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Introducing Sophie Helpard, OUSA’s New Executive Director

Hi everyone! Sophie here. I’m excited to say that I’ll be working as the Executive Director at OUSA!

I grew up in the Niagara region before attending Western University to study Political Science. I loved my time at Western (as everyone who knows me has heard dozens of times). While at Western I was passionate about improving the student experience, first through volunteering with the Orientation Program on campus and eventually when I was elected as the President of the University Students’ Council. I was introduced to student advocacy at the USC - specifically with the provincial and federal government. It quickly became my favourite part of the job.

Empowering Student Tenants Through Education

When a student chooses to pursue postsecondary education, there are multiple decisions that they must make. At the forefront, considerations include field of study, costs of tuition and living expenses in each municipality, and, for many, living away from home for the first time. Many students feel the pressure of learning to cook for themselves, staying on top of laundry and cleaning, and scheduling doctors’ appointments when needed. Very rarely is the topic of housing predicted to be a source of stress. 

Let’s do Performance Based Funding but let’s do it Right

Brace yourselves, this is a money ask.

The Provincial government has moved towards a performance based funding (PBF) model in order to move away from funding based on enrollment. Essentially, the government is trying to put more emphasis on programming and institutional performance to get away from the ‘bums’ to seats’ approach. I think this shift is incredibly positive. We should expect our institutions to advance and develop regardless of their student population.

Presidential Update - March 2017

Hi Everyone.

Well another month has come and gone and as per usual it was a busy one for us at OUSA. This was excitingly a month of celebration while simultaneously being a month of goodbyes. But as with any organization, leaders and mentors come and go but the organization keeps moving forward. With only a month and a bit left in my term it also begins my time to say goodbye to OUSA. But that doesn’t mean our year is over quite yet. There is still much to achieve and more goals to accomplish.

Changing the Traditional Mindset on Post-Secondary Education Timelines

It is almost impossible to escape societal norms and expectations; everywhere you go it feels like someone is telling you what to do, what to wear, and how to act. Even in our educational system, it seems like there are expectations and unwritten rules as to how your post-secondary experience is supposed to be. It feels as though there are these expectations that you must finish your degree in four years, at one university, and if you don’t you did something wrong. During my post-secondary experience so far, I have met many people who have challenged these expectations and decided to make their post-secondary experience their own. Through these encounters, I have come to realize that there are so many different opportunities and pathways available and that it is possible to take a different path and still end up at the same place as everyone else. Your educational experience is a personal one and there are so many different paths that you can take, which is why I think it’s about time that we changed the way we think about post-secondary education and allow our experience to take us to wherever we want to be, regardless of what we’re “supposed” to do.

OUSA's Teaching Excellence Award Recipients

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Teaching Excellence Award recognizes educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s young people. Successfully engaging individuals in the learning experience depends on an instructor's ability to spark students' curiosity and desire to learn. It is our pleasure to give these remarkable professionals the recognition they deserve.

Empathy, Ethics, and Evidence: Responsible racial data collection in the post-secondary sector

The CBC recently investigated the availability of racial demographic data across Canadian universities. No surprise to anyone, they found that race-based data is severely limited (read almost non-existent) in the post-secondary sector. In the age of Big Data and the Information Economy, it is heartening to see serious discussion and concern about the ability to make evidence-based decisions in public discourse. Coming on the heels of on-going coverage of Toronto’s Children’s Aid Society’s and the Toronto District School Board’s efforts to show the value of race-based data, this investigation suggests at least some interest to expand this work.

Housing, Transit, & Community Development

Students’ concerns with housing and transit are generally considered local issues. Problems that exist in one municipality may not exist in another; solutions preferred by one community may be proven deficient elsewhere. These troubles are frequently reported on; it is easy to find news coverage about illegal student housing and the nuisance created by monster homes or about incomplete privately-owned student residences and inadequate interim accommodations. After combing through many articles like these and consulting with one another, our student leaders have grown increasingly confident that their constituents are experiencing common barriers to quality, affordable housing, and extensive inter-regional transit that warrant provincial responses.

International Students & Education

The internationalization of higher education brings forth financial, political, and socio-cultural benefits to all stakeholders involved. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, along with the Council of Ontario Universities, among others, have made it clear that international students and, more broadly, international education, are of utmost importance to the Ontario university sector. Nevertheless, substantial financial and cultural barriers persist that raise concerns about the transparency, accountability, and competitiveness of our institutions.

Building a Culture of Teaching and Learning on Campuses

Effective teaching is a crucial component of student learning. Great instructors are capable of elevating course content to engage and inspire students, while poor instructors can significantly detract from the learning experience. Though every university will always have some number of excellent and awful instructors, it is worthwhile to look at the institutional mechanisms that attract, grow, and retain the latter ahead of the former. What practices and policies underlie the establishment of a “culture of teaching” on a university campus, and how does a school without such a culture come to develop one? Despite having spent the better part of the past year in Waterloo’s Federation of Students evaluating this very topic on my own campus, I don’t have any hard answers to offer – but perhaps I can provide some general insights.