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SU Elections 2024 Q&A: General Faculties Council Candidates

From March 20 at 9:00 a.m. to March 21 at 6:00 p.m., students can vote for candidates to represent them on General Faculties Council.

From March 20 at 9:00 a.m. to March 21 at 6:00 p.m., students will have the chance to vote for candidates to represent them on General Faculties Council (GFC).

GFC serves as the University of Alberta’s highest academic governing body, comprised of 158 members, including vice-presidents, faculty deans, professors, students, librarians, academic staff, and non-academic staff. GFC is responsible for decisions on academic and student affairs.

The following races have no candidates running: Augustana; education; Faculté Saint-Jean; kinesiology, sports and recreation; law; medicine and dentistry; Native studies; and pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences.

The following interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences (two seats)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Kate Tamsett

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Kate Tamsett was unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Arts (eight seats)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Rebeca Avila Garcia
  • Fardeen Chowdhury
  • Nathan Perez
  • Angelina Raina
  • Ramish Raza
  • Nathan Thiessen

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Nathan Perez was unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Why are you running for this position?

Rebeca Avila Garcia: I have always been involved in the campus community, collaborating with students to make campus a more welcoming space for all. I believe that in advocating at GFC for arts students’ needs, I can help voice these concerns at the academic and student affairs decision-making body of the university.

Fardeen Chowdhury: Academics is the most essential part for any student. Therefore, whenever they face any slight academic issue in their academic career, it stresses them out and can lead to many students discontinuing their studies. Consequently, I don’t want students to be depressed or discontinue their studies due to academic issues which can be solved. I’m trying to be a part of GFC to help solve the solvable academic issues and enable students to complete their degrees smoothly.

Angelina Raina: I am running for this position because all students deserve an engaging and memorable university experience. GFC makes decisions that impact the academic lives of students for years to come and the results will be reflected in what students feel prepared to do after their university experience. This means fighting back against tuition hikes which students have repeatedly said they can’t afford amid higher costs of living. Representing students on GFC means advocating for a future that leads to the success of all students. 

Ramish Raza: I am running to provide a vital international arts student perspective in crucial academic and student life matters. The GFC’s decisions affect all students. I aim to ensure that the unique needs and perspectives of arts students, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, are considered in these discussions. Every student’s voice must be heard in shaping policies and plans that impact our academic environment and overall student experience.

Nathan Thiessen: GFC is a part of the governing system of the U of A, and ensuring that the university internalizes students as a key stakeholder in their operation is important. I am running for the position to ensure that students have a strong voice in the governance and operation of the university, and to continue to contribute the student perspective and represent my fellow peers in the position.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a GFC representative?

Avila: I have been an arts representative on SU Council for two years, and GFC representative for one year. I am also part of the Arts Faculty Council and the Faculty of Arts strategic planning committee. 

Chowdhury:  I am currently a peer tutor and teaching assistant for a course where I have noticed specific academic issues that students face. If the issue was related to that course, I’d let the instructor know. However, the best experience to have is to be a university student, and I am one. Interacting with hundreds of students lets me know the problems and challenges they face while completing their degrees. Hence, my connection with students can help GFC by providing more relevant information about students’ issues. 

Raina: I have previously served on councils and departmental associations that have given me the experience needed to navigate a setting such as GFC. Within the city, I have served on the Youth Council, pushing for the youth perspective when it comes to anti-racism and community wellbeing. Within the university, I serve on the Political Science Undergraduate Association, building connections between the students and the department. 

Raza: With extensive experience as vice-president (student life) and soon-to-be co-president of the International Students’ Association (ISA), I’ve developed strong leadership and communication skills while collaborating with diverse student populations. Participating in the Dean of Students’ Advisory Committee offered insights into enhancing the university experience by actively addressing student concerns. As a human resource coordinator in the Engineering Students’ Society (ESS), I’ve honed organizational and administrative abilities crucial for navigating GFC complexities. Additionally, my tenure as a residence assistant cultivated interpersonal skills vital for effective advocacy. These experiences equip me to represent arts students, ensuring their voices are heard and their needs are met.

Thiessen: I have served as a GFC representative for the past year, and in my role I have made sure to speak up on behalf of students. I have been a part of the Programs Committee. In that role I have ensured that students’ academic needs when it comes to academic programming and requirements are being internalized. The GFC has a major role to play in defining the undergraduate experience on campus. Having served in and understanding the GFC, I can utilize my experience to ensure that students needs are being met.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Avila: Consultation with arts students across departments, communication with students about what is discussed at GFC meetings, [and] collaboration with representatives from other faculties for outreach initiatives.

