Experiential Learning, Transit, and Jobs: A Meeting with Team Sophie

In January 2015, Ward 9 councillor Ali Alkadhimi met with USC presidential candidate Sophie Helphard, as well as her running mate Lindsee Perkins. The conversation ranged from experiential learning and youth employment opportunities in London, to transit, and the team’s goals for the university over the next year.

Who Should Read This?

Anyone who is interested in student jobs and transportation should read this. It provides insight from students who are heavenly involved in the University Students Council at Western University.

Experiential Learning

This conversation started by looking at opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning in London. The idea is that students in smaller faculties need more opportunities for hands on learning, and that this would help expose students to the city outside of the Western bubble. One area of concern with Western’s current system is that only the larger faculties have co-op or experiential learning opportunities, and that these programs are inconsistent across the university. The team wants to work on building consistency across the university community before reaching out to businesses in the city to build partnerships and create opportunities.

A second concern came up when discussing paid versus unpaid internships. This becomes an issue of employment versus unemployment for many students, who can’t afford to take on unpaid internships and manage the costs of being a student. An improved experiential learning program would offer credit for the experience, which would take the place of a course in students’ programs. Students wouldn’t have to take on unpaid internships during the summer in order to get experience in their fields; rather, they could get this experience as part of their education. This arrangement recognizes that learning can happen in all kinds of environments, not only in classrooms.

Jobs for Students

There is a definite problem for students looking for jobs in London. When students leave for the summer in order to find work elsewhere, it weakens their ties to the city and their sense of belonging in the community. This means they are less likely to become active members of the community outside the university, and may be less likely to stay in London after graduation. Part of the problem is that students rarely know where to look for jobs outside of the Western bubble, which leads to the perception that there are no jobs. In order to combat this perception, the team wants to look for ways to connect students to jobs, including increasing job opportunities on campus.

Transit                                                                                         

An important factor in connecting students to the city at large is making sure they can get there. Transit can be a huge barrier to exploring London. The problem is, the London Transit Commission knows that service is not up to par, but needs more funding to meet people’s expectations. The LTC is looking for feedback, but we know that this feedback has to be constructive. There’s no point telling the LTC that service is sub-par; the only way to move forward is to take a collaborative approach. While the current conversation is based around BRT versus LRT, the team argues that this kind of long term thinking has to be matched by a commitment to short term solutions. Transit in London is not just a student problem, it is a city wide problem. Finding solutions means getting as many perspectives as possible and ensuring that the research is there to back up a decision on BRT/LRT.

What does the Future Look Like?

Team Sophie wants to see even more students engaged with their USC, and they want more feedback from students. Their approach is less political, and more community based. Western has a great community already, and the team wants to see it grow stronger. This has been a great learning experience already; they know more than ever before about student issues.  In terms of the LYAC, the team would like to see more alignment on advocacy issues and the chance to build more personal connections with councillors.

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