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ANNUAL REPORT
2021-2022

A Year of Resilience and Strength

"This year was another tough one, with transitioning students from online to back in-person! But with continued dedication, resiliency, and strength of the GSA team of executives, staff, and volunteers, we accomplished MANY things including many advocacy wins, enhancing GSA programs, increasing minimum funding for PhD students, and establishing a minimum funding for Master's students."

GSA Executive Board 2021-22

Words of Reflection from the 2021-2022 Board of Directors

Alex Paquette, VP Academic

"It’s been the most amazing experience being in the role of VP Academic for the last two years. I feel privileged and fortunate to have been elected by my fellow graduate students and to have spent my time working everyday to enhance the graduate student experience. I want to thank all those who have helped and supported me along the way, I couldn’t have done it without you. For anyone who takes on this role remember this, as a GSA executive, you have a real opportunity to make a difference. Don’t let anything get you down and keep fighting for what you believe in. Trust me, it will be worth it in the end."

Kabita Baral, VP Student Life

"One year was not enough so I served my second term as VPSL and it was such a pleasure leading the SEEC team who executed over 50 events for students. After 2 years of virtual events, I did get one last hurray by planning one in-person event, which was overwhelming but fun. Excited to pass the torch to the amazing next VPSL, Masume ❤️"

Tanille Shandro, President

"To be elected for my first term was an honour, but we were still in ‘normal’ times then and the reality of what the pandemic would challenge us with was not yet evident. I can not describe how grateful I am that given the chaos that we faced in 2020-2021 the graduate students chose me to lead and represent them again during an incredibly difficult time. As a team of staff, executives, volunteers and members we continued to find creative solutions to challenging problems and emerge to what I know is a better place than when we started. This role was an unforgettable experience and I am thankful to the UCalgary community for all of the continued support."

Kirsten Neprily, VP External

“All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy.”- Samantha Power.

Mary Zhang, VP Finance and Services

"This year has been such a wild ride filled with hard work, learning and rewards. Such an honour to represent and work for our fellow graduate students!"

    Did you know that in 2021-22,

    $0

    was distributed in financial support to 600+ graduate students and 37 projects.

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    graduate student volunteers participated in the GSA's Committees and Subcommittees.
    0+

    Graduate Teaching, Non-Teaching and Research Assistantship positions were offered by University of Calgary Departments.

    0+
    online and hybrid events for graduate students were hosted by the GSA and its Committees during the academic year. 301 discounted tickets were distributed to various events and attractions around Calgary.
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    members had access to the GSA Extended Health and Dental Plan, which offers a wide range of benefits.
    0+
    survey responses from 7 surveys providing student feedback on advocacy priorities, student supervision relationship and service satisfaction.

    Reflecting on our Goals and Achievements

    The GSA Board Directors were committed to ensuring that all aspects of their goals and portfolios were in alignment with the GSA’s Strategic Plan. The GSA’s 3-year Strategic Plan 2019-2022 can be found here.

    See the goals and achievements of the GSA's 2021-22 Board of Directors in the tabs below.

    Tanille Shandro, 2021-22 President

    Consulted with graduate students to build a GSA return to campus plan and advocate for an institutional plan that was reflective of graduate student consultation and prioritized student health and safety
    Through consultation with graduate students, Tanille formed a GSA operational plan and advocated to the institution the graduate student perspective in the development of their plan that prioritized the health and safety of the campus community.

    Developed a Consultation guideline for institutional consultation with graduate students about important topics
    The GSA has completed a draft of the guidelines and it would be a project that is carried into Spring/Summer 2022.

    Worked with UCalgary to successfully prevent the GSA's weekly newsletters from being filtered by the University’s new IT safety software

    Developed and maintained the GRC Digest for GRC members to easily communicate the GRC topics with their departments
    Enhancing the communication between the board and the graduate students would be beneficial to the graduate student experience. Tanille created a new format for the GRC Digest for GRC members that was highly favoured and will be continued.

    Started the process for the new GSA Strategic Plan (2023-2025)
    The current GSA Strategic Plan is set to expire in 2022. Therefore, the GSA started the groundwork of creating the new Strategic Plan for 2023-2025. The project will focus on the development of the 2022-25 strategic plan for the GSA to identify strategic directions, goals, and priorities to guide the work of the organization towards its vision, to be recognized as the leader in graduate student advocacy and service delivery across Canada.

    Continuously Improving Student Representation and Advocacy

    While continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation and how changes in restrictions impacted graduate students, the GSA still remained focused on important aspects of graduate student life including engagement with politicians, minimum funding, student-supervisor relationship, provincial and federal budget, transit and housing issues, and labour relations for academically employed graduate students.

    Minimum Funding Increase Wins
    $0
    increase in minimum funding for incoming domestic PhD students.
    $0
    increase in minimum funding for incoming domestic PhD students.
    $0
    minimum funding for thesis-based Master’s students. This is the first University wide's minimum funding policy for thesis-based Master's students.
    COVID-19 Restrictions Advocacy

    The GSA administered two COVID-19 surveys for the Fall and Winter semesters to measure student comfort level with returning to in-person classes and office.

