While many students took time to unwind on the weekend after returning to classes for the winter semester, the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) board of directors was hard at work. The board members, including new directors elected in November’s by-elections, spent their Saturday in an orientation to familiarize themselves with their roles.
Jason Syvixay, UWSA president, said the orientation session was a new event for the UWSA. In the past, board orientation has been an annual weekend-long retreat outside of Winnipeg in the fall.
“Having another board retreat is actually uncommon and has never been done before,” he said.
Given the number of new directors elected last year, Syvixay said the board needed a second orientation. In addition to learning the parameters of their positions and the UWSA institutional information, learning strategies of effective communication was the main focus of the day.
“The theme of the board orientation was increasing communication within the [UWSA] office as well as between the UWSA and students and holding directors responsible for being the thread between those two parties,” Syvixay said.
Not only was the new format for orientation less expensive than the annual retreat, said Matt Schaubroeck, chair of the UWSA board of directors, but it was also very productive.
“There was a good amount of energy in the room that I am excited to work with.”
Schaubroeck also said that the new board has a very different dynamic than past boards.
“I think it is a fantastic board this year,” he said. “Last year ... sometimes it was contentious and there were some stonewalls.”
A desire to close the gap between the general student body and the UWSA was what initially inspired Arts co-directors Janna and Kaitlin Young to run for the position.
“It was [a desire] to make the UWSA a little more inclusive and accessible,” said Janna.
Since most of the new board members have not been previously associated with the UWSA, Syvixay is confident that they will be especially successful in expanding the presence of the UWSA on campus.
“If you have 10 new directors that come from different groups and they bring 10 people to the board meeting, you are going to have more engagement and more student involvement,” he said.
While the LGBT* and Grad Student director positions still remain empty, Syvixay said that the board now has the ability to represent most of the constituencies on campus.
The Young sisters are eagerly developing campaign ideas for their arts constituency, but since there is only three months until the next general election, they are already feeling some pressure.
“We have three months ... but being completely new to the whole process ... reduces the time because we just learned our roles and responsibilities on Saturday,” said Janna.
Despite the time constraints, Janna remained confident in the board’s abilities.
“We do have a really strong board that will get things accomplished in three months.”
Published in Volume 64, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 21, 2010)