By: Naomi Librach, photo by Trevor Swann
With the current Graduate Students’Association (GSA) executive halfway through their term, The Charlatan interviewed GSA president Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah on the progress that has been made so far on their campaign promises.
Promise: Introduce an ongoing graduate student survey to provide feedback on the GSA’s services.
Ongoing: GSA president Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah said the GSA has decided to release the survey at the end of this academic year.
According to Owusu-Akyeeah, offering an end of year survey would present students with an opportunity for deeper reflection because they would have a full year of experience using the GSA’s services.
Owusu-Akyeeah said questions would focus on topics such as support for student parents and student engagement through Carleton’s political processes.
She added that the survey would emphasize international students’ feedback because they likely use the GSA lounge more than domestic students.
“[International students] are kind of difficult to engage with . . . just with how grad students and grad studies is structured,” Owusu-Akyeeah said.
Although international students may frequent the GSA lounge, this doesn’t mean they engage with the GSA in regards to their concerns, Owusu-Akyeeah said.
In the meantime, she said a form would be introduced this month for short-term feedback on the GSA’s services.
Promise: Provide peer-support training to graduate students.
Ongoing: Owusu-Akyeeah said she is still working to organize a peer-support training workshop for this semester.
She said the training would teach students to act as intermediaries between their peers and support services.
“Peer-support training is specifically a training for active listening as well as being able to connect people with the right resources right there, and those resources could be giving them connections to a counselor or frontline worker,” Owusu-Akyeeah said.
She said she has discussed her ideas with the Womyn’s Centre and would be approaching Equity Services to offer the training to graduate students.
Promise: Introduce embedded counselling for graduate students.
No: Due to limited resources, Owusu-Akyeeah said the GSA has been unable to create an embedded counselling program.
According to her, the GSA has not given up on introducing embedded counselling and will continue to advocate for it politically and discuss it with Matthias Neufang, the graduate studies dean.
Instead, Owusu-Akyeeah said the GSA is working with the Student Alliance for Mental Health to introduce the “Grad Wellness” program, a weekly drop-in peer-support group.
She called the program “more feasible” than introducing another program separate from counselling already offered at Health and Counselling Services.
“It’s counselling minus the counselling degree,” Owusu-Akyeeah said.
Students who require more one-on-one support after a group session would be offered the chance to speak with Owusu-Akyeeah, who said she has been trained in peer-support after each session.
Owusu-Akyeeah said the first Grad Wellness sessions would be hosted this month each Wednesday evening at 6 p.m.
Promise: Continue fighting for lower tuition fees.
Ongoing: The GSA participated in the Canadian Federation of Students’ nation-wide Day of Action of Nov. 2. The day sought to bring students together at Parliament Hill to raise awareness for rising tuition costs. Owusu-Akyeeah was one of the speakers at the event, and said helping to organize the event was “definitely one of the biggest things we did last semester.”
“We are continuing to [fight tuition fees] because we know it’s one of the most important things for grad students because it affects every single grad student,” she said.