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Students as Partners conference at Wilfrid Laurier University

Shivangi Shah

I started working as a Student Partner Ambassador at my university with my amazing colleagues, Fatima, Kyra, Mellisa, Lauren, Rifa, Matheesha and Afshan! As a part of my role, we had started to do research into SGD’s and partnership mainly. While we had been conducting a lot of theoretical research, we were still thinking of different ways we could implement the SGD’s and their goals in our university, the goals that were still not being looked into, since our university is very involved with sustainability. Around the same time Fatima found out about a conference arranged by ISOW at Wilfried University Canada. She thought it would be a good idea if we attended the conference and got to learn about someone’s first-hand experience in dealing with partnership and sustainability. Almost all of us went to the conference, but some of them were unable to attend for personal reasons.

On the 1st day of the conference, we were greeted by the ISOW team and split into different tables to be able to meet different people from different backgrounds, such as university representatives, NGO representatives, and students from the university who helped organize the event. The conference began with a speech from Ivan Joseph, the Vice-President of Sports at Laurier. His speech about self-confidence and having the belief in yourself that anything can be achieved as long as you have faith in yourself and your attitude towards failure defines you. Always keep the people who celebrate your happiness and success close by, and let go of people who pull you down. Above all, find something that gives you inner peace and happiness which will give you happiness even in face of adversity, and do not forget to thank that mentor who gave you the opportunity to be successful.

His inspiring speech gave a very positive and energetic start to an inspiring conference that was to follow.

The next talk was from the President and the Vice-President of ISOW, they talked about their views and beliefs on partnership and thanked all the professors and other students who help make this possible, especially Dr Gavin Brokket.

Rena and Manal, representatives of UNCHR Canada talked about the lack of resources that are available for refugee students. Most of the available scholarships are used up for primary education, and there is not much left for the students that want to continue their secondary or tertiary education, this makes a lot of worthy students miss out on their education. They hope that spreading awareness about this situation might be able to increase reach and get soo many worthy students the opportunities that they deserve.

OSIN is the University of Bard’s initiative to help refugee students. They expanded their reach in Covid. In face of adversity, they saw an opportunity. They made use of everything being online to bring the world closer. The university proved that opportunities can be found anywhere.

We then had a workshop to discuss ideas on our table about how we could expand sustainability goals and student professor partnerships in our respective universities.

The next talk was a conversation with Bina Mehta, Dr Barrington WWalker,and Dr Darren Thomas. They talk about their struggles and how they overcame them. They talk about how colonialism is embedded into the education system and how much struggle people of colour have to face and go through and that this is an ongoing struggle that we have to learn to overcome and try to the best of our abilities to change the mindset for a better future.

The 1st day of the conference came to an end with the presentation given by Duncan Ross. He talked about finding a different way to rank universities other than their academic research. After a lot of consideration, they decided on ranking the universities on the basis of the amount of work they do in the sustainability area. He talked about how the universities show proof of their work with the SGD’s and how they are ranked. He suggested that there should be core/optional modules available in all courses to integrate SGD’s in everyone’s curriculam and encourage students to learn about sustainability and how to use it effectively.

Duncan Ross’s speech concluded the 1st day of the conference. It was a very insiteful day filled with ideas and collaboration and some thoughts and conversations that were there to stay. The second day began with a conversation with Friba Rezayee, she was the first women to represent Afghanistan in international sports. Since Taliban’s ban on women education to keep them subservient, she has started a foundation GOAL ( Girls Of Afghanistan Lead ) to make sure that girls get the education that they have the righ to have and deserve. She also states that education is as basic as food and water and everyone should have the right to it.

Next talk was about partnership and how students can be partners and they are not just customers or kids who are here to learn from the might proffessors. They have ideas and opinions and could help bring about change. Working in partnership can be fun and exciting since everyone respects each other and works together to a common goal. Partnership can make failure exciting since it gives failure a new point of view because now failure doesnt mean disappointed or mistake but means that there is more left to learn. The question that was proposed was what were the challenges of working in partnership with students. The fear of students missusing the power they have is always there and a good way to avaoid a situation like this is trust and transparency. Give students power and break the power dynamics, students and proffessors working together and being transparent with each other can help in keeping the students from absuing their power. Partnership is not like a grade on a paper, it is constant cycle of learning and improving, which makes reflection very important in the whole process.

During a lunch conversation with ISOW members, I learned that ISOW has a program to help refugees, the University of Wilfried Laurier each pay $8 to ISOW which is used to sponsor 5 refugee students education in Laurier. ISOW provides full support to students from start to end and makes sure that they get the education that they deserve!

Next was a conversation with Dr. Gavin, Dr. Kyle, Erion Cannan and others. They mention that not all universities have a student union or a starting point to start partnership work, in scenarios like these it best to start with that one colleague that you are confident will be interested and rake initiative and expand from there. Listen to students, they have ideas and enthusiasm they need direction and guidance not their wings clipped. Its ok if someone is unwilling to particpate, not everyone needs to be involved, but make sure those who are involved are passionate about it. Also make sure the university leadership follows through with their claims.

The day ended with workshop on partenship and people who have incorporated it and their experience’s. Tom Lowe, Dara Drake, Dr Fatima Maatwk and Kyra Areneta talk about their podcast and how they have used their podcast as means of learning about partnership in the university of Westminster. The others also talk about their implementation of partnership in the university. The day ended with a lot of discussion about partnership.

The last day was sitting with everyone and reiterating what we had learned and new ideas and implementations that we could apply in our respective universities.

After the end of the conference, there were a lot of things that stuck with me, some of them were how much a small initiative like ISOW could change the lives of people drastically, and if everyone were to start implementing something like that it would lead to betterment of society. This also ties in with the SGD’s right to education and partnership. The more collaboration there is between students and staff strictly in the context of the university the more there is a possibility to make impactful changes in our community that will be the foundation of something beautiful for our future.

By | 2023-05-09T12:16:31+00:00 May 9th, 2023|Categories: Announcements, News, partnership blog|0 Comments

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