Chowdhury: Firstly, create or modify courses that the Faculty of Arts offers in a way that helps students get ready for the job market. By that, I mean including elements in the course that make the students acquire hard and soft skills, not just academic theories, which constantly change. I’d also encourage classes that promote entrepreneurship within the Faculty of Arts. Also, advocating for more mental health-related awareness campaigns. I want to build open communication between faculty and students to increase transparency and accountability.

Raina: My platform revolves around rooting community engagement in the decision-making process. This means exploring more avenues to encourage student engagement and more informal avenues to share information with students. I would continue to advocate against student hikes and for more arts funding, as this is a part of the student population that feels slighted based on recent infrastructure issues the university has faced.  

Raza: My platform focuses on enhancing the classroom experience by advocating for upgrades and renovations, including comfortable seating, better lighting, and improved acoustics. I prioritize student consultation by regularly gathering feedback through open forums and being an active voice for arts students at GFC meetings. Additionally, I will work to increase awareness of mental health resources and provide comprehensive support. I aim to promote more experiential learning opportunities and facilitate connections with community partners. Finally, I will advocate for sufficient funding for the Faculty of Arts, support investments in technology and materials, and attract top faculty for an enriching student experience.

Thiessen: The university has made promises to students. Whether it be the Indigenous Strategic Plan or Student Experience Action Plan (SEAP), amongst other strategies and plans, we need to ensure that the university in its governance and operation serves to make good on its promises to students and that all students are empowered to succeed here on campus.

What would your number one priority be as GFC representative?

Avila: To make sure that international and domestic students in all disciplines in arts feel seen and heard. And that they feel welcomed and confident in reaching out to their student representatives to voice their concerns. 

Chowdhury: My number one priority would be to be accessible to students and connect with students, the president of the U of A, and the concerned authorities so that all the concerns are considered.

Raina: Exploration through community. I would encourage investment in creating diverse educational opportunities for students. This can include more diverse recognition of out-of-classroom work and more student engagement on the kinds of certificate and degree programs they would like to explore. By expanding what education can look like, we can work to expand the sorts of opportunities students are currently afforded and will be able to seek once they are out of university.

Raza: As a GFC representative, my foremost priority would be to enhance both the classroom experience and faculty resources. Having personally experienced the challenges in these areas, I am committed to advocating for improvements. I believe that creating comfortable and conducive learning environments is essential for student success. Additionally, supporting faculty with adequate resources, such as technology and materials, is crucial for delivering high-quality education. By prioritizing these areas, I aim to contribute to the overall academic excellence and student satisfaction within the Faculty of Arts.

Thiessen: Representing students. University governance is not a static sphere and ensuring students needs are internalized in the face of an ever-changing environment is the priority. Being able to respond knowledgeably and aptly to university policy and operations to ensure students needs are being internalized is the role — and should be the priority — of a GFC representative. Being an arts representative, ensuring that arts students needs are communicated and internalized is of the utmost importance. One I hope I can continue doing.

Augustana (one seat)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Nate Goetz

Why are you running for this position?

Nate Goetz: I am running for this position, as Augustana has only three representatives and only one student representative on GFC. Because GFC is responsible for much of the decision-making that is done at the university, Augustana must have a strong student voice on GFC. Given that in the past, decisions have been made at GFC with little to no input from Augustana students, I want to fight to ensure that the Augustana perspective is shared no matter the issue and that proper consultation is done with Augustana students before significant decisions are made for them. The Augustana student representative may only have one voice on GFC, but we must have a voice.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a GFC representative?

Goetz: While I was the social science representative on the Augustana Student’s Association (ASA), I sat on many external committees that included professors, department chairs, and vice-deans. With that experience, I know how to talk to higher-ups and how to get them to understand the student experience. During my time on the ASA, I also advocated against policies brought forward on GFC, such as the Clean Air Strategy and the Academic Materials Program (AMP), so I am well aware of the procedures of GFC and how to ensure student’s voices are heard.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Goetz: My platform for GFC primarily consists of ensuring that the ASA remains in the know regarding motions at GFC. The ASA is very effective regarding advocacy on campus, but they must be aware of what they should be advocating for or against. This last year, the ASA effectively advocated against the Clean Air Strategy and AMP. But in previous years with no GFC representative, Augustana saw minors cut, programs changed, and a whole lab/lecture credit mess up, which is still affecting students, all with little to no consultation with students. I want to ensure that Augustana students’ voices are heard and that GFC does nothing without considering how it will affect Augustana.

