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PGSS executive interviews

a/News/PGSS by
Brighita Lungu
Ge Sa
Jennifer Murray
Juan Pinto
Nikki Meadows
Julien Ouellet

(pgss.mcgill.ca)

This week, the McGill Tribune sat down with the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) executives to discuss their work this summer and their vision for the upcoming year.
Click on the portraits to learn more.
Members Affairs Officer, Brighita Lungu
McGill Tribune
What have you done this summer?
Brighita Lungu
A big chunk of my portfolio is the family initiative. A great number of our membership are parents […. We’re] reaching out to the parents communication-wise, publicizing our events and so on. We’re launching a family care newswire, which is going to be every month. [We’re also] producing some flyers for family care, and have those materials online as well.
McGill Tribune
What goals do you have for this year?
Brighita Lungu
This year, PGSS took over Study Saturdays which involves gathering volunteers, organizing them, and training them to watch the children [of graduate students] while the parents are studying upstairs. We have a lot of parents registering for it.
I am part of the working group, led by [Harm Reduction Coordinator] Bianca Tetrault […] who organizes the #ConsentMcGill campus-wide campaign, to take place this October [….] I’m getting PGSS involved as much as possible—they have our full support.[I’m] also a part of the mental health initiative, working with the secretary-general on a mental health video, the goal of which aims to de-stigmatize mental health on campus.

Internal Affairs Officer, Ge Sa

McGill Tribune
What have you done this summer?
Ge Sa

The internal affairs committee is basically the social and events branch of the PGSS, and we have been active all summer. We had a summer dodgeball league that was very successful. We [also had] orientation—preparing for that took a lot of time.

The secretary-general and I went to the Student Union Development Summit in Vancouver, hosted by the University of British Columbia (UBC). We met many schools’ student unions across Canada, [and] had a very interesting discussion in terms of student development, ­—[including] a presentation on student apathy—and we had a workshop on rape culture and sexual assault on campus.

McGill Tribune
What goals do you have for this year?
Ge Sa

We’ve set out a very ambitious plan for this semester in terms of events and social activities. Basically, I’ve been working on that. We’re planning new events like outdoor movie night and some invited speakers [such as] the president of the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) and the creator of PHD comics. I’m also working on expanding the internal affairs committee, having more people here to help out in organizing events.

Academic Affairs Officer, Jennifer Murray

McGill Tribune
What have you done this summer?
Jennifer Murray

[I have been] filling committees, recruiting students, getting them to know what committees are out there, how to get involved, and getting them appointed to these committees. [Another priority was] launching interdisciplinary initiatives.

McGill Tribune
What goals do you have for this year?
Jennifer Murray

The supervision policy will be in Senate in October. It’s basically comprehensive guidelines and policies for supervision for grad students across the departments. Right now, we have some really fantastic supervisors, and some who really don’t have a lot of training, so we want to bring everyone up to the same level.

Another initiative is to think about how to make PGSS and the execs more accessible, so I’ve met with a lot of students individually just to get a sense of how we serve them [and] what their academic needs are. I meet the students one-on-one, [as they] might have direct supervision concerns.

Secretary-General,  Juan Pinto

McGill Tribune
What have you done this summer?
Juan Pinto

In conjunction with the executive team, we reviewed the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) bylaws and the student activities manual, and we designed two reform packages [for them]. The essence of the reform package was to modify the Board of Appeals. The problem with our current structure [….] is that the secretary-general is the chair for the Board of Appeals [….] I don’t believe it’s good for the [secretary-general] to be part of the board; it has to be an independent body, have [its] own organization, and [its] decisions have to be respected.

The other main thing I was dealing with over the summer was the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). I attended a two-day hearing in the Superior Court of Quebec as a third-interest party. I was there to see Ge Sa’s case [against the CFS].

McGill Tribune
What goals do you have for this year?
Juan Pinto

The [four] goals are, One, making the mental health video.  McGill is conscious that we have mental health problems, and that students have increased mental health issues. We have to figure out how to reach out to them. We want to bring people from all over the community [….] so they can speak about this issue, be very frank and say, “I reach for help,” and it’s about resilience, not about [debilitation].

The second is revamping PGSS’s [bylaws and] structure so it can better represent the state of our society [….] I do believe we have to change the mentality in our society. I believe we have to start [….] seeing our internal institution as something that can generate change.

The third one is solving the CFS case, and the fourth is the sports grant program [….] Team sports bring people together. We currently don’t have that sports dimension [in PGSS] We have graduate students playing in some [intramural] teams, but we don’t have graduate teams.

Financial Affairs Officer, Nikki Meadows

McGill Tribune
What have you done this summer?
Nikki Meadows

For most projects, I’m the one behind the scenes making sure there’s financing for it, or figuring out how we’re going to finance it. So there’s been a lot of talking, discussing, and planning.

McGill Tribune
What goals do you have for this year?
Nikki Meadows

We’ve been talking about ways to restructure the society and the board to make them more functional and more effective in our operations.

I’ve been doing some consultation and talking with people to revamp the grants program […. and] we’re going to present to Council to get some feedback [….] As [the program] is currently structured, there is high priority given to events that happen on campus, and that are really large. I think—and the feedback from the membership has been—that one of the problems with that is we might have a really cool event that is really enriching for a small number of members, but the level of enrichment is so much higher, that we’re losing something in the way it’s currently set up.

External Affairs Officer, Julien Ouellet

McGill Tribune
What have you done this summer?
Julien Ouellet

We actually [co-]hosted a GU15 [conference]. The graduated student associations of the 15 biggest research-intensive universities in Canada came to McGill and to [the] Université de Montréal. It was a very informal group. [We discussed a structure] that will allow us to maybe do some lobbying at the federal level, to do an exchange of best practices between associations across Canada.

We’ve also  been doing a lot of outreach with francophone students and we’re going to collaborate with Concordia on issues of public transit. We’re going to submit a research proposal and try to implement something in Montreal, so that graduate students—who are often over 25—can benefit from reduced fares.

McGill Tribune
What goals do you have for this year?
Julien Ouellet
We also had two Fédération étudiant universitaire  du Québec (FEUQ)  congresses. The second one had a research project on the administrative obstacles faced by international students [….] In Quebec, they cannot benefit from the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ), so [the international students] have to buy private insurance if they’re going to be protected by health care. This is something that the FEUQ is going to work out throughout the year, and of course, we’ve been pushing for that for quite some time.

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