SU initiative gets execs out of the office

By Emily Macphail

Last year, the Students’ Union rolled out a re-branding campaign to create uniformity when representing their various services. This involved better incorporation of design elements such as colour schemes and minimizing logo diversity. While these awareness efforts have carried over into this year, SU president Dylan Jones said that the focus is no longer on “re-branding,” but geared toward creating a stronger SU presence on campus.

According to Jones, the “driving force” is this year’s new Out-Of- Office philosophy. The initiative has two main purposes — to put the SU in the midst of campus so representives and executives are aware of what is happening on campus, and raising student awareness of what the SU does.

Jones hopes that the new Out-Of-Office approach will make SU representatives more visible to students in all faculties and ensure that students feel that they always have someone to go to, even if the issue is not SU-specific.

For example, while the Taylor Family Digital Library is not under SU management, complaints and concerns directed to the SU regarding a lack of study space resulted in Jones communicating with the university provost. They found a short-term solution and 130 new single-student study spaces in the TFDL were created. The MacKimmie Library Info Commons was also re-opened.

A variety of methods are being used to increase student awareness of the SU’s presence on campus, including advertising on The Loop and use of Facebook and Twitter. Faculty representatives received hoodies to wear at campus events as well.

The SU presence on campus has been noticed. Students and staff commented that the SU was very involved in Orientation Week and their hoodies allowed faculty representatives to be more conspicuous at events.

SU representative for the Faculty of Medicine Michelle Huie said she and other reps “wear our hoodies at least one or two times a week,” and that she has had students approach her to ask about “everything from the nearest washroom to the purpose of That Empty Space.”

Huie believes that the Out-of-Office approach is working to engage students on campus, but that “the key is learning and continuously adapting to meet student needs and reach the student body.”

She said that among other things, she uses social media and business cards to create awareness of SU events on campus.

Jones said communicating what is happening inside the SU is challenging. He is currently trying to find a way to communicate what happens in the weekly Student Legislative Council meetings. At this time, the meeting agenda is posted on the SU office door.

Despite these changes and efforts, some students say that more can still be done to increase the SU presence on campus.

Third-year health sciences student Sean Choi agreed that the new initiatives are making the SU more visible and that it is clear which services the SU offers. However, he thinks “more improvement on getting SU names out there can be done because, really, the only time I get to hear who’s going to be the SU rep is during the election time.”

He also said it is not easy to contact the faculty representatives.

Jones said that the feedback has been positive. He feels that a sign of success of the Out-Of-Office approach is the increase in informal interactions that he and other SU representatives are having with students, such as conversations over lunch in MacHall, where he’ll listen to student concerns about anything from anxiety over exams to experiences in the transition to university.

“The best thing we can do is get out there and get in touch with the people that we represent,” said Jones.

Jones added that he received positive feedback regarding his informal emails with students, saying they are more comfortable writing back.

“I believe that even though you can’t always quantify those conversations in passing, it’s so valuable — it’s really how you stay in touch with what’s going on on campus,” said Jones. “I’m so, so proud of my team and so grateful to be working with a team that’s working so hard to stay in touch with the people they represent.”

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