enVISION This!

enVISION This!

By: Amanda Chen
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As a recent SFU alumnus, I’m very excited by all the dialogue that’s been created by President Petter’s recent enVISION SFU project. The refreshing initiative is an encouraging sign of SFU’s willingness to listen to its communities on how it can change, adapt, and reinvent itself for the better. Although I’ve already graduated from SFU, I believe it’s important to stay engaged and contribute to the continued growth and success of our educational institutions, so here’s what I have to say in response to some of President Petter’s questions:

What’s distinctive about SFU?

I’ll be honest: as a high school graduate from Alberta wanting to get into communications, SFU wasn’t my first choice. However, the U of A didn’t have a communications program, so I had planned on attending another university out east. However, due to extenuating circumstances, I eventually (and quite begrudgingly, might I add) made my way to SFU. After all, SFU had offered me an entrance scholarship, direct acceptance into my program of choice, 26 IB transfer credits, guaranteed residence, and a meal plan so my parents didn’t have to worry about me feeding myself. Looking back, considering all the things SFU was offering me, I was an idiot to not accept right away, but hey – I was seventeen!

Although I was skeptical about SFU upon my arrival, it didn’t take me long to realize that this was the right choice. In my time at SFU, I experienced living in residence (atop a mountain to boot), completed four co-op work terms, an exchange to Italy, made the Dean’s honour roll, and seized numerous opportunities to engage in my community both professionally and personally. SFU provided me with a truly interdisciplinary education, which is the cornerstone (pun unintended) of SFU’s reputation. While a rebranding process got rid of SFU’s slogan “Thinking of the World,” I believe that’s exactly what SFU is about: experiential and interdisciplinary learning that is innovative and conscious of the global community.

How can SFU make the student experience even better?

More Hang Out Spaces:

Being atop a mountain isolates SFU, and while its location has created a serene and uncluttered campus, it’s also made the university into what I’d call a “commuter school.” Students seem focused on getting to and from campus as quickly as possible, an attitude that doesn’t allow for student community to grow.  What I would like to see is better designed and utilized spaces to encourage students to engage with each other, study, and just hang out. Many post secondary institutions have a SUB or Student Union Building, which is often the hub for students to congregate. SFU is lacking in this area, and I believe that more hang out spots will contribute to a happier and more actively-engaged student body.

Programs Encouraging Mental Health for All:

Part of creating more actively-engaged students is ensuring their wellbeing. While there are programs in place at SFU that are aimed at students taking care of their physical health, I would also like to see more programs encouraging their mental health. The SFU Health and Counselling Services offer a Mental Health Screening aimed to “help you understand whether the symptoms you are experiencing are consistent with depression, bipolar disorder, an alcohol problem, an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.” Sure, this is great, but how about those of us who don’t have a disorder or some type of depression and just want some support programs that promote a happy, healthy attitude? For example, Yale, in attempts to help students distress, has recently initiated an animal/pet therapy program. In a three-day pilot project, students at the Ivy League school were able to “check out” Monty the dog from their library for half hour increments; and “while the use of a therapy dog is a new development [at Yale], the de-stressing properties of pet therapy already have been employed at a growing number of colleges and universities, including the University of Connecticut and Connecticut College.” With the alarming news of university student suicides in the news lately, programs like this are what I’d like to see SFU implement: more casual, fun-focused events and programs that promote positive wellbeing.

Now that I’ve had my chance on my soapbox, it’s your turn: what do you enVISION for SFU?

Written by Amanda Chen

Posted on April 11, 2011