The Voice Candidate Questions

Your Candidates for the 2022-2024 AUSU Council!

Thirteen seats are open on AUSU Student Council.  These are the seats that students will sit in and who will be responsible for taking your concerns and your issues to the university, the provincial government, and beyond.

This election, we have ten students vying for these seats, but it’s not just automatic.  It still comes down to you to decide if these are really the people you want representing you.  Starting March 10th, voting will open and you will be allowed to register a Yes or a No vote for each candidate.  And don’t just assume this is going to be a rubber stamp.  The student body has rejected potential candidates in the past, so your vote matters.

To help you decide if these candidates are the ones you want representing you, each election, the Voice Magazine sends out a number of questions for them to answer.  Their answers are then printed here, in the order that I received them in email.  No editing has been done, with each response being a raw reflection of how they chose to respond.

Eight out of the ten candidates provided answers by the deadline.  If a candidate who responded chose not to answer one or more of the questions, their name is included under the question, but their response left blank.

The rest, as they say, is up to you.


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

Blake Collett

I am in the faculty of Health Disciplines.  I expect to be studying at AU till late 2025.

Natalia Iwanek

I am in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) here at Athabasca University (AU), working on my degree in English and Political Science. I expect to be at AU for two more years.

Karen Fletcher

I’m in the Faculty of Science and Technology, and expect to finish my degree in the next 18 months to 2 years

Cilhane Ahmed

I have been enrolled in the BA major Psychology minor French since January 2021. I hope to graduate by the end of 2024.

Amber McDuffe

I am in the bachelor of arts program, majoring in psychology with a minor in women’s and gender studies now but started in the bachelor of science program.  I will be sudying for at least 2 more years.

Rebecca Weubbolt

I’m with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences currently completing my undergraduate degree in psychology. I expect to complete my studies within the next two years.

Allie Wojtaszek

My degree is Bachelor of General Studies (Arts and Science) and I will hopefully complete it by 2024.

Eva Embree

BA – psych major. I have 2 years left, but hope to finish in 4 before moving on to grad school.

Are there any particular tactics you’d like AUSU to pursue on the tuition issue for future years?

Blake Collett

A tactic I would like AUSU to pursue on the tuition issue for future years is looking for support at the Federal level due to the wide array of students across the country.

Natalia Iwanek

The tuition increase over the past terms was unacceptable and so disappointing, despite everyone’s best efforts. I would promote increased advocacy to the Alberta provincial government to increase post-secondary funding, especially in the unique case of AU. This would include increased meetings with MLAs, as well as internally within AU, to ensure that student concerns are recognized. I would also strive for increased consultation with AU’s diverse student demographics to ensure that all voices are represented, including out-of-province/country learners, learners of all ages, learners with dependents, rural/remote leaners, equity-seeking learners, and learners with accessibility needs.

Karen Fletcher

I’d like us to pressure AU to commit to dedicating a certain amount of any increase to students in financial need.  MacEwan and Mount Royal Universities have both had success with this technique.

Cilhane Ahmed

I do not have particular tactics to offer but just asking for common sense. The last increases have been debated and applied during the COVID-19 crisis, whereas many people lost their job, and it was the most challenging time to pursue study. Even though AU offers solutions for those who are struggling during this pandemic (such as the contract extension for free and the temporary compassionate grade policy), I still believe it is not the time to increase the tuition.

Amber McDuffe

I feel it is really important that AU listens to students, we have been treated like walking ATM’s for far too long and the voice of AUSU doesn’t seem to be heard.  I feel we can talk to AU about this until we are blue in the face but seeing the negative impact they are causing may be better.  Bring to them, letters from students explaining how they chose AU because they can’t afford to be off work and attend a traditional brick and mortar school, that they are now having to ration their food so they can pay their bills while still going to school and relying on the food banks for assistance because they want a better life and education is the way out of poverty, that students are living with maxed out credit cards and mounting student loan debt just trying to do this.  We can tell them these things all we want but it may be more impactful and harder to ignore if the board of governors are presented with a pile of letters or copies of the social media posts from students themselves.  Declining enrollment numbers are not a reason to increase tuition, a considerable amount of learners are now looking to other schools because of this and they are only hurting themselves yet again with their ignorance.

