Hello, my name is Chris Walker and I have the pleasure of serving as the Vice President: University Affairs at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union.
I am very excited about the year ahead and what OUSA will be able to accomplish for undergraduate students in Ontario. The education sector is in the process of undergoing major shifts and OUSA will be there every step of the way to ensure that student concerns are at the forefront of decision making. OUSA will continue to work diligently with sector partners to develop pragmatic solutions that work for students in order to achieve a high quality education system that is accessible to all who earn it.
As we move into a time of economic constraint, it is more important than ever that post secondary education is a key part of economic development, and that colleges and universities are sourced as a means of educating a 21st century workforce for a 21st century economy. 70% of jobs in Ontario require some form of post-secondary education and therefore plays a key role in our future. Although accessibility to education is important, it should not come at the cost of quality.
It is no secret that many students are questioning the value of their education – as they should be. In university we are taught to think critically about what the world around us including the professed benefits associated with higher learning. Does a diploma or degree really give one the tools to be successful? The onus is on institutions and the government to create the best possible conditions for success. This is not to say that students are absolved of the responsibility to hold these stakeholders accountable to this end, quite the contrary – we play a primary role in crafting an education system that meets our needs and aspirations and must take the necessary steps to advocate for a strong education system.
OUSA works as a conduit for student input to reach government and does so with professionalism and tact. The organization aims to develop pragmatic solutions to problems that encompass a wide range of views. Individual students’ associations are tasked with contributing to this strategy and developing ways to represent the needs of their members on their campuses. The Students’ Union at Laurier employs much the same approach when working with our university administration. We believe that cooperative action leads to the best results. A successful relationship between students’ associations and their respective administrations cannot exist just for the relationship itself; it must be productive and yield results. Conversely, the relationship cannot be adversarial, where there is little respect for each other’s goals (even though they are often mutually beneficial). Ultimately, the trick is to facilitate a relationship where government, universities and students can agree to align their priorities.
This year, like any other, will be full of challenges and constraints at every level of the higher education system. However, with the help of OUSA and other stakeholders in the sector, these challenges can translate into opportunities to revolutionize our system and become world leaders in post-secondary education.
Steering Committee Member 2012-2013, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
Vice President: University Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, Wilfrid Laurier University