Student Unions and Associations

You’re at U of T and it’s bloody huge. Your classes are humongous and you’re wondering how you’ll ever manage to make friends to help you through your years here. Let me give you a word of advice from someone who’s almost at the end of her journey here: connect yourself with the people in your student unions. You don’t even have to part of a student union itself, but being part of their Facebook group is super cool and fun. So, before I begin, you might be wondering: what is a student union?

A student union represents students from a certain department, and members are elected by their peers. For example, students who are enrolled in a History class or a major/minor/specialist can vote for the executive members of the History Students Association (HSA). These unions and associations organize events, socials, conferences and aid in the process of the publication of undergraduate journals.

What are the advantages of getting involved in a student union?

  • If you join the ListServe or the student union’s Facebook group, you’ll get news and updates regarding events that are being organized or lectures that might pique your interest. These events can help you network with profs and academics in your field of study, meet people with common interests or get free food.
  • Your student union/association is also a link between you and your profs/department/departments at other universities. This means that they have all sorts of interesting information such as where to study if you want to go abroad and scholarship opportunities.
  • Wondering what courses to take? Try talking to the execs in your student union! They got elected and they wanted to be elected because they wanted to get involved with other students. Drop by office hours, see if any execs are in your class, or send them a message on Facebook with any questions you might have! These students are often upper years with valuable experience and knowledge about the department and your subject POSt(s).
  • Remember back in the summer when students got angry over the Dean’s decision to disestablish departments and shove them into a School of Languages and Literatures at U of T (SLLUT)? Student associations and unions were a rallying point for students who opposed the plan. These associations are your voice and they try to represent you when the university makes important decisions concerning your education.
  • Being part of your student union’s executive committee can be an extremely rewarding experience. Have a conference idea or an idea for an awesome social? Try organizing it! As well, being part of an association helps you network with your professors and TAs, which will be super handy when you want to get reference letters for grad school.

So join the Facebook group for your department and/or go to a few events and maybe you’ll find your experience at U of T a lot more rewarding than you thought it would be. Remember, your education what you make of it; you might as well make it a good one.

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