Rebecca Weubbolt

 

Allie Wojtaszek

I would like to advocate for AU to reduce their fees for out of province learners. Maintaining fairness between students outside and inside of Alberta will be key to enrolment growth, and I want AUSU to show AU’s administration that eliminating out-of-province fees will be a financial win for the institution, not a detriment.

Eva Embree

Hopefully gather data regarding the cost vs value of the courses and programs through AU in comparison to other institutions, and advocate for AU to come more in line with those expectations and prices.

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

Blake Collett

I feel the most important issue AUSU needs to address for students is the vast grading variance between Tutors.

Natalia Iwanek

Aside from tuition, I would focus on ensuring timely course revision schedules, quicker tutor marking times, and prompt feedback. I would also focus on ensuring that students have a choice in materials for their courses, either physical textbooks or e-texts, depending on their learning styles. I would also increase accessibility for disabled, chronically ill, and/or neurodiverse students, including easier access to alternate assessments and registrations with Accessibility Services. I would advocate for increased supports for equity-seeking students. Finally, I would advocate to simplify the financial aid process.

Karen Fletcher

Course quality, including the material, lack of videos, and the level of feedback and response times from tutors.  Students deserve a great education and many of the courses don’t cut it.

Cilhane Ahmed

As I explained in my biography, I want to be the voice of newcomer students. I am from France, and like many AU students, I did a study in my home country. My first struggle was to understand all subtilities of Canadian education. I would have liked to have resources to guide me (in the same vein as the “Undergraduate Student Orientation”).

Amber McDuffe

Outdated courses and materials.  At one time, AU’s anatomy and physiology courses were actually a pre-requisite for paramedic programs in Alberta because they were so in-depth and relevant.  It hasn’t been that way for some time because a large majority of AU’s courses are outdated with stale materials.  The excuse that it takes a long time to update courses i just that, an excuse and a poor one.  If Portage College can continuously update their courses to use texts that are no more than 4 years old (because that is the standard in science communitees) and have their courses be university transfer credits that meet or exceed those of other Alberta universities then there is no reason why AU can’t do it as well.  I switched programs because the science courses I was in were using materials TWELVE years old and had been pulled from the publishers for numerous errors.  There needs to be accountability and oversight ensuring these courses are updated regularly and especially when issues like that come to light.  Our piece of paper at the end (diploma, certificate, etc) is only as good as the information we were given.

Rebecca Weubbolt

Students have academic goals they want to achieve but it can be difficult when we don’t see our tutor or course coordinator face to face. Not everyone is available during their tutor’s office hours and sometimes scheduling a meeting with them can be difficult. I believe online tutoring sessions would be a great way to help students reach their academic goals, whether this be one on one or group sessions

Allie Wojtaszek

I believe that students should have a choice between e-texts or physical textbooks for each course they enroll in. I know that my own personal learning style is not compatible with e-texts and this creates barriers to my own learning that force me to either struggle with the materials provided electronically or to purchase a print textbook so I can successfully complete my course, even though I have already paid fees that include a text.

Eva Embree

Outdated course materials and increased communication between staff and students.

What’s the best part of an average day for you?

Blake Collett

The best part of an average day for me is talking to my sons.

Natalia Iwanek

It has been a difficult year, for most—in my opinion—so the best part of an average day for me is striving for—and knowing—that maybe some small part of what I have done, in my personal or professional life, has made someone’s day just a little easier or a little happier.

Karen Fletcher

I like getting to sit down after the kids are in bed with my courses and work on my courses.  (I want to eventually get my PhD, I’d be happy to never leave university).

Cilhane Ahmed

The best part is when I have done everything that I put on my duty list day, and my daughter comes back from the day home. I know that is the signal of the fun part of the day, the moment when I will play as I am two years old and laugh a lot.

Amber McDuffe

My morning coffee, short and simple as it is the only consistent thing to my ever changing days.

Rebecca Weubbolt

Cooking dinner. I look forward to winding down by playing music in my kitchen and creating a delicious meal.

Allie Wojtaszek

I love how, when I come home from work, my cat Matthew comes to greet me at the door, loudly protesting that he is un-feeded and alas has never actually been fed in his 18 years of life, and that he needs me to rectify this immediately. It makes me feel like I am a really important human.

Eva Embree

Cuddling with my new son! Or trying to stop the puppy from licking him…

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

Blake Collett

A service I would convince AU to offer is Zoom sessions held by Tutors allowing students to ask questions in an informal classroom environment.

