Photo provided by Zoe Ritchie
The Strand sat down with Academic and Professional Development candidate, Zoe Ritchie, to discuss goals for the upcoming year, and how to improve the academic and professional health of Vic students through more visible opportunities.
The Strand: Can you start off by telling us why you chose to run for this position?
Zoe Ritchie: I’ve always enjoyed the work I’ve done on VUSAC. I’ve never been a formal member but I’ve done some accessory member things, like Highball and Winterfest. But what led me to this position was just a series of experiences I’d say mostly culminated in this year. I’ve always loved event planning but I don’t think I really developed a passion for kind of the academic and professional side of it until I started working at the Alumni and Affairs office which was an awesome opportunity. I got to work with a ton of alumni and a lot of students, forging those partnerships is really important to me. Another thing this year was that I got to be a Vic One mentor. I realized connecting people with those opportunities is really important. Our school has a ton of excellent services for learning, academics, mental health. But for students, I’ve been hearing that they’re not accessible. You know, people are like, “I’d love to do research” so I say to them, “have you gone to Vic Research?” and they have no idea that was there. That’s a big part of why I’m running. I want to connect students to services, I want to strengthen those services and I want to create events that really help people reach their academic and professional goals. We’ve had a lot of great networking events, but I think by tweaking some details we can really get them closer to what students really want out of those events.
TS: Are you able to elaborate more on your experience within student government and Vic administration?
ZR: Student government wise, I ran for VUSAC in first year, in an election that had so many people running, which was a fabulous experience. I didn’t get a spot, but I made a lot of friends and met a lot of people. I also sat on the VCC from that election which was great because I really learned a lot about the issues at Vic, how to solve them, and how student activism is key to that. I was president of my residence house in first year, which was a lot of fun, and gave me insight to a lot of the struggles of event planning at Vic, and how to get around them and throw some great events. I was an orientation leader and a Vic one mentor so those were some opportunities that really helped me connect with first years, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to help them transition. Now that I’m moving into my upper years I find that the academic and professional challenges really hit you, what am I going to do in my future and how am I going to get there. What I’ve found is that you need lots of little goals, and one part of my platform is helping people reach all of those little goals they have. I’m working with clubs to really direct things to what they want.
TS: What is something you would keep and something you would change from the current year’s portfolio?
ZR: I’m kind of lucky—I have a pretty new portfolio—so I think I’ll keep the things that are already in it, because it’s not too large at the moment. They run one really great event a year with alumni. I would love to look at the possibility of running multiple smaller events instead of the one big one. What I would really like to do is reach out to certain clubs at Vic, to see an event where we connect alumni to [relevant groups of] students, instead of just an event where you might be with a scientist but you’re a writer and you would’ve loved to meet this person. I think that’s really important to me; things that are more directed and that will really forward collaboration. One of the biggest things is Academic and Professional Development isn’t really well known, and I think doing events like that will really get people to understand the commission and what its doing. The other thing that I really want to push for is a way to make services accessible, and that may be through a booklet with all the services. Another big thing in my platform is that I’m trying to show that academic and professional goals are met when your mental health, financial, and academic needs are fulfilled—because when you don’t know how you’re paying for school, it’s hard to be getting that 4.0. All of those things really need to come together. I want to do more work in the area, and talking to the different offices about the services they are doing. And talking to the students about whether like the services they are doing, and why they don’t know about the services. It’s so easy but somehow that connection is not getting made. Connecting people with services and making more targeted events.
TS: A lot of people don’t actively know about the position and the things an academic and professional development councillor does – what initiatives are you going to take to make it more clear, or would you prefer a behind the scenes role?
ZR: I don’t think any commission should be behind the scenes—if it’s there, it’s there for an important reason. I think that Academic and Professional Development was added so that we could make some events that cater to students. One thing I would like to do is make more positions on my commission. Usually its been a small group of students, but I think if I am expanding the type of work I hope to do, I would love to have more students join the commission. I’ve been talking to a lot of people who are interested and I’m very happy about that. I think just higher attendance at events. We should be looking at “what do people really want?” I’ve heard from a lot of people, they don’t want a resume workshop—they want a LinkedIn workshop, so lets do that; things that are directly relevant to the workforce looks like now. I want programming that people want— there’s room for innovation.