Have you ever wondered what you get for paying AUGSA membership fees? Read on to find out.
As an Athabasca University graduate student, you pay mandatory fees to the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association (AUGSA). The AUGSA is a student-run organization that aims to meet your needs as an Athabasca University graduate student, and ensure that an Athabasca University education is affordable and of outstanding quality. For the fees you pay, you get a pretty significant ‘bang for your buck’. Since the AUGSA is still a fairly new organization, and since we continually welcome new members, we thought we’d take the opportunity to outline what you get for your AUGSA fees:
The AUGSA offers services to its members. These include:
- The e-newsletter you are reading right now is one service that the AUGSA provides to help keep you in the loop of what is happening in your campus community
- Several monthly live, real-time orientation sessions to welcome new graduate students to the Athabasca community, and ensure they have the information they need to be successful in their programs
- Awards to recognize students for their achievements and provide financial assistance
- An annual conference, hosted with the other GSA’s of Alberta, to give students an opportunity to present their research, network with others, and learn how their graduate program can translate into new and exciting opportunities
- Assistance navigating the university system when you have questions (such as how to appeal a grade, or on what services are available to you as an Athabasca student)
- Opportunities for students to develop their skills outside of their academic program (for example, we recently offered a course on the AU Landing on how to use social media to enhance one’s learning)
- Financial assistance in the form of travel awards for students wanting to attend conferences
- In-person “Meet and Greet” networking events in major cities to give students the opportunity to get to know one another in-person and build relationships
- Encouragement of outstanding teaching and mentoring from AUGSA Faculty and staff through the provision of awards to recognize folks at AU who go the extra mile to ensure the Athabasca University graduate student experience is a great one
- Transition and reference materials on the AUGSA website to ensure students are aware of the services available to them as an Athabasca University student
- Online discussion forums on our website to give students the opportunity to connect and share ideas in a ‘students only’ environment
- We are currently investigating the possibility of a student health plan to provide affordable health and dental coverage for our members
- Volunteer opportunities for students to learn new skills and give back to the campus community
- Support to students who are looking to form student groups (around anything from academic to social interests)
Your AUGSA also engages in significant advocacy work on your behalf. We ensure your voice is heard within the university community, provincially, and federally. Here’s how:
Within the university community, we sit on a bunch of different Committees and Councils to represent you and ensure that the graduate student voice is heard. These include:
- Athabasca University Governing Council
- Athabasca University Governing Council Academic Affairs Committee
- Athabasca University Governing Council Institutional Advancement Committee
- Athabasca University Governing Council Finance and Property Committee
- Athabasca University Academic Council
- Athabasca University Student Academic Appeals Committee
- Athabasca University Faculty Restructuring Committees
- Athabasca University Student Awards Committee
- Athabasca University Strategic Budget Committee
- Athabasca University Executive Officer Search and Reappointment Committees
We also consult with the university regularly, and provide feedback on everything from the Athabasca University course evaluations system to the Athabasca University Strategic Plan. Athabasca University is able to exist because of its students, and we ensure that the AU administration doesn’t forget this point!
Some of our top suggestions to the university administration right now are to provide university email addresses for all students, offer teaching assistant and research assistant roles for students, provide a larger number of scholarships and bursaries for students living outside of Alberta, create a better course evaluations process for students to provide feedback on courses (and review feedback of others to assist in selecting courses), and to ensure all students have access to consistent and quality academic advising as they map out their programs. We’ve started to make progress on some of these fronts, and will continue our dialogue with the university to ensure the AU learning environment is continually improving!
Provincially, we ensure that the voice of AU graduate students is heard in the Province of Alberta. Athabasca University is a post-secondary institution created, regulated, and funded by the Albertan government. What happens in Alberta has an impact on all of us! To that end, we ensure that members of the Albertan government and official opposition are kept in the loop regarding what can we done to better serve Athabasca University graduate students, and to contribute to an even better learning environment. We meet with MLA’s regularly, including the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. We are also members of the Alberta Graduate Council, a provincial lobby organization that represents the 18,000 graduate studying at Albertan comprehensive research institutions (the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, and us!).
Within Alberta, some of our government relations priorities include requesting that the government create a better system to support part-time student access to an Athabasca University graduate-level education, that the government regulate tuition for all Athabasca University programs (so we don’t see large increases in program or course cost from one year to the next), and that the government amend the Post-Secondary Learning Act to allow for two seats for graduate students on the Athabasca University Board (more students means more representation!).
Federally, the AUGSA works to create a political climate favourable for our members. We meet with Members of Parliament, and draft policies to propose to the government on how to make things better for you. We are members of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a federal lobby group representing over 320,000 of Canada’s approximately one million students. Working with CASA ensures the federal government hears your voice, and that we are actively engaged in a dialogue with other student associations across Canada on what matters to Athabasca University graduate students.
Some of our government relations priorities federally include lobbying the government to ensure that Bill C-32 (Copyright) allows for fair dealing and access to materials for purposes of academic study, that the government offer more grants to support graduate-level education, and that the government offer more granting programs to post-secondary institutions for digital infrastructure (which is just as important to distance-based universities, like Athabasca, as a physical lab in a conventional bricks-and-mortar university).
The AUGSA keeps a close tab on what is happening within the university, provincial government, and federal government to ensure that your voice is heard, and that the political climate is favourable to our members.
Through the provision of quality student services and advocacy work, we think you get a pretty good deal for your AUGSA fees! As new services and advocacy efforts are offered by the AUGSA, we will run a ‘bang for your buck’ article every once in a while in our e-newsletter to help keep you updated on what you get for your AUGSA fees.
And hey, if you ever have an idea on what we can do to serve you even better, let us know! You can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Being a student-run and student-driven organization, we are always delighted to hear from you!