Natalia Iwanek

I would advocate for AU to offer more professional development, networking opportunities, and increased microcredentials. As many students know, a degree is often not enough to find a job upon graduation. I would also advocate for the creation of centres for equity-seeking communities, who are found in traditional brick and mortar institutions, as well as to include Indigenous content in all courses and focus on the Scarborough Charter. Finally, I would advocate for increased mental health supports, which have shown to be lacking, especially with the continuing pandemic, as well as ongoing compassionate grading options.

Karen Fletcher

I’d love to see a mentorship program where students could connect with faculty and get involved in research, it would give students a better idea of whether they’d like to pursue grad school and what that would be like, and make it easier to get letters of recommendation since the faculty would actually know the students.

Cilhane Ahmed

I would like to see more recommendations on what diplomas students need to pursue their dream. Again this week, I saw a post on Facebook asking why students should take a major, double major, or minor. I admit even for me; it is unclear. Then, I would like to have more dedicated workers in AU to help current and future students in their choice.

Amber McDuffe

The use of the Pearson learning platform.  It is something we used at my old school and it provides 24/7 access to tutoring services across a wide variety of subjects as well as writing review and feedback.  Tutor response times can be long and if you have a knowledge question that isn’t assignment specific this service can help with that.  The write site is also incredibly busy and restrictive to how many times you can submit while this platform has very fast turn around times with no limit to how many times you can submit assignments for feedback and review.  It would alleviate the tutors work load and allow for re-deployment of resources within the library to other areas.  It also helps students substantially as they can request help whenever they need.

Rebecca Weubbolt

I want the university to offer tutoring sessions, whether that be in groups or one on one. I have struggled with my studies at AU and had to seek tutoring outside of what the school could offer me. I believe students would benefit from having tutoring sessions that are accessible online.

Allie Wojtaszek

I am aware that AU does not offer many financial assistance programs to students in need and I believe that this should change. AUSU currently bears the brunt of this type of support and is limited by student fees received. It’s time to remind AU that supporting students and enhancing success in learning creates a stronger university experience for everyone.

Eva Embree

For myself: More options for graduate programs relating to psychology
For everyone: The option to choose between e-text or hardcopy textbooks

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

Blake Collett

The biggest challenge for me should I get elected is hearing the word “no” when trying to make change.

Natalia Iwanek

I would definitely say ensuring that all student concerns are acknowledged. Social media and surveys have made it a bit easier to connect from students from many geographical areas, but there are those who do not participate in these platforms. I would try to continue to reach all students to ensure their representation.

Karen Fletcher

We are living in absolutely crazy times, and ensuring that groups of students don’t get forgotten or left behind is something I think is going to be something the council should be thoughtful about.

Cilhane Ahmed

I am worried that my AU students fellow think I only want to represent the newcomer students. That is not my aim. I want to represent all the students in AU with the view of a newcomer.

Amber McDuffe

Work life balance.  Last term I signed up to be on every committee, while working full time and doing school full time it was a large load to take on.  While I enjoy being on every commitee I may re-assess whether I should be on all of them so I don’t stretch myself too thin.

Rebecca Weubbolt

 

Allie Wojtaszek

I hope the biggest challenge will be finding new ways to engage students and build community in this pandemic era, but I imagine that finding the right balance of time between family, work, and representing students will actually be the biggest challenge.

Eva Embree

Learning how to aggressively advocate for what is important to and best for the student body

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

Blake Collett

AUSU does a good job of networking with students, and this could be expanded with more networking opportunities.

Natalia Iwanek

I would definitely advocate to continue to expand the Awards and Bursaries Program, the Virtual Food Assistance Program, and professional development opportunities, in addition to LinkedIn Learning. I would also expand AUSU Committees, to ensure that they have more seats open to the general student population and expand events. A sense of community, as well as networking opportunities, are extremely important in a digital learning environment.

Karen Fletcher

We had a great turnout for the Research Week talk I organized with Dr. Andy Perrin about how to make a plan to do research and how students could be involved, I’d love for us to do more workshop type activities where students could connect with members of the AU community and each other while being able to ask informally ask questions, like how students at a brick and mortar institution can,

Cilhane Ahmed

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about studying from home as a full-time student is staying behind a desk for hours. We all know that it is not good for our health. AUSU already offers programs for health care, such as eyes care, but I truly would like to see two more options for physical health. The first is to have a percentage off on a fitness gym subscription (we need to get active). Secondly, getting options for massage therapy (I am sure many people suffer from back pain or neck ache). I know it can be expensive for AUSU, but as they do for the actual program, perhaps we should find company partners for these options.

