Statement from Dustin Chelen, Candidate for Vice President-Academic | SU Elections 2013

Why VP Academic? Why should you read this, and why should you care what the SU VPA does?

Think back. Why did you come to University? Parental expectations? Hopes for career opportunities? Friends, dodgeball, and drinking?

Or, like me, did some part of you hope that University would open your mind, transform your world view, push you to become stronger, and inspire you to exceed everyone’s expectations?

I came to University not knowing what to expect: I’m the first person in my family to attend. But I knew it should transform the way I think, and the way I see the world. Now, five years in, I’ve certainly grown and changed. I’ve built leadership capacity, met lifelong friends, learned a new language, tested my patience and sanity, and even explored the other side of the world. But I never got absolutely everything I’d hoped for. Sure, my math degree has made me a rigorous thinker. But I never explored cutting-edge ideas, rarely tested my beliefs, and didn’t create something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life (beside the Interdepartmental Science Students’ Society, I guess.)

I still have hope that a University of Alberta undergraduate degree can be life-changing. Students could research groundbreaking ideas, apply their knowledge to those in need in the Edmonton community, or study abroad in exotic locales. We could take capstone courses that teach us real-world problem solving skills, while working with our peers. We could build our competence in increasingly important subject areas, like peace and conflict, technology, sustainability, or globalization.  We could leave the University transformed as critical thinkers, ethical citizens, and confident leaders.

As VP Academic for the SU, I sit on about 50 committees, where I input the student voice in to the University’s decision-making processes. From big things, like budgetary proposals or new degrees, to little ones, like BearTracks changes or undergraduate research awards. I have opportunities to make a UofA education meet my, and all students’ expectations.

Last year as VPA, I focused on problem solving. Major things that I worked on included extending the withdrawal deadline, clarifying the grading policy, supporting Faculty Associations, reviewing teaching evaluations, and rebuilding the Academic Relations Group.

In a second year as VPA, I want to focus on three game changers:

  • Cheaper Textbooks
  • Better Teachers
  • A More Compassionate University

These are three core challenges to an inspiring university education that I hope I have the experience to address. I’ll work with Libraries to communicate alternatives to buying new textbooks to staff and students, continue to find Bookstore efficiencies, and advocate for more eTextbook usage. I’ll continue to review teaching evaluation mechanisms, advocate for senior leadership in teaching and learning, and work to address barriers to experiential learning. And I’ll aim to better communicate why students are worth caring about, I’ll continue work on a concession policy, and will advocate for rules that make sense for students.

Having a second year to tackle key issues – affordability, teaching quality, and bureaucracy – will help me to leave the University of Alberta knowing that I didn’t just settle for a mediocre education. I want to be a part of the fight for a life-changing university degree, and I’m grateful for a second round. After all, if I didn’t get all I’d hoped for out of my UofA experience, the least I can do is prevent the same from happening to someone else.

My campaign slogan is “Trust In Dustin”, mostly just to be a play on words. I haven’t met many of you, and probably wont. You can check out my website at www.votechelen.ca, but trust doesn’t come from reading an article or a website.  I don’t even think it comes from a demonstrated track record of being able to do the job. I think trust comes from understanding and empathizing with the stories of other people: having full faith that they have the experience, attributes, and intention to do the job well. Feel free to get in touch if there’s something on your mind, or if you want to share something with me. I’ve tried to share part of my story with you, and so I’d be happy to hear what’s on your mind.

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What is the name of your campaign manager?

Cian Hackett

What are the three on-campus activities that you are involved in do you consider the most important?

Spending time with friends, family, student representatives, and SU staff. Working as the Students’ Union VP Academic. Being a member of my fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta.

Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

1 horse-sized duck… What, you expect wit?

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