Western, it’s been a challenging, powerful, and productive first half of my term as your Student Programs Officer. I have bangs now. For those of you who may not know me, my name is Cecilia Liu and I will be your very last USC Student Programs Officer. Next year most of my responsibilities will be held by the Vice President Student Support and Programming.
My portfolio includes four main pillars: general student programming, the Peer Support Centre, Peer Programs, and the Orientation Program. Within these pillars, I directly supervise 21 wonderful student leaders who work incredibly hard on different events, initiatives, awareness campaigns, and so much more to better the student experience on our campus.
Looking back, it’s difficult to encapsulate all that has happened in the last seven months in five minutes – so Nico, please forgive me if I go over time here. This portfolio has been ingrained into the fabric of Western, as students come to expect programming and initiatives from it year after year. Get Tested, the Early Outreach Conference and the day-to-day functions of Food Support Services are now an expectation from our student body. Students across this campus look to Ethnocultural Support Services, PrideWestern, and other Peer Programs Coordinators to amplify the voices of marginalized students on campus. Whether students know that these services are provided by the USC or not, they have become an integral part of their student experience.
When I began my term, there were themes and priorities that I knew I wanted to accomplish, from improving the Orientation Program through a lens of community-building and equity, to bringing in a diverse range of artists and events to Western’s campus. I’m happy to stand here and say today that I am proud of the work my team and I have accomplished, and am truly looking forward to all that’s to come in our last five months.
From the beginning, we started off strong by holding a phenomenal Orientation Week for our new students to introduce them to Western’s campus. As usual, Western and the USC never fail to impress in their programming throughout the week with events such as concerts, board game nights, and One Love. Now that we’ve had a few months to reflect on student feedback and our experiences, there are a few priorities I’ve set from the USC perspective in order to continuously better an already fantastic Orientation Program and community. I believe in the importance of focusing on the growth and development of our student leaders, including Orientation Staff, Leadership Teams, and Sophs. My team and I will analyze Soph training through a critical and equity-based lens and continue to gather feedback from Sophs about the program, to ensure that we’re equipping our Sophs with the resources and training they need to help new students find their footing at Western.
The second large-scale priority I have for the Orientation Program is to improve our programming and initiatives through an increased focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Although I won’t be around to see O-Week 2020, I’m excited to pass along my goals to my successor and bring in another perspective on what the program could be. And maybe they can sneak me in for a few events.
Another service that we’ve really focused on improving this year is the USC’s Peer Support Centre, which provides students with confidential, non-judgmental, peer-to-peer support. We’ve chosen to revitalize and revision our philosophy of peer support in line with that of Peer Support Canada’s and developed a training program with the Ontario Peer Development Initiative. We’ve also run numerous events and initiatives that have garnered student awareness and engagement of peer support services such as Painting with Peers and an open mic night at the Spoke. Looking forward, we are looking at continuously improving our training program for volunteers, developing a USC Peer Support Centre Strategic Plan, and working with coaches from the Canada Mental Health Association and the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health on a Quality Improvement Project. This project will aim to collect better data for our Peer Support Centre to track usage, target different student demographics in our marketing, and assess growth.
In the past few years at Western, I’ve dedicated my time and energy to my passion for the faculty of music. Last year I served as the president of the Faculty of Music Students’ Council, and it was important to me that I brought in the values that I held as music president to the USC. Throughout my term it was a large priority of mine to showcase student artists through events such as Nuit Violette on the lawn of the McIntosh Gallery and ensuring that every concert we held brought in student musician openers. My programming and events team and I also held a successful BeerFest at the beginning of the year and saw Bryce Vine in the Wave. We are thrilled for the upcoming Arkells concert in the Mustang Lounge (tickets are currently on sale online and at the Purple Store, get them while they last!) and stay tuned to the USC’s social media to find out more about our exciting events for second semester.
You might have noticed some barriers coming upstairs in the UCC today. One of my first initiatives coming back from the winter break is spearheading the USC’s #HERETOLEAD campaign, featuring multiple art installations that are meant to represent real barriers that underrepresented students face when assuming leadership roles. We hope that this display will bring to life the hardships of entering leadership positions as a student from a minority group on campus and inspire a diverse candidate pool in our upcoming USC elections.
I’d like to end this off by talking about a priority that I am extremely passionate and hopeful for, which is seeing more equity, diversity, and inclusion action on this campus. First semester was difficult for racialized students, especially black students on our campus as we saw an incident of anti-black racism that was hurtful and shocking, but not surprising or unprecedented at Western. I have hope for the actions that will come out of the anti-racism working group that was struck by Western’s President last semester and am excited to bring the student voice and perspective to the table. At the beginning of my term, one of my intrinsic goals was to integrate equity, diversity, and inclusion into everything I did as an executive of the USC, from events and initiatives to high-level decisions and strategies. As you’ve heard in previous speeches, we’re restructuring our executive to have six members for this upcoming year, and I’m thrilled that we will now have a Vice-President University Affairs with equity-based advocacy included in their executive mandate.
Before I step off the stage and hand off the mic to Declan, there are many thank you’s that need to be said. I’m infinitely proud of my executive for all we’ve accomplished in the last seven months, but none of this would have been possible without our incredible associates, coordinators, interns, senior managers, staff, and so on. Thank you for your dedication to our students and my team.