Vanessa Harman, president of the Education Undergraduate Society (EdUS), leads one of the smallest faculties at McGill. Education has only 1,600 students, including those in Kinesiology and Physical Education. According to Harman, her role as president is an “overarching” duty by virtue of the uniqueness of the program.
“[The President’s role] is essentially to act as a spokesperson for the undergraduates and to represent the student views and concerns in the faculty council and in the department meetings,” said Harman.
Harman, a U4 Secondary English student, was motivated to become the faculty association president after experience as VP Academic and U2 Secondary Representative.
“That really inspired me to want to take it to the next level, and be able to really be a leader in my faculty,” said Harman.
The primary mission of the EdUS this year, under Harman’s leadership, is to engage its students and get them more involved with the community.
“The main headspace of the previous years has been one of being more distant from the rest of the campus physically. We are far away from main campus and also the fact that we have placements every year – and every [class] goes out on placement at different times – makes for a very disjointed student body,” said Harman.
According to Harman, because of the nature of the co-op program, the EdUS has not taken a “specific stance” on prominent political issues this year, including the potential general strike against Quebec tuition increases.
“It is difficult for Education students to see their place in getting involved with political decisions,” Harman said.
“We are hosting a Town Hall next Thursday, to get our students talking about these issues,” she added.
Harman explained that she “doesn’t necessarily see the EdUS moving to strike.”
She explained that the nature of the Education program is such that “we can’t really just not go and teach the students.”
Earlier this year, a conflict arose between the EdUS and Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) after the latter increased the fees for Education students who wanted to participate in Arts Frosh.
Harman explained that the conflict between the EdUS and the AUS did not escalate.
“We haven’t had any issues following what happened with Frosh,” she said.
Following these difficulties and student demand, EdUS formed a subcommittee to work on planning an EdUS Frosh.
“We have felt for a few years that it’s important that we have our own Frosh, so we are very excited to plan that for our students,” said Harman. She said EdUS’s Frosh would be implemented in fall 2012.
Harman said that, this year, EdUS has been able to offer more events and resources for students than in past years.
“We brought in someone to do a workshop about teaching children with autism, but that is just one example among others. It is just kind of refreshing for the faculty just because we haven’t seen a whole lot of student engagement in the past,” said Harman.
Harman said she plans to spend the remainder of her term trying to amend the entrance requirements for the program. EdUS is also trying to revamp career advising services to have “substantial and meaningful” services for Education students.
“We just finished the process of writing a referendum question to be voted [on] in the upcoming elections to implement a student fee for our career advisor and our career advising services. We will be submitting that referendum question and hopefully implementing this $25 per semester student fee,” said Harman.