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SAITSA’s new strategic plan aligns with student needs

SAITSA is now operating under the direction of a new strategic plan, which will guide the organization over the next five years.

The 2018-2023 Strategic Plan outlines the vision, mission, and mandate of SAITSA, and replaces the 2013-2018 Strategic Plan.

It’s development was provoked by a perceived disconnect between the former strategic plan and the objectives of the executive council, said SAITSA president Alysson Torres-Gillet.

“We kept trying to get things done, and were constantly being told, ‘that doesn’t align with the strategic plan,’” she said.

“We kept coming back and saying [those objectives] align with the students, so obviously the [previous (2013-2018) strategic plan] doesn’t align with students.”

A strategic planning committee, chaired by Torres-Gillet, was struck in Nov. 2017, and met biweekly until the new plan was finalized in March.

The committee was informed through student and staff consultations, including a survey completed by 523 students, and a physical feedback system where students could place Post-it note suggestions on blacked-out windows at the Resource Centre.

The Executive Council addressed comments from the Post-it note exercise in a series of videos, “SAITSA EC Read Student Comments,” posted to the SAITSA Facebook page in March and April 2017.

The themes that came out of the student surveys were affordability, communication, opportunities, and efficiency of services, said Torres-Gillet.

The board and executive council then conducted a planning session where the feedback was put together and discussed.

Through this session, three pillars of the new strategic plan were identified: advocacy, spirit, and support. Under each pillar, three goals were created.

Under advocacy, the goals are increasing student involvement in advocacy initiatives, establishing SAITSA as a leading student organization in Canada, and collaborating in mutually-beneficial relationships with other groups.

Under spirit, the goals are fostering a campus-wide culture that students are proud of, identifying and using effective methods of connecting with members, and ensuring students have access to space “needed to comfortably navigate post-secondary life.”

Under support, the goals are increasing the accessibility and variety of SAITSA student assistance programs, meeting the needs of underrepresented groups, providing leadership opportunities, and encouraging the personal and professional development of students.

The strategic plan gives direction to the organization, so everyone is traveling in the same direction, said Torres-Gillet.

“It’s invaluable.”

While the plan outlines nine primary goals, it does not include metrics by which the achievement of each goal can be measured, she explained.

While all the goals set forth in the strategic plan are significant, student engagement is one of the most rewarding, said Torres-Gillet.

“I love talking to students, going out, and seeing what their issues are.

“I want to level with them one-on-one.”

SAITSA’s student engagement towards the legal assistant program specifically has been effective, said Madison Rhude, a second-year student in  that program.

“[SAITSA is doing] fantastic within my program. There’s always someone to talk to in that group, and there’s always a lot planned at The Gateway for our program.”

In relation to the support goal of improving student space on campus, Rhude said that a priority should be providing more spaces with a study-friendly atmosphere.

“The library basement is the only quiet place to study, and it’s packed all the time.”

SAITSA could do a better job of ensuring international students feel welcomed, said Allen Oh, an information technology student who recently arrived in Canada from South Korea.

“As a newcomer, I would like some mentors to show where the buildings and classrooms are.”

“I would like to get more advice.”

The SAITSA strategic plan can be found on the SAITSA website at: https://saitsa.com/documents/strategicplan/

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