ANNUAL PLAN

Our goals for the 2020-2021 year.

Hi! We’re the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association, but you can call us SMUSA. We are a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1966 to provide services, support, advocacy, and representation to all of its members: the students of Saint Mary’s University.

Each year, our team creates an annual plan based on what we’ve been hearing from students on what is most important to them and what they want to see changed. 2020-2021 is going to be a year like no other, and so our goals reflect the challenges students have had to face amid COVID-19. These are our goals for the year ahead, our commitments to making Saint Mary’s a better place for students, our commitments to strengthen ourselves as an organization, and most importantly, these are our commitments to you.

Annual Plan Themes

If you want to read a specific section, click on the corresponding box below, or feel free to scroll through and read the whole plan!

Student Involvement

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Affordability

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Advancement

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Student Involvement

Goal: Provide Campus and Community Volunteering Opportunities for Students

Action Items

  • Create ways to volunteer at SMUSA events.
  • Conduct monthly check-ins with student societies.
  • Host two Society Socials per semester.
  • Host information sessions for students who want to start a new society.
  • Review the SMUSA Society Policy to better accommodate smaller student societies.
  • Maintain a proper volunteer database that allows students to find organizations in the community.
  • Work with the University officials to encourage more on campus events in accordance with Nova Scotia Health Guidelines.
Goal: Create Academic Events and Societies on Campus

Action Items

  • Reach out to active societies to gauge interest. Facilitate the creation and execution of academic events and societies on campus (Moot Court, Professional Panels, Professional Development, etc.)
  • Support student champions by removing barriers, providing administrative or event planning support and connecting them with useful contacts or any other support student may need.
  • Gather ideas for events from students.
Goal: Improve and Increase Efforts to Gather Student Feedback

Action Items

  • Consult students about problems in their faculty and collect feedback about present issues.
  • Strike and advertise various SMUSA Committees. Meet monthly or as needed.
  • Create and circulate student engagement surveys to gather feedback about student priorities throughout the year.
  • Conduct regular surveys on social media to quickly gather student feedback.
  • Host a Town Hall event in Fall 2020 to better understand what students want/ need.
  • Organize an Annual General Meeting in Winter 2021.
Goal: Get Students More Involved in Elections

Action Items

  • Collaborate with Elections Halifax and Elections Nova Scotia to run “Get Out the Vote” campaigns for the municipal and provincial elections.
  • Create and distribute educational resources about voting and elections.
Goal: Facilitate Opportunities for Leadership Development

Action Items

  • Organize a “Governance Week” leading up to the Advocacy Weeks for both Students Nova Scotia (SNS) and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) to inform students about our federal and provincial advocacy work.
  • Collaborate with Volunteer Nova Scotia and other relevant organizations to promote service learning opportunities for SMU students.
  • Host an advanced level Society Summit to train student society executives.
  • Collaborate with the SMU Career & Experiential Learning department to host workshops and leadership conferences.
  • Connect with external organizations to collaborate with SMUSA student societies.
  • Host bi-weekly educational and leadership videos for students throughout the year.
Goal: Create Additional Opportunities for New & Graduate Students

Action Items

  • Create a Graduate Working Group to discuss relevant issues.
  • Refer back to the Graduate Working Group for feedback on CASA Graduate Advisory Committee.
  • Create guidelines to identify interested students and ensure new and graduate students have ways to get involved.
  • Promote opportunities specific to new and graduate students.

Affordability

Goal: Eliminate Financial Barriers to Education Due to COVID-19

Action Items

  • Advocate to SMU and all levels of government for COVID-19 related financial aid specifically for international students. 
  • Advocate to SMU and all levels of government for sufficient digital infrastructure for students (e.g. Laptop Loan Program, High-Speed Wifi, Tablets, etc.).
  • Advocate to SMU for the removal or delay of the late tuition interest charges.
  • Advocate to SMU for the reallocation of auxiliary fees (e.g. Campus Renewal Fee, Recreation Facilities Renewal Fee, etc).
  • Advocate to SMU for the continuation of the SMU COVID-19 Emergency Bursary.
Goal: Reduce Costs for SMUSA Student Societies

Action Items

  • Assist student societies with planning fundraisers.
  • Connect with external funding sources and sponsors to provide additional funding to student societies.
  • Set a maximum for society event ticket prices.
  • Set a maximum for society membership fees.
Goal: Increase Awareness for Open Educational Resources (Free Textbooks)

Action Items

  • Collaborate with the SMU Library to promote the new Council of Atlantic University Librarians (CAUL) repository.
  • Work with the SMU Library to host information sessions about Open Educational Resources for both faculty and students.
  • Work with CAUL to organize a NS-wide campaign about Open Educational Resources.
  • Connect with relevant stakeholders at SMU to engage the student population about Open Educational Resources.
Goal: Seek a Long-Term Predictable Tuition Model for Domestic and International Students

Action Items

  • Launch an advocacy campaign to promote a predictable tuition model.
  • Advocate within relevant University committees and decision-making bodies for a predictable tuition model.
Goal: Pursue Affordable Food Options on Campus

Action Items

  • Advocate to keep the costs of meal plans low.
  • Advocate to ensure that all mean plan options have a sufficient number of meals and healthy food options.
  • Advocate within the University to repeal the mandatory meal plan in Rice Residence.
  • Advocate for students to utilize Dockside Dining Hall safely
Goal: Expand Experiential Learning Opportunities for Students

Action Items

  • Advocate for partial course credit for students who do co-op placements.
  • Host presentations on Service Learning, Internships, Conferences, and other experiential learning opportunities.
  • Collaborate with the SMU Career & Experiential Learning department to review current opportunities and identify potential growth areas (Simulations, Case Studies, Community/Industry Research, etc.)

