By Gurman Sahota, July 29 2019 —
In an effort to introduce new — or even continuing — students to representatives in the Students’ Union and in the Students’ Legislative Council throughout the spring and summer, the Gauntlet is running the series, ‘Who’s Who in the SU.’ The fourth instalment introduces Kevin Dang, vice-president academic of the SU. Elected in March 2019, Dang began his term on May 1, 2019 and will be in the role until the end of April 2020.
The Gauntlet: What do you do in your role?
Kevin Dang: The role really touches on that representative piece — and advocacy. As VP academic, you represent the student interests on a variety of different university groups, and that’s a huge part of the role that can range from anything from teaching and learning to research and scholarship. I think that piece is really important because at the same time you’re representing students, you’re also raising issues and providing that student perspective on things being worked on — things that are very relevant to students. I’ve seen the role shift a little bit towards student support — we often get students that come into the office who are in distress or need guidance and you’re like a bit of an advisor in that way where you provide them with resources or redirect them to different offices on campus. Of course, I’m really pushing for research and teaching and learning and things like that — different things that are related to students on campus, making sure those are issues that are at the forefront for university admin and for us as well.
G: Why did you run for vice-president academic?
KD: I got appointed this year. For me, when I was faculty rep, I was kind of torn between two positions when I wanted to run for an exec role, and I was really inspired by the work done on Mac Hall and policy — learning that side of it. When I was a faculty rep, I did a lot of work related to teaching and learning — sitting on the teaching and learning committee, in the faculty, learning that side of it, which is really neat. When I was thinking about it last year I was like, ‘You know what, I kind of want to go back to something I’m familiar with, but also try something new at the same time.’ And sure, I’m still part of the SU, but I get to work on something that’s completely different, which is really awesome, but also something that I’ve done before a little bit as well. [It’s] kind of a new take on something familiar.
G: What do you plan to do within your role as VPA?
KD: I think for me, the big focus this year is building on some of the success that we’ve had in the past. So for instance, the Undergraduate Research Symposium is a big thing we’ve been talking about. Last year was kind of that pilot year where we did a three-day format. That was really cool to see, especially seeing it before in the old format. I really want to try to build on that. Can we get better speakers? Can we get more opportunities for students to come in and really showcase things? Last year we did displays for the first time, the Five Minute Thesis, things like that, those are new things that we’re trying. I want to continue to test and experiment and see if we can really make it a better program.
The Teaching Excellence Awards are about engaging every faculty and making sure that we’re encouraging excellence. For instance, in smaller faculties we’ve seen in the past, if we’re really engaging those faculties, they get some really great people out there, which is awesome.
In terms of advocacy, pushing for different projects through library cultural resources, working with the staff there — we have really good relationships with them — and they’re really open to working with students. How do we capitalize on that and make sure we’re working with those people? Open Educational Resources are always a big thing — we want to make sure that we’re really trying that on campus. We’ve had some success in the past. Those are kind of the big ones. I think there’s always little things that pop up and a few little policy things that I’m working on as well.
G: For someone who doesn’t know what Students’ Legislative Council is, how would you describe it? And how would you describe what it does?
KD: SLC can break down into two parts. We have SLC as board directors for our organization, so it’s the high-level decision-making body, whether it’s policy or planning, or passing the budget. Then you kind of dig deeper and you think about SLC as a group of people and it really comes down to representing students. Whether you’re a faculty rep and you’re representing the interests of the needs of the people in your faculty, or the execs, representing student interests we’re making decisions, that’s the big thing. Obviously, the group itself has its own kind of identity to it as well, depending year to year.
G: A year from now, when you are done your role, what do you want to look back on and see?
KD: I want to hopefully have a positive impact on not just campus or the SU but on students. I think for me — because I’ve been here for a little while — ensuring that I’ve done everything that I can and I gave it my all on each different area.
G: What’s one thing that you’ve learned now that you wish you had learned in the past?
KD: I think something I wish I learned early on is how many opportunities are out there. When I first entered university, I was kind of close-minded — go to school, go to my lectures, go to my lab and then go home. There are so many other opportunities that I didn’t realize I had, whether it’s through clubs, or through volunteering, or different opportunities like research. You never think that you have so many opportunities as a student and we’re really lucky to have that because not everybody gets that opportunity to be a student at this university. It really is a privilege to have so many opportunities. I wish I was more aware of that stuff when I was earlier on in my degree.
G: How can students get in contact with you if they need you?
KD: You can always feel free to come into the office and talk to me, that’s a big thing. I know that sometimes I’m out of the office with meetings and things, so if I’m not here, then it’s always good to shoot me an email.
For more information or to contact the SU vice-president academic, send an email at email@example.com.