers accountable! AU has marking standards but when they’re not met it’s left to the student to follow up, but many are concerned that will annoy their tutors and affect their grades. I want to advocate for systems to put in place to keep tutors accountable to AU’s standards so students can focus on their studies.

Natalia Iwanek

Aside from the 7% tuition increase, I think AUSU needs to continue advocating for students during this lingering COVID-19 pandemic.  Despite AU’s online infrastructure, problems have become increasingly apparent, including issues with student services, tutor marking times, and digital accessibility, such as ProctorU exams and the newly implemented e-texts.  In addition, increased support for underrepresented students, including those using ASD services and those facing financial difficulties, needs to be continued.

Amber McDuffe

Communication and transparency, AU in general whether it is tutors or administration are incredibly difficult to get an answer out of on a good day, never mind when you are on a time crunch.  This needs to change as it contributes to the stress of students and causes problems for our mental health.

Jennifer Bouley

I feel that addressing student life balance and wellness are very important.

Hannah Olsen

I think that some of the most important issues that AUSU needs to be addressing for students outside of tuition includes student mental health support. The unpredictable times we are in have impacted every student in one way or another, and I believe it’s very important to support our student body to continue to set them up for success despite the changes we have encountered due to the pandemic.

Mark Teeninga

I think one of the biggest challenges for students is around prompt response for Student Services, both from the Tutors, and AU Staff, such as Exam Services and the Financial Aid office.  AUSU needs to be pushing for transparency and accountability from both AU staff and faculty.

What’s the hardest thing about an average day for you?

Karen Julia Fletcher

At the moment, dealing with being home all the time. Being unable to physically get away from my work and from where I do my school work makes it hard for me to ever step away from that, I feel like I should be working on something if I’m home. I’m trying to get better at actually taking time off!

Natalia Iwanek

As a freelancer and online student, my days are so varied; every new day brings a new challenge.  I try to balance the stress, the current state of the world, and the rare moments away from never-ending assignments, by getting outside of the city and just relaxing.

Amber McDuffe

I am currently working full time as a paramedic, run my own first aid training business, am enrolled in full time studies and an active volunteer in my community which can make finding time for self care difficult.  There are so many contributing factors that can make my days hard depending on what I experience.  Finding a healthy balance in life and remembering to put my own needs first can be the hardest part of an average day for me as I am the type of person who regularly wants to do whatever I can to help others.

Jennifer Bouley

My biggest struggle on an average given day for me would be keeping on schedule when studying sometimes! For effective studying, it is all about creating a productive environment.

Hannah Olsen

For myself, the hardest thing in an average day is setting realistic expectations on how much I can achieve while still protecting my mental well-being and health amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mark Teeninga

The time between waking up, and when my coffee is ready!

If there was a new service, program, activity, or degree you could convince AU (not AUSU) to offer to students, what would it be?

Karen Julia Fletcher

A minor in data science, with courses in Python, Tableau, and other technology that’s in high demand, to provide grads with marketable skills and improve job prospects after graduation.

Natalia Iwanek

In speaking with students, I have noticed recurring themes of not feeling acknowledged and needs not being understood. Increased options for ASD students are required, especially since most exams have transitioned to ProctorU services, as well as alternative assignments and increased mental health services for all students, in these unprecedented times.  Many students also seem keen on expanding departments, such as communications, marketing, and management.  I have also noticed that many wish more language options were available in addition to French, Cree, and Spanish, as well as journalism and art courses.

Amber McDuffe

A health benefits plan for all students.  This is something most major universities provide; Homewood health is a nice resource to have provided by AUSU, but we need a comprehensive plan that is provided by AU.  Unforeseen medical costs can cause a student to no longer be able to afford their education, no one should have to choose between their health and their educational future.

Jennifer Bouley

I think that a new service that AU could offer its students would be health and dental insurance at a discounted rate. These are very important especially for part-time and freelance workers.

Hannah Olsen

If there was a new service that AU could offer to students it would be a tutorial program and video series where students explain their experiences and challenges with online learning. In my experience, the transition from conventional in-class schooling to online schooling was a massive learning curve and I think that students would benefit with more support during that transition time.

Mark Teeninga

I would like to see enhancement in AU’s Digital systems, specifically a clear, student focused portal that provides visibility and timelines to any and all requests the student has open with the university.  This would include items like assignments, exam requests, registrar requests, Financial Aid packages, and Credit transfer requests  Each item would have the submission date, stages in the process, which employee / Faculty Member / Group has ownership of the request, and what the service standards are for each type of request, with a clear process for communication and escalation when standards have not been met.

What’s going to be the biggest challenge for you should you get elected?

Karen Julia Fletcher

I think when people ask “what’s the biggest challenge” we often mean “what will be the hard part,” but being challenged is such a great feeling (it’s why I went back to university, I was bored). I love being in situations where I have to learn new things and new ways of doing things, and I think being elected would be challenging in lots of fantastic ways.

Natalia Iwanek

I do not foresee too many challenges; apart from stopping myself from dreaming too big, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  No change has ever come from complacency.