    The GSA actively brought forward student concerns via meetings with the University Administration, press releases, and reports on survey findings.

    Advancing Student Experience and Support

    The GSA is committed to maximizing the impact of our services with the available resources through collaboration and consultation to support the success of all UCalgary graduate students.

    Financial

    The GSA knows that financial health is vital to the success of graduate students. Therefore, the GSA works hard to maximize the amount of financial support that we can provide to in-need graduate students. Last year, we introduced a new application platform, worked with the University of Calgary for bursary administration, and streamlined our application process.

    Health

    The GSA partners with StudentCare to provide graduate students with an extended health and dental plan with a wide range of benefits. See below some highlights from last year's achievements.
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    Explore the GSA Health and Dental Plan here

    Highlighted Student Services and Engagement Initiatives

    Enhancing communications with graduate students and the community

    The GSA is committed to fostering direct and constructive communication between the GSA members, staff, and board to promote transparency, trust, and inclusion.

    Student Surveys

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    responses
    • 600+ responses - Supervision and Graduate Program Experience Survey/Research (May 2022)
    • 1,122 responses - Annual Survey (March 2022)
    • 1,332 responses - COVID-19 survey (Feb. 2022)
    • 1,966 responses - Return to Campus Restrictions Survey (Aug. 2021)
    • 382 responses - Advocacy Priorities Survey (July 2022)
    • 1,075 responses - Financial Literacy Survey (July 2021)

    Annual Survey

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    responses
    • 97% response quality
    Communication Satisfaction
    81%
    GSA Services Satisfaction
    77%
    Advocacy Satisfaction
    81%
    Read more about our Annual Report findings here

    Website

    • 300,934 website views (50% increase)
    • 1m 55s average time on page (13% increase)
    • 90+ blogs posted
    • 37.29% bounce rate (45% decrease)
    • 100,092 unique users (47% new, 53% returning)
    • 64% open on desktops, 36% on mobile
    • Stats from Google Analytics for the past 12 months

    Social Media

    • Instagram: 2,300 followers
    • Facebook: 2,500 likes
    • Twitter: 2,300 followers
    • LinkedIn: 300 followers
    • TikTok: New!

    Newsletter

    • 8,500+ recipients each week
    • 43% open rate (7% higher than the industry average)
    • 5% click rate (4% higher than the industry average)
    • 46% open on mobiles
    • 54% open on desktops
    • Stats from Constant Contact for the past 12 months

    Introducing the GSA's 2022-23 Board of Directors

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    The GSA hosted the General Election and By-election in the Winter semester and welcomed Saaka Sulemana Saaka, James Steele, Masume Akbari, Cameron Armstrong, and Alex Cameron as new members of the 2022-23 Board of Directors. They commenced their positions in May 2022.
    Learn More About Them here

    Appreciation Corner

    GSA Staff

    The GSA extends its appreciation to the staff crew that overcame the challenges of COVID-19 to sustain the programs and services of the GSA for UCalgary graduate students. The GSA sadly had to bid farewell to some of our staff including Danielle Abbott, Crystal Ellis, Shannon Jakel, Nancy Wanye, and Rachel Ouellette. We wish them great successes in the next chapter of their careers.
    • Danielle Abbott (Executive Director)

    • Danielle Ikurusi (Director of Finance and Operations)

    • Lina Girgis (HR Manager)

    • Thao Nguyen, Marketing and Communication Manager

    • Crystal Ellis (Governance and Services Manager)

    • Nancy Wanye, Advocacy Advisor

    • Rachel Ouellette, Executive Assistant

    • Shannon Jakel, Event Coordinator

    • Jaime Garcia, Administrative Assistant

    • Matt Broughton, LDL General Manager

    The GSA congratulates the promotion of our Director of Finance and Operations, Danielle Ikurusi, to Interim Executive Director and Jaime Garcia to Event Coordinator. The GSA also welcomes the newest members of the staff team: Chantel Cadogan, Andrew Kemle, Marian Simoes, and Taruneesh Sachdeva.
    • Danielle Ikurusi, Interim Executive Director

    • Jaime Garcia, Event Coordinator

    • Chantel Cadogan, Accounting Assistant

    • Marian Simoes, Governance Coordinator

      Marian Simoes, Governance Coordinator

    • Taruneesh Sachdeva, Administrative Assistant

    • Andrew Kemle, Advocacy Advisor

    GSA Volunteers

    Senior Leadership Team

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    The GSA operated 8 committees and 5 subcommittees in the 2021-22 academic year. These committees and subcommittees worked diligently to carry out initiatives and host events to improve the graduate student experience at the University of Calgary. The Chairs and Vice Chairs of these committees and subcommittees together with the Board of Directors, Chief Returning Officer, GRC Speaker, GRC Clerk, AVP Labour, and GSA Executive Director made up the Senior Leadership Team which acts as an advisory body for the GSA Board of Directors. We thanked them for contributing their time and talent to improve graduate student experience and connection during the past year.
    2021-2022 Senior Leadership Team

    Committee Members

    Special thanks to 200+ graduate student volunteers as committee members for the GSA committees and subcommittees who carried out the important events and initiatives over the past year. View the names of our committee and subcommittee members below.