Students helping students: enriching the undergraduate experience

Who knows what students want better than the students themselves?

Once again this year, Western received the highest grade in the Globe and Mail University Report in the category of “Most Satisfied Students”.  But providing students with a fulfilling and fully-engaging student experience is a mission in a constant state of flux.
In FIMS, Media, Information and Technoculture (MIT) students have taken it upon themselves to help shape their own experience, using a ‘students supporting students’ model.  The Undergraduate Students’ Fund (USF) was established to enhance the operation of the MIT Student Council by funding exciting projects, services and events for FIMS undergraduates that would not otherwise be available, explains Kathie Hess, Senior Academic Counsellor.

This academic year has already seen a concert featuring Western graduate and Canadian music artist Justin Nozuka, held for undergraduate students on November 23.  Approved and in the works is a student-organized Homecoming event for Fall 2012, intended to bring FIMS alumni together with current undergrads to hear keynote speakers and provide social and networking opportunities.

“Our students want to have contact with alumni,” says Hess. “Our current students have a very strong interest in examining possible career paths and opportunities, and they know that alumni can help them with that.  I think that says something about our students, that they are interested in organizing their own events and addressing their needs in ways that work for them.”

Zach Valliant, current MIT Student Council president, would like to see the student body dream a little.

“There is a collection of students’ money sitting there waiting to be used. We encourage students to use the money as a source of funding for endeavors they choose to take on. There needs to be some benefit to the students as a whole to be granted funding, but those possibilities are endless,” he says.

Hess explains that the Undergraduate Student Fund was established in 2009, and is replenished annually by collecting $50.00 per student via student fees.  The fund was passed by a student referendum, held in 2009 by the MIT Student Council.  Funds were collected for the first time in 2010.

Now that the USF has been up and running for a couple of years, Hess says that it is apparent the fund is functioning as intended, providing a variety of new opportunities for students.  Projects that have already been supported include charity coffee houses, video cameras for student use, guest speakers, career events, social events and Leadership Awards for graduating students.

Any member of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, including students, staff and faculty, may submit a request for funding.  Submissions are reviewed by a committee that meets three times a year.  The committee is made up of four undergraduate student representatives, two representatives from the Dean’s Office and the Associate Dean.

“I would like to see an increase in amount of guest speakers, lecturers that increase intellectual life within our faculty along with bringing in more employers that help to shape the minds of students for their future,” says Valliant.
“Really, the USF allows students to identify and respond to wants that change on a yearly basis,” says Hess, adding “Who would have a better grasp of what types of events or services will be successful than the students themselves?”