As vice-president academic, Shannon O’Connor is in charge of four academic commissioners as well as the 13 faculty representatives who make up the Students’ Academic Assembly. Although O’Connor claims her greatest weakness this year was taking on too many projects, she used her commissioners and faculty reps effectively for support.
O’Connor’s focus on teaching improvement in undergraduate courses was commendable. Her efforts to strengthen relationships with the Teaching and Learning Centre served as a notable step towards this goal. Using her commissioners and faculty reps, O’Connor also spearheaded proposals to create a teacher preparedness program, which she hopes will eventually be mandatory for every instructor at the university.
In addition to her proposals for improving instruction, O’Connor worked hard to improve the general student experience. Like many of her predecessors, O’Connor promised an online exam bank and, like many of her predecessors, she failed. This time around, the failure could be blamed on the university’s review of its intellectual property policy. Despite this, O’Connor managed to draft a policy, which is further along than anyone else has got.
She also lobbied for improvements to the Universal Student Ratings of Instruction online format to make the course rating system more accessible and relevant. The online response rates remain lower than the previous paper response rates, though it is not for lack of effort on her part.
Though much of the VP academic’s work takes place in committees, O’Connor was able to pull off two visible events for students successfully. O’Connor should be commended for the first quality of education “Discussion Deli” to facilitate dialogue between students, staff and administration.
Last semester she also organized the first SU Undergraduate Research Symposium, giving more than 70 students the chance to share their hard work with the campus community.
Also on the research front, O’Connor consolidated internal undergraduate research opportunities, allowing students to prepare a single application for multiple research positions. Although the consolidation process is not yet complete, the groundwork is laid for incoming VP academic Brittany Sargent to finish the job.
Criticism of O’Connor’s term is difficult to come by, and SU members are quick to commend her professionalism, dedication and ability to keep things together while managing a ridiculously large number of commitments. The only critique is that her communication within her commission was poor at times, though if this is indeed the case, it didn’t result in any visible issues.
While the goal of making the academic experience more enjoyable, or at least manageable, is a challenging one, O’Connor has successfully balanced multiple obligations and done so with a smile.