On the Ground: Department Student Unions

On the Ground: Department Student Unions

By: Erika De Torres
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Simon Fraser University has undoubtedly provided me with a myriad of opportunities, both volunteer and work related. One of the best experiences that I have had in the past year is with one of my department’s student unions - the Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies Student Union (GSWSSU, for short).

A departmental student union (DSU) is a branch of the Simon Fraser Student Society, the student government of Simon Fraser University. Departmental Student Unions bridge the gap between the Simon Fraser Student Society and the department. If you are taking a single course or majoring or minoring in a specific department, you automatically belong in the DSU. DSUs are funded by the SFSS. The funding really depends on how many students are enrolled within a department. You can also apply for grants and travel awards that subsidize students’ cost to go to conferences!

It may sound similar to a club on campus; however, it is not. With DSUs, you are able to plan events, activities, and be involved in department or faculty related activities. For instance, the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Student Union has been invited by the department to participate in the faculty hiring process as well as the department meetings that happen once a month. On the other hand, DSUs also each have an important representative that reports to Council. Council is the meeting place for all DSU representatives to voice their concerns and mobilize their agenda to the SFSS. As you can imagine, DSUs have a great deal of influence with the department and the SFSS!

DSUs are undoubtedly one of the best ways to get involved on campus. As a coordinator and treasurer for the GSWSSU, I have been involved in so many incredible things. A few memorable examples include: Faculty and Student “Eat” and Greet, Button Making Socials, joint events with the Women’s Center, a joint event with the Criminology Student Association for a Women in the Criminal Justice paneling event – those are just a few! We have also held a couple of bake sales to raise funds for our student union and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center. Moreover, we frequently table for Clubs Days to reach out to students who may also be interested in joining.

Furthermore, I have been given the opportunity to work with other students like myself who are equally as passionate about leadership and the department. The team I work with is incredible. Everyone is so dedicated and driven. Everyone wants to see the DSU succeed – and it definitely has in the last year it has been active. With all of the team working together, we have achieved so much. We have made our union more active and more involved in the community.

What do you gain? I think the better question is, what don’t you gain? I have gained transferable skills in leadership, team work, communication, and facilitation for any future endeavor I pursue. Notably, I have been able to oversee money as a treasurer and fundraise for great causes. Other positions for DSUs include note taking, representing the union within department meetings and Council meetings. I have also met wonderful people that have been so supportive and kind in this last year. I have also developed an incredible relationship with my department!

I have had one of the most memorable years in SFU as a part of the GSWSSU. My time with the GSWSSU is coming to a close because I am graduating, but I will treasure my experiences and the friendships I have made as a result of being a part of it.

I would definitely recommend anyone who is looking to get involved to take part in their DSU. To find out more about a specific department, check out this list: go.sfss.ca/unions/list


Erika is a fourth year political science and gender, sexuality and women’s studies joint major. She is involved in various SFU organizations, groups and unions. When she isn’t volunteering, working or writing papers, Erika likes to take pictures of her food and traveling. You can follow her on Instagram at @erideedee.

Posted on April 07, 2015