Eli Ridder | Analysis
Over the course of this school year, elected IGNITE executives carried out 13 different initiatives, as outlined by a handout given to those that attended the 2019 Annual General Meeting, defining several items that were completed during the last eight months.
It marks the first time in at least two years that the student union has actively outlined what the executives got done during their term. The items were listed by the categories found in the Strategic Plan.
Not all of the initiatives were ones promised during their 2018 campaigns for the positions they were elected to, however, the handout showed for the first time that some of their campaign promises were followed through on.
The first pillar of the Strategic Plan is “Student Life”, which aims to support students in getting the most value out of their experience by increasing affordability, comfort on campus and improving the academic experience.
There are six initiatives outlined under the “Student Life” headline.
First off, the student union in the document handed to AGM attendees highlighted their efforts to reduce textbook costs. They brought in experts to determined different avenues that students can take to get cheaper textbooks and learned about the process of how textbooks are priced.
Currently, IGNITE is searching for “avenues and upcoming opportunities with Open Educational Resources. In her bid for the presidency, Board Director Margarita Bader ran on a platform that included a plan for reducing textbook costs by moving to a more digitized campus.
On improving accessibility, the main platform item of the re-elected president, Monica Khosla, IGNITE laid out three “action items” following a Mix and Mingle event and the accessibility focus groups.
The first two action items stated that Guelph-Humber will offer accessibility training for student leaders in the coming school year and the training will also be recommended for academic program representatives.
The third action item under accessibility stated that IGNITE launched the first Humber club “with a strong emphasis on inclusion for students with disabilities, general awareness around disabilities and generally creating a safe space”, called Without Limits.
The student union worked with the CHRED and the Accessibility for Ontarions with Disabilities committee to raise awareness for those with disabilities and promote proper protocol via videos shown across campus.
The next initiative listed that was worked on under “Student Life” was an effort to create more spaces on campus, one of Jeremy Largo Afonso’s election campaign items.
The H Building study lab H205 was redesigned in partnership with the the technology department, providing ideas for collaborative and open spaces that will be implemented over the coming summer.
B, E, F and J Buildings will be getting new spaces. The B Building first and second floors will be getting additional seating, electrical outlets and accessibility tables. The bottom floor of E and F Buildings will be receiving new shared study spaces with accessibile accommodations and J Building will have new accessible tables and outlets.
As for improving the academic experience as part of the “Student Life” objective, IGNITE listed that summer placement is now being offered for six out of seven programs at the University of Guelph-Humber due to advocacy by Vice President Maheen Nazim and the APRs.
Also listed was “Institutional Learning Outcomes”, which are “core modern competencies desired by employers that Humber wishes to embed in all curriculum”.
IGNITE “assisted Vera Beletzan in the planning and development of a charrette session for students, staff and faculty to contribute to embedding Sustainability into all curricula”.
As the final “Student Life” point, that IGNITE also defines as a “Personal Life” goal, the student union promoted the Fall Reading Break as a signature achievement accomplished through the 7-1-7 Committee that included Humber administration executives.
7-1-7 referes to the seven weeks of study-one week of break-seven weeks of study model that a fall break follows. The reading week, announced earlier this year, will not align with Guelph-Humber’s recently installed fall break.
“Personal Life” aims to “support your growth as a person” — improving financial security, health and wellness, and expose students to experiences and people that can enrich their lives.
The first item listed under this heading is making “food more accessible” by the #VP4ME initiative — where, instead of buying “swag”, vice presidents would hand out food to students. Around 150 students were reached each month, approximately 1,350 over the school year.
Also, as part of #VP4ME, the executives “planned and executed a communication strategy” where the VPs “dedicated specific hours to on-campus engagement, highlighting specific topics to provide direction and recommendation of services.
The scope of this initiative included wellness, campus affordability, and the Student Choice Initiative — which introduces optional student fees — and they engaged about 150 students a month for a total of 1,350.
IGNITE also highlighted the “networking and professional building” that they carried over the last school year including hosting two Mix and Mingle events that brought about interest in cross-campus elected positions.
They said one student who attended the first Mix and Mingle eventually ran in a successful bid for the Board of Directors in the recent elections. The events were meant to foster discussions between leaders on campus.
IGNITE also highlighted several leadership initiatives that included LinkedIn networking and panel discussion events, the Student Leadership Academy and was involved in organizing the Path 3 retreat.
Wellness research was another one of the initiatives IGNITE took on under “Personal Life”.
Executives worked closely with the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre, or SWAC, to ensure the “accountability of their service usage in correspondence to the 2016 National College Health Assessment findings.
The student union determined wellness priorities as part of the three-year Strategic Plan.
They also collaborated with SWAC and Black Cat Advertising to create a “Wellness Calendar” scheduled to be released on the Humber College website in the fall of 2019 that will “display holistic on-campus wellness activities.”
According to its website, Black Cat’s only client is Humber College.
As for preparing students for life after graduation, the student union has been busy hosting several Career Centre Workshops that facilitate everything from resume writing, creating LinkedIn profiles and networking.
Academic advocacy was a critical part of IGNITE’s work.
They pitched to Gina Antonacci with the aim to further embed professional development into curricula including having in-class assignments “require students to work with peers from different programs, build entrepreneur projects, build competencies and obtain CCR certification.
Follow up meetings were planned for March along with an introduction to the Work Integrated Learning Committee to move forward together on academic advocacy.
IGNITE released several statistics with their report on initiatives handed out at the Annual General Meeting.
It revealed that only 12 individuals came to the Accessibility Focus Groups that President Monica Khosla hosted on all the campuses IGNITE represents. Student press were blocked from attending due to the sensitive nature of the meetings.
However, 557 students responded to an identical survey that was used at the focus groups out of approximately 15,000 students that received it.
Despite claims by Khosla during the IGNITE election campaign period that several accessibility buttons had been added around campus, only one was advocated for and implemented in a high-traffic area by the Student Centre.
The student union advocated for and implemented accessibility training, described as covering policy and general understanding for all 19 Guelph-Humber societies.
Image of IGNITE from The Avro Post.