What would your number one priority be as GFC representative?

Goetz: My number one priority on GFC would be to keep students, and especially the ASA, up-to-date on GFC proposals. This will include weekly office hours, meeting weekly with the ASA, and running surveys and polls for student feedback on issues. I want to ensure that Augustana students never have to worry about being ignored again, and I want them to know they have an advocate on GFC.

Business (three seats)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Mohit Makhija

Why are you running for this position?

Mohit Makhija: It feels like the university has become less in-touch with the needs of students and the harms of raising tuition on students. The cost-of-tuition increasing year-over-year has made being a university student tough. Seeing my friends struggle to make sure that their tuition is being paid has inspired me to run to try to make a difference. I don’t think it’s fair that students have to sacrifice grades just to be able to pay for tuition or textbooks. I want to help alleviate those problems and make sure the university understands the harm they do to students.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a GFC representative?

Makhija: I have served in many roles where I have been a leader or had to advocate for what my fellow peers are feeling. I was on the students’ council in high school, where I worked to make sure that the things that students wanted were being done and that the faculty understood things that were harming students. I also worked with the Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) during the provincial election last year. In this role, I was tasked with listening to voters’ concerns, explaining the party’s position and how they could help, and telling higher-ups what voters were thinking and feeling. These experiences have given me the experience to be able to advocate for and represent students.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Makhija: I want to advocate for slowing-down tuition increases and making better financial aid available for students, especially for those who are struggling to make ends meet. I would like to expand the available mental health resources and work to make them more accessible. I know that it is very difficult to get tuition costs to come down, but I believe we should be pushing to make more aid available to students. This would allow the students who are struggling the most to have some relief and make paying easier. I also know that students have been struggling with mental health issues. I think that we should be pushing to get more support available that is more accessible. Advocating for these solutions will help students to be able to better focus on their school work and extracurriculars.

What would your number one priority be as GFC representative?

Makhija: My number one priority would be to push for better financial aid and relief for students. The cost of everything is going up, making students’ lives more difficult. However, I believe that tuition should not be increasing at the rate it has been, and students should be given more aid and relief to afford to attend the U of A. If students have financial security and aid, they can focus on their education and extracurricular activities and become better, more well-rounded students. I want to work with the university to make the student’s lives easier and allow them to focus on their education.

Engineering (six seats)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Mikael Schmidtke
  • Madiha Maroof

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Mikael Schmidtke and Madiha Maroof were unable to provide comment before the deadline.

Nursing (one seat)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Asha Jama

Why are you running for this position?

Asha Jama: One of the main reasons I am running is based on my own personal experience as a first-year nursing student. As someone who loves to be a part of a community and is always around community, I have witnessed first-hand the lack of a well-connected, supportive nursing community. It was a negative experience for me to not have a supportive community amidst rigorous coursework. Many first-year students have told me a similar story. Therefore, I am running to ensure that nursing students feel well-connected and supported within their faculty this upcoming year, whether that’s through wellness events or other community-based events.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a GFC representative?

Jama: I have worked in various community organizations, and my focus has been on grassroots initiatives and campaigns within the community. I have also served as an executive member of various student groups. The biggest asset that I can apply to serving as a GFC representative is my passion for social justice. 

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Jama: Nursing perspective: I will advocate on behalf of nursing students to vote for policies that favour nursing students. One key actionable step I will take includes bringing a well-intentioned perspective on the academic and tuition policies. Nursing community: I will advocate to create a more lively and supportive nursing community. One of the key actionable steps I will take includes advocating for more mental wellness events and health promotion campaigns specifically for nursing students. Nursing accessibility: I will advocate for more Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives. One of the actionable steps I will take includes advocating for more Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action initiatives within the nursing curriculum and faculty in general. 

What would your number one priority be as GFC representative?

Jama: Tuition increases and textbook costs are among the biggest concerns students have amidst this affordability crisis. I will be working to bring a well-informed perspective, based on consultations and research, to the decision-making table to address tuition increases as well as other affordability concerns for nursing students.

Science (eight seats)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Pedro Almeida
  • Angelina Botros
  • Hannan Sandhu

Why are you running for this position?

Pedro Almeida: I am running for GFC in order to hopefully continue some of the work I have done in the past few months and to help bring the perspectives of students in the Faculty of Science forward. I have grown to understand GFC a bit better over the past few months and with some exciting things coming in the area of academic discussions next year, I am hoping to use my experience to advocate for students.