Amber McDuffe

I think AUSU needs to re-evaluate some of it’s programs and activities which is something I’ve voiced previously.  Jumping into contracts with vendors just because “if we lock in now for the next 2 years it’ll only be this much” when there hasn’t been a good uptake of it or a proper request for proposals sent out isn’t effective use of student money.  I’d like to see a thorough review and cost analysis done as well as student feedback.  To me a health and dental plan would be nice with a health spending account as I’ve heard several students asking for it but I know the logistics of such with students around the world would be difficult.

Rebecca Weubbolt

I know AUSU offers eye-wear discounts (fellow glasses wearer here!). It would be fantastic to see the benefits coverage extend to other healthcare needs such as dental coverage.

Allie Wojtaszek

When I was a student at the University of Calgary I worked as the Students’ Union Food Bank Coordinator, so I am very interested in seeing if the AUSU Food Assistance Program can be made more accessible to ​students with a clear demonstration of need rather than a lottery type system. I understand that it is currently a pilot program but I am hoping there is some way I can bring my previous experience working with student food banks to help make this program more robust.

Eva Embree

There is immense potential and benefit to students in the undergraduate research opportunities the AUSU has advocated for and seen come to fruition. Expansion could provide this opportunity to more students.

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

Blake Collett

I don’t feel there is anything AUSU does that I think could be cut back.  They have a good blend of services.

Natalia Iwanek

I think that all AUSU program and activities are valuable, including Awards and Bursaries, LinkedIn Learning, Course Reviews, AUSUnights, and Food Assistance. If, hypothetically, any service or program were to be cut back in the future, it would only be with a great deal of student input and monitoring usage trends, not my personal opinion.

Karen Fletcher

Nope!

Cilhane Ahmed

Actually, nothing comes to my mind. I would use everything that offers AUSU.

Amber McDuffe

Vmock is not used enough for what it costs and LinkedIn learning is enormously expensive for what students get.  Let’s be honest, those “credentials” are just a form of continuing education, they don’t make your resume stand out and you don’t learn anything more than you would by going to free learning sites such as Khan academy, youtube or others.  When I am reviewing resumes I’m not going to choose someone who has a long list of LinkedIn learning education over someone else and a few professional acquaintances of mine have said the same.  It seems out of touch as these are services that would be better suited to alumni than current students as no one has time to be doing these things while balancing their actual courses and life.  Let them use it when they are done school instead.

Rebecca Weubbolt

 

Allie Wojtaszek

I’d get rid of the VMock Resume Review platform. My own impression is that the service is mediocre at best.

Eva Embree

None that I can think of!

Outside of AU, what’s your passion? 

Blake Collett

My passion is my career as a manager in healthcare.

Natalia Iwanek

I have so many passions! Advocacy, politics, literature, cooking, and—pre-pandemic—travel.

Karen Fletcher

I love both sewing and knitting, both because I love making things and working with my hands, and also because being part of a huge community where the default answer to something not looking right is “how do we change the garment to fit this body” and not the other way around is amazingly refreshing.

Cilhane Ahmed

In general, I like crafting. I do crochet, knitting, painting and drawing. However, I find less and less time to do so; then, I am just waiting for my little one grows up to do these activities with her. Besides that, I am a video gamer who targets the worldwide leaderboard on my games; yes, I am a true video gamer.

Amber McDuffe

I enjoy hiking, trying new foods, spending time with friends and self-care.

Rebecca Weubbolt

As an aspiring psychologist, I’m passionate about mental health. I currently volunteer with Crisis Text Line as a crisis responder and text youth and adults across the country. This volunteer position has given me insight and experience in a field I hope to be a larger part of one day.

Allie Wojtaszek

I really enjoy my work as a Gambling Information Specialist where I provide direct education to casino patrons with a strong harm reduction focus. I offer advice and resources so that they can enjoy gaming responsibly and get support for any behaviours they might find personally problematic. It is rewarding to help someone to take the steps they need towards their own wellness. Aside from my professional life, I am also passionate about creating community and happily dedicate my time and energy to Valour Place and the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.

Eva Embree

My passion is helping people and seeing their lives visibly improve as they gain new knowledge and tools to help themselves.

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