Thoughts from #CSAOct Conference

Thank you, Sault Ste. Marie (and Sault College Student Union) for hosting a great conference!

As you may know, I try heavily involve myself in student issues province-wide, and the College Student Alliance (CSA) provides the conduit for Cambrian SAC and myself to dig deep into issues that affect college students, as well as post-secondary education as a whole in Ontario. The CSA is the Ontario-wide advocacy arm of Cambrian SAC, and represents over 70% of Ontario college students. Make no mistake, this organization is important to Cambrian students. The CSA has a seat at the table of virtually every government and stakeholder committee and task force relating to postsecondary education.

One thing I always notice is energy, in every corner. The people I meet are students just like us, who have chosen to take on the challenge of assisting their fellow students, and working at a feverish pace to advocate on their behalf. You can’t help but be inspired, every time. The faces will change from year to year, reflecting the reality that time in student life will (usually) come to a close. That said, even with such a turnover, that same feeling is always present at each conference. Ted Bartlett, GM of the CSA, was unfortunately unable to attend, but his vision, support and guidance were omnipresent. Ted has a joie de vivre that he is able to cast onto any student leader he has the opportunity to work with, and those of us who have been able to develop closely to him know that he provides a strong opportunity for all colleges, including Cambrian, to have an influential voice in the  post-secondary education sector.

Several very important guests visited our conference…

Kathleen Wynne: The Premier of Ontario, the Hon. Kathleen Wynne made a surprise visit on Friday. She may have been on a tight schedule, but was able to lay out a three-point action plan targeting youth unemployment in Ontario, which is at a rate that sits at double the national average. Her answers were not as candid as our last visit from her, but she got as in-depth as she could to student questions, and once again displayed a very high competency when it comes to student and education issues.

Dr. Roberta Bondar: Canada’s first female astronaut, and second Canadian in space was Friday’s keynote speaker. Her presentation opened up a wealth of information on herself, her experiences and her knowledge that I never knew. Dr. Bondar’s life choices have pointed her in a direction that is totally hers, giving her the best possible opportunities to chase what is important to her. She has taken on so much in her life, many things that have required personal sacrifice and a critical mind, but has been able to stick to her plan of success.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo: I love Dr. Dinardo. She has the uncanny ability to instantly clue in on your emotional cues without you even knowing that you are casting them. My private conversations and Twitter chats with her have provided me with so much insight on myself and the world around me. Her major theme at #CSAOct was emotional intelligence, a theme that we have discussed at length. Using her positive psychology approach, Dr. Dinardo really strikes at the heart of how emotional intelligence can be used as an essential communications skill.

Dr. Tait Martin: Sunday’s closing keynote speaker, Dr. Martin really hit a home run when it came to discussing how to effectively engage students on any campus. With his public relations background, he laid out in plain English how student associations need to communicate to their students if they really want to maintain the best possible campus image.

The CSA board met on Saturday in the plenary session to defer the Fee Protocol Committee, meant to address the always-changing dynamic of the cost of running the organization, as well as (finally!) agree on a vision statement to allow the CSA to move forward with their strategic plan. We heard updates from around the province and touched on the new policy regarding the CSA election process.

Wrapping up plenary was the successful bid for the CSA to meet in London for February conference. Fanshawe Student Union President Adam Gourlay and his team have really done an incredible job in advancing the role of their student association within their college and in London, and I look forward to an incredible conference.

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