Angelina Botros: I’m running for GFC because I believe in the power of representation and advocacy. I’m deeply committed to ensuring that every student’s voice is heard and considered in decision-making processes within our faculty. I have a genuine passion for leadership development and problem-solving, and I see this as an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to our academic community, especially within the sciences. I want to actively work towards enhancing the overall educational experience for all students, and I believe that serving on the council is the most effective way to do so. Ultimately, I’m driven by a desire to create positive change and foster a supportive and inclusive environment where every student can thrive and feel heard.

Hannan Sandhu: I am deeply committed to advocating for the needs and concerns of science students, especially regarding internship opportunities and career readiness. As an involved student leader, I understand the importance of having a strong voice that can effectively represent our faculty’s interests at the highest levels of university governance.

What previous experience do you have that you can apply to serving as a GFC representative?

Almeida: The past few months as the SU vice-president (academic) have given me a great opportunity to gain insight into GFC.

Botros: Currently, I fulfill the role of a science representative on the GFC. Additionally, I actively participate in the University Teaching Awards Council within GFC, where I contribute to the evaluation of grants and awards for professors, focusing on integrating aspects of Indigeneity, student excellence, and student engagement into their teaching methods. In alignment with my commitment to student advocacy, I am also engaged within the SU network. Furthermore, I hold a position on the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, where I play a crucial role in shaping the university’s strategic plan for the upcoming five years. My responsibilities include ensuring that the new strategic plan accurately reflects the needs and aspirations of the student body. To achieve this, I engage in activities such as conducting surveys among students through tabling, Perks surveys, and direct interactions.

Sandhu: Through my roles as president of the HUB Community Association, member of the Council of Residence Associations, and Residence Advisory Committee, I have developed skills in gathering student feedback, advocating for their needs, and working collaboratively with university administration. Additionally, my upcoming role as co-president of the International Student Association will further enhance my understanding of the unique challenges faced by international students in the Faculty of Science.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Almeida: My hope is to continue to advocate for areas that matter to students. Whether that be affordability, academic integrity, or even building access. Over the past few months I have had a chance to bring the student voice forward in relation to academics, and I hope I can continue to do so, with a greater focus on the perspective of science students.

Botros: My platform is primarily based on a few main focuses: portals for internal and external opportunities in summer research; advocacy of EDI; make students feel heard by dissolving the barrier between student governance and student body; and expansion of the OneCard access initiative.

Sandhu: My platform focuses on advocating for an increase in internship opportunities for science students, particularly international students, by fostering industry partnerships and providing dedicated resources for securing and preparing for internships. I will also prioritize improved mental health services, a more inclusive environment, and enhanced academic and career support resources tailored to the specific needs of science students. My main focus will be voicing the less internship concerns and advocating for improved mental health resources because I have myself experienced that it is difficult to navigate mental health resources for someone suffering from mental health issues. Further, I feel like improved mental health resources, improved professional development, and enhanced internship opportunities are the basic needs of students in the Faculty of Science, and there is a lot of room for improvement. 

What would your number one priority be as GFC representative?

Almeida: Ensuring that as conversations come up in GFC, that all opportunities to bring forward student priorities are taken. Oftentimes, the major decisions at bodies such as GFC are hard to edit or change once they are fully made and have gone through several committees, which is why it is important to identify areas that matter to students early on. My number one priority is to hopefully use my experience to identify these areas and continue to point out how the university can support its students better whether in relation to academics or student life.

Botros: In my role as a representative, I recognize the importance of ensuring accessibility to student governance for the entire student body. My main priority is — regardless of background or circumstance — each individual is to have the opportunity to engage meaningfully in the governance process. By fostering accessibility through transparent communication channels, inclusive decision-making processes, and proactive outreach efforts, we can empower students to actively participate in shaping the direction of our academic community. 

Sandhu: My number one priority as the GFC representative would be to address the significant issue of science students, especially international students, struggling to secure internships in their field. I will actively advocate for increased internship placements through partnerships with industry, as well as dedicated support services to help students navigate the internship application process and prepare for success in these opportunities. This issue really has all my attention because I have experienced similar issues and heard anecdotes of numerous students from the Faculty of Science, thus, given the opportunity, I would like to bring them into the attention of the people at the largest governance body at the U of A.

CORRECTION: This article was updated March 19 at 2:51 a.m. to add in Hannan Sandhu, as it was found that he did not miss the deadline. The Gateway regrets this error.

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

Dylana Twittey

Dylana Twittey is the 2023-24 News Editor. She is a second-year student studying history. In her free time, she enjoys watching 90s Law and Order, cooking, and rereading her favourite books for the fifth time.

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