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Saitsa Executive Council Members Introduce Themselves and Outline Objectives for the Upcoming Year

In August, The Weal sat down for a roundtable discussion with the Saitsa Executive Council (EC). Each member of the EC introduced themselves, talked about their priorities for the upcoming academic year, updated the Weal’s readers on last year’s initiatives, and gave tips for student success at SAIT.

Ryan Morstad, Tanya Pittis, Jess Beddow, and Garrett Koehler all serve on the Exectutive Council within Saitsa at SAIT Polytechnic. Each member oversees specific needs within the trade school’s operations.
Photo by Rorie Stannard

Ryan Morstad (Saitsa President)

Morstad was elected in March 2019 to the role of Saitsa President, but he’s been involved in Saitsa in various capacities for the past three years.

“My job is oversight of the whole organization,” said Morstad.

Prior to being elected as Saitsa President, he was initially a club president, on Saitsa’s Board of Directors, and Chair of the Saitsa Board of Directors.

His focus this academic year is to figure out what SAIT students want and care about by collecting hard data on a variety of initiatives like gym fees, fall reading week, campus daycare, and cannabis consumption on campus.

“My goals for the year encompass figuring out what the priority issues are for students,” said Morstad.

One of his election platforms from the EC election was to explore the possibility of a fall reading week at SAIT. SAIT is one of only three post-secondary institutions in Alberta that currently don’t have a fall reading week.

While the EC is currently waiting for SAIT to study the proposal, Morstad hopes to begin a pilot program as soon as fall 2020, and campus-wide implementation in 2021.

Morstad has also been looking into creating legal cannabis consumption sites on SAIT campus.

“This is not necessarily something we want to see implemented, this is something we want to see if students want implemented,” said Morstad.

He plans to have a town hall this year to collect student feedback on the issue.

Morstad believes one of the paths to student success at SAIT is to get involved in the number of leadership and oversight opportunities at Saitsa.

“My one recommendation to make your life, future life, and professional life better is to get involved with the student’s association,” said Morstad.

Tanya Pittis (Saitsa VP Academic)

Pittis was re-elected to her second term as Saitsa VP Academic in 2019. Her role is to provide support, guidance, and advice for students regarding academic concerns. She is also charged with the role of sitting on a number of SAIT academic committees and being the voice for students at these committees.

“If a student is ever unsure about SAIT policy, I would be the one to appropriately tell them exactly what it means in plain language,” said Pittis.

For this upcoming academic year Pittis is working on a monthly “tips for success” campaign for students. Each month, a new theme will be rolled out with a number of tips and tricks for students to help them get through the month.

September’s theme is financial support, and will include tips for financial assistance, government registered plans, and finding tuition payment plans in case students fall short financially in September.

Open Educational Resources

She has a number of other initiatives running this academic year, including helping students be more engaged in instructor excellence award nominations, and working on getting more Open Educational Resources (OER) to help students pay less for textbooks.

Last spring, she worked on a how-to-guide for students who are dealing with complaints or misconduct. That project has been completed, and can be found on the new Saitsa website.

Pittis believes students should make the most of their time at SAIT by taking advantage of the people and programs provided at SAIT to help one succeed.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to your instructor, they’re there to help you, same with academic chairs and deans.”

She also encourages students to take advantage of the Lamb Learner Success Centre, because it’s there to ensure student success at SAIT.

Garrett Koehler (Saitsa VP External)

Like Pittis, Koehler was also re-elected to his second term this past March in his role as Saitsa VP External.

“My main job is to be the voice towards government bodies that deal with SAIT students, so that’s the municipal, provincial, and federal governments,” said Koehler.

“We actively lobby them [governments] to increase accessibility, affordability, and the quality of post-secondary education for SAIT students,” said Koehler.

His role requires him to interact regularly with all three levels of government and advocate for SAIT student Issues.

Koehler is also on the board of directors for two major student lobby groups. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Alberta Student Executive Council (ASEC), and the Director-at-Large, membership for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).

Koehler will be spending much of his academic year working on a number of initiatives regarding the upcoming federal election on Oct. 21, including the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign.

“Saitsa is looking to engage with voters, as the millennial voting block is one of the biggest in Canada,” said Koehler.

Koehler is also continuing his work from last year, advocating for increased sexual violence support and prevention on campus.

He is speaking with the provincial government to implement 10 cost-effective policies to achieve this aim.

Koehler’s biggest tip for SAIT students this fall is to cast their vote in the aforementioned upcoming federal election.

“Students at SAIT and students around the country have been given an amazing opportunity to pick up a pencil and mark a ballot,” said Koehler, “There’s a reason why older generations don’t listen to us, and that’s because we’re not putting in our ballots.”

Jess Beddow (Saitsa VP Student Life)

Beddow was first elected as the Saitsa VP Student Life position in 2018, and also retained her position after the March 2019 EC election.

“My role is more to help enhance the student experience outside of academic studies,” said Beddow.

Beddow works as member of several organizations within SAIT, including the Gender and Sexuality Inclusion Committee (GSIC) and the SAIT Sustainability Steering Committee.

Beddow will be spearheading several student life events like the Saitsa’s Amazing Race and the Hike for Hope.

Due to her involvement as VP Student Life and in the GSIC, Beddow was heavily involved in the newly painted rainbow crosswalk between the Aldred Centre and the Begin Tower Residence Building.

“It’s important because it’s showing a more inclusive campus feel, we accept everyone, and we’re here to show love and colour, and I think that’s great,” said Beddow.

According to Beddow, the best way for students to get the most out of their SAIT experience is to get involved with student government and clubs outside of academic studies.

“Being a club member or a club exec looks great on a resume and gives you so many other opportunities,” said Beddow.

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