Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Post 64: Voting Continued, and Academic Program Review

Today was the first of four days that a temporary Elections Canada office was set up on campus, and I was excited to give it a go to vote. I had registered online, and knew which candidate I was voting for, so with ID in tow, I headed towards the SUB.

I was happy to see nice bright yellow signage inside, though from the entrance I took to get into the SUB, I headed down the hallway and didn't realize until 2 meters from the door that it was the entrance designated for folks with handicaps. So, turned back, and walked around to the other side with stairs. I got in line, and after a couple minutes, was told that there was about a 45 minute wait to vote.
Getting into the spirit of the election, one stop sign at a time.
BUT -- it's worth it to participate in democracy. I was so pleased to hear some of the snippets of conversation in the line of students before and behind me. Friends were voting together; registered and non-registered students were voting; first-time voters were voting; former students that I TA'd were voting; and other graduate students were voting!! So exciting!! And I was very pleased to hear that it had been a steady stream of students all day.

I truly hope that my Martlet article helped to bring out some more students. The location of the SUB is incredibly convenient, and I'm very happy with how this increases the accessibility for students to participate in voting. The Elections Canada staff were efficient and friendly, and despite the long wait, I thoroughly enjoyed my voting experience. While I wasn't allowed to take a photo of my special ballot after it was sealed in the envelopes (no cell phone use inside the voting office), I did see this after departing from the SUB:

Right on the lawn outside the SUB. 
So. I won't tell you how to vote, but I do encourage you strongly to vote. Bring a friend, and a book. You can probably get some review or reading done while you wait. :)

Flowers on my way to the bus. 
Academically speaking, this afternoon also had me participating in a very new event. We had an Academic Program Review take place for the School of Environmental Studies, wherein half an hour was set aside for graduate students to provide feedback to a committee listening for constructive criticism of the School. This kind of review happens only once every seven years.

We were visited by Barbara Hawkins (Chair of Biology at UVic), Ingrid Stefanovic (Dean, Faculty of the Environment at SFU), and Steve Murphy (Chair, Environment and Resource Studies, at Waterloo). What an amicable bunch! We began by highlighting a few positives of the program, which by and large included a general agreement about the strong community built especially through undergrad at UVic (for those who experienced it), and the willingness of faculty to support and nurture students through their academic training and pursuit of knowledge.

Constructive criticism was varied, including identifying the love/curse aspect of an interdisciplinary department: the fact that labs can be run quite differently, that the different departmental streams (ethnoecology, ecological restoration, ecology, and political ecology) can be quite fractured and lack engagement, and that there aren't enough PhDs on the social sciences side. As well, that in-house course offerings for electives at the graduate level are lacking a bit, as well as a clear delineation about what those courses should be. 

It was really good for me to hear others' insights and experiences in the program to date. We were a range of PhD and first to fourth year master's students. It was definitely an interesting process (if a very short one!) to be a part of.