By Sophia Lopez, March 2 2021—
On Feb. 24, the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union Faculty of Science Candidates Forum occurred over Zoom, hosted by one of this past year’s Faculty of Science representatives Manpreet Sahota. This new year introduces three acclaimed representatives, two of which had been representatives this past year — Pragya Chopra and Chaten Jessel — and new SU member Megan Raivio. Although Chopra and Jessel were not able to attend this year’s forum, Raivio was present to answer some questions about what makes her a quality representative for the Faculty of Science.
Before getting started, Sahota mentioned the importance of candidate forums, as it familiarizes the UCalgary community with the students who will be fighting for them during these difficult times.
“They’re just a way for students to really get to know the representatives and the future of student leadership,” Sahota explained.
Raivio, being a first year student, explained how her interest in student government began when attending a town hall a few months ago where current SU President Frank Finley took action on the recently proposed undergraduate cuts. It was at that moment where Raivio knew this was something she wanted to get involved with and advocate for change. Although she admits she wasn’t aware of the SU until that town hall, since then she has worked hard to make herself a suitable faculty representative.
“The moment I heard about it I was super intrigued, I did a whole bunch of research,” said Raivio. “I just wanted to know how I could be a part of making positive changes in this UCalgary community.”
Raivio went into detail about her platform consisting of three pillars — advocacy, opportunity and support. When touching on advocacy, she explained how she wants to be available to students and hear directly from them in order to tackle any issues.
“I think the biggest thing with advocacy is just constantly being open to students. I would like to start a completely anonymous Google form, that would allow students to have complete anonymity and to voice any concerns they felt at any time during the year,” she said.
As for opportunity, Raivio is aware that the pandemic limits her from creating the most opportunities she can for students, but she hopes that this year, along with her fellow representatives, she’ll be able to make students aware of what is available to them even in an online setting.
“I really wanted to […] see moving forward, how can we manipulate this online forum to the best of our ability so that we’re able to make every opportunity known and available to every single science student in our community at UCalgary.”
As a student who started her university experience in an online environment, Raivio discussed how she was unaware of the resources UCalgary has to offer to its students, which is why she believes support is important. Although most learning is currently taking place online, she plans to figure out how to still engage students through ideas such as increasing the use of Instagram.
“I just want to see what I can do and how I am able to make these services more available and more accountable and make students more involved,” she said.
When asked what her one best skill or quality is that will help her in her new role and what her greatest weakness would be, Raivio was quick to respond that her flexibility is a huge asset and was not ashamed to admit that her stubbornness might get in the way.
“I think my flexibility of just being able to change and adapt to what the people that I would represent need from me, I think that’s my greatest strength,” she said. “My greatest weakness is that I’m definitely pretty stubborn, so there will be times when I will need to put past my own thoughts and my own opinions to better represent what the students want.”
Raivio goes on to discuss her interest in sitting on the refugee student board. “I think it’s awesome to be able to give that opportunity to someone to come study at a really great institution and to be able to relieve financial difficulties for them.”
With Chopra and Jessel by her side, Raivio expresses her excitement to work with them this year by highlighting one of Jessel’s points of advocating for open education resources. “I totally agree about how there is a financial burden and I think that his idea of advocating for open education resources is a great way to fight the financial burden, and it’s a great way to make a lot of people’s lives in university a lot easier and a lot less stressful,” she stated.
When asked by the Gauntlet what Raivio most wanted to achieve from her platform she immediately went with increasing the funding for the PASS program, explaining how it helped her through some of her classes this last semester. “I don’t think a lot of students know how valuable it is,” she said. “I really would love to fight my hardest to keep the funding in place and increase it if I can — that would be my biggest accomplishment.”
To end the forum, Raivio reassures students that although she has been acclaimed, her goal is to represent the science students to the best of her ability, and be someone who they can go to for help.
“I think I bring a unique perspective to online learning and to university as a whole, because my first experience of it […] is this online version,” she explains. “I definitely think I would love to be remembered for making the online experience as full and bright and engaging as I can,” she concluded.
Voting takes place online March 2-4 through your myUofC Student Centre.