In 2022, students in Niagara University in Ontario’s BPS program established a student council to improve and enhance the academic, social, and professional experiences of teacher candidates at the university by advocating for and representing the student body in a way that amplifies their voice, as well as offers opportunities for students to access resources and social events.
This year, co-presidents Courtenay Austin and Beth Osborne are set to continue that work.
The two opted to serve as co-presidents because they felt they could lead better together by combining their array of skills and ideas. The shared role also allows them the time they need to complete classroom assignments and placements, work, and spend time with their families.
In addition to the co-president, the six-member council includes a vice president of events, a vice president of operations and finance, a paraprofessional officer, and a sustainability officer. The team works in collaboration with faculty members Dr. Asma Ahmed and Dr. Carol Jones-Doyle. The group plans to add class representatives for each cohort section.
In its first year, the council hosted events that ranged from social gatherings, such as a BBQ and a Blue Jays game, to commemorating days of significance, fundraising efforts, and guest speakers. They also supported student conference days in November and March, and First-Year Orientation in August. The council president attended some operational meetings to share student concerns and impressions with faculty and staff.
These efforts will be continued this year, and new initiatives focusing on serving the community, such as winter food and clothing drives, are planned. The co-presidents also intend to create resources that can support NUO’s diverse teacher candidates to ensure they all have a successful journey at the university.
Workshops and professional development opportunities, such as resume workshops and interview preparation sessions, will also be offered so that the teacher candidates can have a “beautiful set of tools” before entering the field of education. Austin and Osborne also hope to share resources related to areas such as literacy, outdoor education, and creating a positive work-life balance.
“The organization is run by passionate teacher candidates who want to fill the gaps and ensure equitable student success,” they said. “With the great leadership from Dr. Asma Ahmed and Dr. Carol Jones-Doyle, we believe this is possible. Their passion and inclusive approach is what makes students want to be a part of the student council, and we are thankful that, even amongst their busy schedules, they have given us this opportunity to showcase that a small group of like-minded students can make BIG changes at NUO.”