Before you place your vote on March 9 and 10, find out more about the candidates running for positions in the SAMU Executive Committee. Alongside Students’ Council, the Executive Committee advocates for students and helps to steer the Students’ Association of MacEwan University.
THE CANDIDATES FOR VICE PRESIDENT STUDENT LIFE
Jason Garcia, Kimberly Gargus, Steve Gatenby, and Isaac Wiznura
If elected as VPSL, how would you improve student life in the most tangible way?
Jason Garcia: I would improve SAMU’s outreach and approachability. In the years to come, our programs and services need to target more students, especially those in need of our Peer Support program. Our volunteers should have more diverse training in order to be able to holistically address students’ mental health needs, and there should be more campus outreach to improve the program’s visibility. Our services should also provide additional contraceptives, such as dental dams and vaginal condoms, with a sex-positive approach based on consent. To see my other goals to improve student life, go to votejasongarcia.com/platform
Kimberly Gargus: In my platform, I’ve outlined a few tangible goals that I know I can see through to the end of my term: improving study atmosphere on campus (especially in the library) by creating more silent and/or collaborative study areas; implementing a system for students to rent (for free) portable laptop boards to use when study space is limited; increasing availability and frequency of stress-reducing programs such as StressLess and PAWS for a Study Break throughout the entire semester, not just during midterms and finals. Students know students’ needs the best, which is why I will always be open to communication.
Steve Gatenby: Sexual and mental health affects all students. I would aim to improve sexual health by advocating for higher quality condoms and lube available across campus. For mental health, I would aim to lessen the stigma surrounding Services to Students with Disabilities, raise awareness of SAMU’s Peer Support service, and aim to increase the number of visits from therapy dogs. The Happy Campus and Random Acts of Kindness initiatives are only two examples of campaigns that I would continue to uphold. Students want better food options, more study space, and to feel safe on campus. I will do my best to make that happen.
Isaac Wiznura: As far as tangible results, I feel that the most impact will be felt in my leadership style and openness towards the position. I will be actively seeking student audiences. I will be pushing for more dialogue, more town halls, more debate, and more discourse on the diverse and important issues our student body faces. I want to change the way SAMU interacts with the students.
What are two aspects of student life that you think are important to the average student?
Jason Garcia: I think mental wellness and an open and safe campus environment are important to students. It is crucial that students are able to cope effectively with the many struggles they encounter with mental well-being. These struggles can involve stress, anxiety, exhaustion, etc., due to one’s course workload and/or diagnosed symptoms that one has no choice but to cope with. It’s important that we have an open and safe campus environment that is dedicated to minimizing these stresses where possible and is able to holistically support students through the most difficult times without stigma.
Kimberly Gargus: Mental health is something that affects students universally, regardless of what year they are in, what program they take, or which campus they attend. Therefore, it is important that we equip our students with the best programs, services, and resources possible to help them through university. I also think a sense of community and belonging is important. Clubs, campus-wide events such as Fall Fest, showcasing student talent at open-mic nights and the Gray Gallery, the Breakfast Club, and the Student Refugee Program are just a few of the ways that students can connect and make their time at MacEwan meaningful and memorable.
Steve Gatenby: Speaking as a student, I would say one important aspect of student life is stress related to exams and assignments. Mental health is one of the most overlooked issues affecting students. According to the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services, 59.6% of Albertan university students reported battling overwhelming anxiety during one academic year. The second aspect is food on campus. I would do my best to advocate for cheaper prices and more access to fruits, vegetables and healthy food options. CACUSS.ca also reports that only 14.2% of students are getting enough fruits and vegetables.
Isaac Wiznura: I would say student activities and student engagement are important. Many of the most passionate people I have met are those who are involved in and run clubs and other activities. Ensuring there is consistent, clear, and accessible information and feedback on these activities is an important part of student life and a priority of mine. Second, I believe that feeling valued is vital to student engagement. Ensuring that our government is held accountable, and that the voices of all students are heard, is imperative to making students know they are valued members of the body politic.
Who are three leaders that have influenced you?
Jason Garcia: My grandmother: She’s gone through so much emotionally and physically before, during, and after immigrating to Canada with the rest of my family. She’s a huge impact in my life and is practically my second mom. She reminds me why I’m here.
Dr. Diane Symbaluk: She’s been a tremendous mentor to me, both in and out of the classroom. She’s challenged me to push the limits in terms of my research and unlocking the possibilities of my degree. She makes me proud to be a sociology student.
Beyoncé: Because… I woke up like this.
Kimberly Gargus: Declined to respond.
Steve Gatenby: Sir Ken Robinson, Rudolph Giuliani, and Naheed Nenshi.
Isaac Wiznura: Peter Lougheed, Angela Merkel, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lougheed was a transformative premier who fought for Alberta against the federal government, ensuring that Alberta was represented fairly on the national stage, doing the job Albertans hired him to do. Merkel is a story in perseverance and unity. A pioneer and a role model for European unity, human rights, and equality, Ms. Merkel is an inspiration. Finally, FDR led the United States through one of its most turbulent times, and always ensured that he placed the good of the many ahead of the whims of state.
What separates you from the rest of the candidates vying for your position?
Jason Garcia: The depth and range of my experience sets me apart. During my four years at MacEwan, I’ve been a club executive for three years, a SAMU employee and Peer Support volunteer for two years, and a MacEwan Ambassador for a year. I’ve also sat on various committees, including the MacEwan Diversity Project and University Students Offering Leadership for Violence Elimination (U-SOLVE). Given my experience, I know the ins and outs of this institution and how to accomplish my goals. I’m also the only candidate that has spoken openly about Indigenous reconciliation in my platform. These features are why I’m confident I’d succeed as VPSL.
Kimberly Gargus: What sets me apart is my passion, drive, and focus. I believe I’m the most qualified for the position. I have been a full-time student for the past three years, acted as a club executive and a MacEwan Ambassador for two years, and I am the only candidate on Students’ Council. I have interacted with students from all faculties and campuses. As the only candidate with Students’ Council experience, I have unique insight into what the job entails, and I have worked closely alongside the outgoing executive team. This prepares me to do my job well, and to start it with a shorter transition period.
Steve Gatenby: My position as Lifestyle Assistant at SAMU has allowed me to go out into the student body and discover what our students want to see. Currently, my job is to endorse and ensure well-being among the student populace. Whether I am promoting StressLess, PAWS, and Speaker Series, or handing out Kindness Coins as “Good Deed Steve,” I am interacting with our students. I am a student. I’m relatable, and I encourage students to come and talk to me. The goals that I have set are realistic and feasible, and I aim to benefit MacEwan’s students to the best of my ability.
Isaac Wiznura: I could say something frivolous such as my passion or my drive, but the truth is that all our candidates are passionate and driven. However, I am the only candidate who wants to look into reforming the SAMU Executive Committee compensation structure. I am the only candidate trying to run a campaign on multiple, real, relevant issues that affect all students. So, what sets me apart from my competitors? In short, I am the only one who is willing to take risks and campaign on real, controversial issues, because the students of MacEwan deserve a real election.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Candidates are responsible for the accuracy and relevancy of their statements. The Griff is not responsible for any inaccuracies on the part of candidates. For more information about the election and the SAMU Executive Committee, visit samu.ca.