4 Questions from enVISIONSFU: Student Sonya Reznitsky Responds

This February, SFU President Andrew Petter announced a new initiative  – enVISION SFU, which aims at enhancing campus life, strengthening community ties, increasing the relevance of its academia and research, and of course, improving the educational experience for students. You can read about it in the Vancouver Sun or our campus paper, The Peak.

I’ve been reading responses to the questions, and it’s only after something like this is created that I realize, why didn’t we think of that before? I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around how so many different suggestions can be put to life, but this is a project that can set up SFU’s goals for the coming years - even  decades. Before enVISION, all I’ve really been able to do in terms of feedback has been to submit a course evaluation sheet at the end of each semester, and it’s great to have input taken more seriously through this project.

A little about myself: I am a fourth-year communications student, with an extended minor humanities, and I’m currently working for SFU Volunteer Services for my third coop placement. There are many things I love about SFU, but I’ll dig right in to what I would like to see in its future.

1. How can SFU be more relevant?

- More conferences and discussions. I think each faculty should have conferences at which academics, professionals and students can discuss big issues in the world outside the university. There are currently conferences at which students studying subjects such as business, mathematics, and interactive arts can participate, but other faculties could be more engaged with the community and the field they are studying to work in. Advisors and students often say, it’s okay to not work in a field directly related to your faculty – in fact, it’s to be expected, for some degrees. But must it be that way? With conferences like these, students will gain a greater awareness of the companies they may get involved with and the organizations themselves will have a stronger connection with the SFU community.

2. How can SFU strengthen its community ties?

- Have workshops that educate the SFU community about organizations and the work they do that are relevant to various faculties. Unlike my previous suggestion, these events would be smaller and with only one organization presenting. These events should be strongly promoted within the department classes - students can, for instance, receive credit for volunteering to help organize them.  These workshops could also prepare students to think about the issues companies in their area of study face, and introduce them to the companies and the professionals they may approach after graduation.

- Create a local garden for the students to work in and grow organic produce. The food can be donated to the SFU Food Bank, or volunteers can be allowed to harvest their own crops. This would make organic food more affordable and creates a sense of community for all.

3. How can SFU improve teaching and learning?

- Reformat the course evaluations. The questions do not allow students to give an accurate testimonial to the professor’s teaching abilities and the class as a whole. Perhaps there can be a contest or initiative (such as enVISION) with suggestions for improvement. It would also be nice to have academic advisors hold workshops to speak to students face to face about their experience of the course, so that people can explain their experience in more detail and feel their feedback is heard by real people.

- For the faculty of communications, I would prefer to have more classes teaching technical skills, such as the ones taught in SIAT. The program can also be changed to require students to take certain SIAT courses for graphic and web design, and business communication courses such as BUS 360.

- For coop positions, many jobs are with large, industry-related companies such as hydro or electricity. It would be nice to work at smaller companies in areas such as television, radio, and video production.  It would be good to have more mentors, such as communications alumni, to help undergraduates learn technical skills such as graphic design, sound design, website design and public relations skills.

- Improve the GoSFU registration system – it has been mentioned that U of A uses an efficient, user-friendly program.

4. How can SFU make the student experience even better?

- Revive the bursary program for low-income students (I believe this was cut in 2005).

- Create compost sites to make the campus greener. That could be the fertilizer for the garden!

- Road and washroom repair.  Have more water tanks like the new one in the AQ, and replace porcelain fountains, which have poor-tasting water or don’t work.

Growing Together

I appreciate your creating such a powerful project, President Petter – it’s breathed fresh air and inspiration into my conception of SFU, and I am excited to see the university grow. I won’t even attempt to wrap my mind around how one would incorporate all that feedback! It would be an interesting experiment in transparency to also share with the students how SFU will respond to the answers enVISION has received, in a detailed way, and share the stages various initiatives are at.

Readers, I encourage you to submit your answers to envision.sfu.ca. They will be accepting online entries until May. There is also a video contest, provided by SFU Student Services – students can enter a one-minute video of them responding to how the university can serve students better – the contest winner wins $1000. The video contest deadline is this Friday, April 8, at noon.

Now if only our political leaders could create enVISION Canada…

By Sonya Reznitsky