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A Primer on Experiential Education in Ontario
Today, higher education learning extends well beyond the traditional classroom to involve anything from visiting the office of a local Member of Parliament to walking through a city park or the assembly plant of a major car manufacturer! Motivated by innovation in pedagogy and a call to prepare students for the new world of work, post-secondary institutions have welcomed experiential learning across all disciplines.
Hello and Happy New Year!
This Presidential Update marks the conclusion of OUSA’s first month in the new decade. As we look forward to a new decade of advocacy in the post-secondary education sector, OUSA’s Steering Committee and I have reflected on how we can continue to push student priorities in innovative ways and partner with our stakeholders across the province to raise student voices. Some of the work we are excited about this month include our budget submission to the provincial government, our submission to the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, and our joint student mental report: In It Together.
OUSA’s Steering Committee members are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable student advocates in the province. This interview series is an opportunity to share some of their experiences and knowledge with a wider audience of future (and current) student advocates.
Matthew Gerrits, OUSA’s VP Finance and the VP Education at the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association, is serving his second term on OUSA’s Steering Committee and can tell you more about the history of student associations in Ontario than you’d think one person can know. Here is his student advocacy story:
As the new year rolled around, many of us took to social media platforms, be it Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook (if anyone even uses that anymore?) to reflect upon the past year and our goals moving forward. Several of us also used these platforms to talk about how politics, policies, and events across the world (the good, the bad, and the ugly) have shaped our lives, the decade, and humanity as a whole.
A few weeks ago I went for breakfast at my favourite diner (this post is not #sponsored), and while waiting to be seated, I saw something behind the counter that caught my attention: their policy on providing accessible service. We had slept in that morning and were caught in the rush of a busy Sunday morning, which gave me a few minutes to scan the document from where we waited.
This might come as a surprise, but some students use alcohol and drugs recreationally — GASP! Who would’ve thought that a bunch of teenagers and early-twenty-somethings living away from their families for the first time would do such a thing?
You may have noticed a hint of sarcasm just now. After all, students using drugs and alcohol isn’t news. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and Stats Canada, 83% of 18-24-year-olds had used alcohol in the last year, and 26% of 20-24 year-olds had used illegal substances. What might come as a surprise is that students often avoid going to the hospital — when they need to go — because they’re worried about academic sanctions for underage drinking or illegal drug use.
How is it December already? In the post-secondary education world, the month of December indicates an array of things - final exams and final projects for all; for some students they will be finishing their very last university classes while others will have their first set of final exams; the Legislature convenes until February, and for OUSA we have been keeping busy by publishing our latest policy papers (check out the newest versions of our Student Accessibility and Disability Inclusion, Ancillary and Incidental Fees as well as our statement on Student Association Autonomy, and Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ Students). For our Steering Committee, this also marks halfway through our terms as student leaders. We have accomplished a significant amount over the past six months - however, we have much more advocacy work to do to continue representing your voices before the next generation of student leaders begins to fight for students.
It was a busy November for OUSA, with students gathering at Brock University to create policy and then again at Queen’s Park to advocate to Members of Provincial Parliament. We kicked off the month with OUSA’s bi-annual General Assembly — our 50th — which saw student delegates from our eight member schools come together at Brock to discuss and vote on whether to pass three updated policies: Two Spirit & LGBTQ+ Students, Student Accessibility & Disability Inclusion, and Ancillary & Incidental Fees.
We live in the Information Age. Compared to all previous historical periods, the world economy is no longer dominated by material goods, but rather data and information. Our society is one where billion-dollar companies arise from thin air because of their ability to create services through information technology (IT). Uber Technologies created an expansive delivery/transportation service through a mobile app, despite the fact that the company doesn’t own any vehicles. Additionally, Airbnb has made a prominent overnight accommodations corporation without owning any buildings. These business endeavours are just the tip of the iceberg of how IT is drastically changing our lives.
You won’t hear a provincial leader speak about education without mentioning the importance of “preparing students for the future” or “preparing students for the workforce”. Education, and post-secondary education more specifically, is increasingly viewed by political leaders, policy makers, higher education stakeholders, and even students themselves, as a prerequisite for employment — a bridge to the workforce. At the same time, there continues to be a disconnect between the skills students learn in general arts and science degree programs and the ability to translate these skills into employment.