Support and Accessibility 

Goal: Ensure Events are Safe and Accessible

Action Items

  • Review and update the SERM form to include inclusivity and accessibility considerations.
  • Update the SERM form to include Nova Scotia health and safety measures related to COVID-19.
Goal: Expand the SMUSA Tutor Database

Action Items

  • Promote tutor opportunities to qualified students.
  • Advertise the tutor database to students who are looking for a tutor.
  • Create and implement a usage tracking system.
Goal: Help Students Prepare for the Future

Action Items

  • Consult students on what would be beneficial to them in preparing for graduate/ professional program applications.
  • Organize mock events or graduate school Q&A panels.
Goal: Promote Student Academic Achievement

Action Items

  • Identify students who are willing to participate and gather information/ content.
  • Showcase the work of students using the Student Experiential Learning Fund on the SMUSA website and social media channels.
Goal: Better Support Equity-Seeking Students

Action Items

  • Create a paid position for the SMUSA Pride Centre in collaboration with the SMU Pride Society.
  • Create a paid position for the President of the Indigenous Student Society.
  • Advocate for new brave spaces to be created on campus.
  • Advocate to improve existing brave spaces on campus (Pride Centre, Women’s Centre, Indigenous Student Centre).
Goal: Promote Mental and Physical Wellbeing

Action Items

  • Post regularly about available resources to support mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Organize events related to wellbeing (meditation sessions, cooking classes, yoga, etc).
  • Host free Mental Health First Aid training for students.
  • Advocate to SMU for the adoption of the full HealthyMindsNS suite.

Advancement 

Goal: Dismantle Systemic Issues

SMUSA recognizes that its organizational foundations are based in an oppressive system, and we are actively working to dismantle these issues both within our organization and the University.

Action Items

  • Provide free anti-oppression training for students, faculty, and staff at SMU.
  • Advocate for an external review of the SMU International Student Centre.
  • Conduct a review of SMUSA’s Hiring Practices. 
  • Propose a multi-year curriculum review to ensure that all professors are engaged in anti-discriminatory teaching and sharing of cultural pedagogy.
  • Actively engage with student groups that bring forth systematic/oppression problems within the University community.
Goal: Improve the SMU Sexual Violence Policy

Action Items

  • Strike a SMUSA Sexual Violence Policy Action Team comprised of students.
  • Meet regularly to discuss student concerns and best-practices.
  • Create recommendations specifically for the SMU Sexual Violence Policy.
  • Advocate within relevant University committees and present student-informed recommendations about the SMU Sexual Violence Policy.
Goal: Improve SMUSA’s Transparency and Communications Efforts

Action Items

  • Renovate the SMUSA website to better promote and organize information.
  • Maintain a consistent posting schedule sharing more information about our work using new and improved communications channels.
  • Reply to all student inquiries and requests in a more timely fashion.
  • Create and distribute a monthly e-newsletter to students.
  • Add measures to improve digital accessibility on SMUSA’s channels (e.g. video subtitles, described imagery, simplified website navigation).
  • Develop and implement a Social Media Strategy.
  • Develop a new SMUSA Communications Policy that formalizes our communications efforts, provides clear guidelines, and mandates a specific response-rate for student inquiries.
Goal: Increase Organizational Awareness

Action Items

  • Run targeted posts to reach incoming, first-year, and second-year students.
  • Execute a campaign about the work SMUSA does and our role within the University.
  • Initiate the first steps of a formal brand refinement project.
  • Communicate monthly with members of external media through press releases, statements, and campaigns.
  • Increase student awareness of our role within Students Nova Scotia and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations through joint campaigns, branded collateral and student-driven focus groups
Goal: Build an Online Community

Action Items

  • Facilitate a “Humans of SMU’ photo series to showcase the diversity and stories of students at Saint Mary’s University.
  • Organize social media giveaways for students.
  • Update the SMUSA Social Media Policy to include community guidelines that are designed to create a safer, more positive, and engaging environment among our social media accounts.
Goal: Be More Involved in the Broader Community

Action Items

  • Establish community areas on campus.
  • Highlight and collaborate with a local organization each month to provide engagement opportunities for students.
  • Work with local organizations doing work in areas such as eliminating systemic discrimination, education, and sharing of lived experiences.
Goal: Review SMUSA’s Organizational Structure

Action Items

  • Conduct a jurisdictional scan and collect data on the organizational structures of other student unions/associations.
  • Produce a report based on student feedback on SMUSA’s current structure.
  • Identify new ways for more students to engage in the work of SMUSA.
Goal: Build Relationships with All Levels of Government

Action Items

  • Send a letter to each of the municipal candidates, Liberal leadership candidates, and potential provincial candidates, introducing SMUSA and outlining our annual priorities.
  • Meet with all party officials in the Halifax area.