Editor's note: This is the full transcript emailed to the AS Review by Toews. It is longer than the version that appears in print.
I want to bring a fresh perspective to the Associated Students by creating more academic outreach on campus that will put Western and Bellingham on the map. Our education needs to be #1 at WWU. We’ve got to apply the skills that we learn in the classroom to our routine lives. However, I don’t have all the answers. But as unified student body: we’re much closer to those answers.
As your VP for Academic Affairs I will strive to improve outreach from the AS to all academic departments, provide students more of a voice in their academic pursuits, support sustainable and affordable options (academic fees etc.)
Call on me, Brian Toews as your VP for Academic Affairs. I will put YOU on the map.
Why are you seeking this position?
I want to give Western students more of a voice in their academic pursuits. As students, I think we lose sight of the real reasons we’re here. We get lost in the blue book exams and bureaucracy that is our “classroom” life. My response to that is how can I motivate my peers to rise above the mundane daily routine of their studies and get excited about why we’re here?
I’m inspired by the enthusiasm, passion, and drive of my peers when it comes to their education. I’m passionate about being a part of something that’s bigger than myself. I want to give back to an institution that has given me so many opportunities to express myself in my academic pursuits. We have the challenging responsibility to not only attend class and get a grade but take the skills and knowledge we learn in the classroom and bring it out into our communities and fields of practice. We do this in order to better ourselves and other people. It’s that sense of academic community that should unite us not divide us. We’re all here for the same unifying reason: to become a better and more empowered human being.
In this position, I want to challenge students to rethink how we view our academics by creating a collaborative learning environment instead of a competitive one. The Associated Students provides a lot of great resources and outreach for students but I believe there is potential to generate more interest in student government by bringing issues to academic departments instead of expecting them to come to the AS. It starts with academics because that’s the number one reason we’re here at school: our hunger for knowledge and self-improvement.
What do you think is the role of VP for Academic Affairs?
My interpretation of this position is to act as a liaison between the students and the governing board of Western. The position requires me to sit as chair on various committees that have an influence on important academic decisions that affect the student body. Examples include the Student Technology and Green Energy fee. It’s important to not only be behind the scenes but also being out in the forefront and targeting indifferent and underrepresented students in the decision making process. This means being visible outside of the Associated Students by bringing the agenda of the committees and the decisions that are being made on the board to individual academic departments asking them simply: what do YOU think of all of this?
In my conversations with board members I saw a pattern in the form of a phrase: “no one know how to do this job until you’re in it.” What sets me apart is that I’m coming into this position with a fresh perspective. I can offer new strategies to reach out to the student body: the student at that house party who is angry that his department is under-funded or the student who is really involved and wants an outlet for his/her talents. If I’m elected I promise you that I’ll be listening. That’s my experience and is all of yours as well. We struggle in class everyday in order to come out in the end with the skills and knowledge to create our own opportunities and to be a better human being. Isn’t that what’s at the core of our liberal arts education? That type of mindset will help put my position in the AS into perspective. I want to approach this job less like a politician with all the answers but rather someone who struggles just like all of you. I understand that it’s hard being a student: especially when it concerns our academics. I want you to speak out on those concerns because it’s not about what the AS Board or I want: it’s about reaching out to my peers with equal amounts of knowledge of what the AS is and most importantly, the humility of knowing that I don’t have all the answers. That’s where real learning comes from.
What is one issue affecting students that you would like to focus or work on next year?
Three words: outreach and transparency. Something that I think is very crucial in the political process is making sure your voters are being heard. Everyone wants to be validated in some way or another; it’s what makes us human. That means listening and supporting the students who are equally excited and equally indifferent about their education here at Western. What are different strategies to get my peers’ voices heard and bring that information to committees and the board of directors? If elected, my priorities would be to immediately create new strategies in which the AS can reach out to ALL academic departments so that their voices can be heard. I want to get out from behind “the desk” and bring myself out of the AS to the rest of campus. A task force will be attached to all academic committees in which their sole purpose is to survey and talk to department chairs/students in order to hear their concerns. Those on the task force will relay that information to me and I will personally make sure that I consider the feedback from those departments and include it in the decision making process that is done in the AS.
Our education is #1 at Western; that’s why we came to college in the first place. My goal is to make what I do in the Associated Students really matter and count. One year is not enough time to change everything but it is enough time to lay the foundations for something better and new. The only way of accomplishing that is by focusing my attention on what the students want out of their academics. This means implementing different outreach strategies by utilizing a much more transparent, communal and grassroots approach to how the general population voices their opinions.