Amber McDuffe

My reason for seeking a position in this election is to help alleviate the stress of my fellow students; the biggest challenge for me will be ensuring I am able to meet that goal in a timely fashion since it is contingent on the responses received from what will be my fellow council members, AU and the government.  I am very much a “do it right or don’t do it at all” type of person and want to make sure I “do it right” for all of you because not doing it at all isn’t an option.

Jennifer Bouley

 

Hannah Olsen

I believe that the biggest challenge in being elected would be jumping into the AUSU while it is in full swing, however the members I have had the pleasure to interact with already are incredibly supportive and welcoming so I’m excited for the potential to work alongside them!

Mark Teeninga

Since I already participated as a council member in the 2018-2020 council term, my biggest challenge will be catching up with the Staff and Council members. It’s only been a few months but it seems like a lot more time has past.

Is there a program or activity AUSU does now that you think it should expand?

Karen Julia Fletcher

I love the AU app because of how it creates a community amongst distance learners, it’s so nice to hear from other people who are also studying. I would love to have a weekly discussion question that’s posted to foster more discussion and help people connect with each other.

Natalia Iwanek

I think that new initiatives, such as the Indigenous Representation Committee and the initiatives for students with disabilities are an amazing start to creating increased inclusivity and systemic change on a post-secondary level.  I would like to see this further expanded for new and immigrant students, students with financial difficulties, and all BIPOC, as well as queer students.  I would also like to see more social events on Zoom as well to create a stronger community.  AU students often feel isolated; expanding current initiatives, such as social and networking opportunities, would be a great start.

Amber McDuffe

AUSU states “One of AUSU’s key goals is to ensure that our members receive a quality education that is respected and transferable to institutions within Canada and abroad,” I feel that goal is not being met.  Majority of the classes I have taken are using grossly outdated textbooks and haven’t been updated in years, over a decade sometimes.  This isn’t acceptable and we need to make sure AU is doing their part to provide up to date, quality education.  Expanding our focus on this area is very important.

Jennifer Bouley

I think that AU should expand its knowledge about how exams are written and the guidelines. There seems to be a lot of concerns among students regarding this. Also, since it is an online university, I think that student knowledge about the school’s counseling services should be expanded. There are also great programs that the school offers that students can utilize.

Hannah Olsen

I am a huge proponent for mental health and well-being, so the program that I believe could always be expanded on further is Student Wellness.

Mark Teeninga

I’d like to see more opportunities for online social interaction with our membership… I know some “Game Nights” have been facilitated, and I believe the opportunity to connect and network, while having fun, is an important element of higher education.

Is there a program or activity AUSU does now that you think it could cut back?

Karen Julia Fletcher

 

Natalia Iwanek

The current AUSU initiatives, including bursaries and awards, the Indigenous Representation Committee, initiatives for students with disabilities, and programs such as the AU app, LinkedIn, V-Mock, and Peer Reviewed Courses greatly benefit students.  I would not cut support from anything.

Amber McDuffe

Eliminate the current mediocre health supports such as Homewood health and eyewear discounts; instead push AU to provide their students with a comprehensive group benefits plan.

Jennifer Bouley

 

Hannah Olsen

I truly believe that all of the programs that AUSU offers to the student body are valuable in improving the student experience at AU, so I do not believe that any should be cut back.

Mark Teeninga

In my previous term on council, all programs and activities were reviewed for their relevance and overall impact.  In each case, members were found to be using the services, and the benefits outweighed the costs/efforts for each program/activity.

What are you most hoping to gain personally from this experience if you’re elected?

Karen Julia Fletcher

I’m an introvert that loves people, I care deeply about people and love being able to be a part of making things better from others (especially in situations where a lot of it can be done remotely!) and I’m passionate about administration done well. It’s really personally satisfying to be able to serve others in a way that lines up with my abilities and passions, which is why I hope people will vote for me.

Natalia Iwanek

I advocate for issues that I feel strongly about on a daily basis.  A position on AUSU Council would allow me to put my words into practice, and hopefully, make some sort of lasting change.

Amber McDuffe

Personal gain isn’t the reason why I am hoping to get into this position, nor do I think anyone should enter a student support or advocacy position with those intentions.  I am instead going to re-phrase the question and let you know what I am hoping will come from this experience is a reduction in student stress, an increase in quality education and to ensure I can help every student from every background and situation to feel they are heard while addressing concerns in a timely manner.

Jennifer Bouley

The main thing that I am looking to gain from this experience is to get more involved with the student experience and help students the maximum benefit out of what the school has to offer. It is also exciting to get to know other students.

Hannah Olsen

While I was a student at Lakeland College I was elected as the President of the Students’ Association, so I am hoping to further my professional experience, student leadership skills, and knowledge in student government should I be one of the elected councillors.

Mark Teeninga

I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of advocating on behalf of AUSU members in 2018-2020.  I formed friendships and found that my AUSU experience enriched my overall learning experience at AU.  I hope to gain that opportunity again for 2020-2022.

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