Representing Us: the ASA

BY OFURE EIGBE / STAFF WRITER

We know the Augustana Student Association plays many roles on campus, but what do we know about what they actually do for Augustana Students? Before that, let me briefly introduce our ASA members for the 2022/2023 academic year.

EXECUTIVE

Cindy Roose – Executive Director

Jewel Naicker – President

Saim Khokhar – VP Finance

Kyra Gusdal – VP Student Life

Ursula Pountou – VP Academic

Eylul Evren – VP Communications

STUDENT COUNCIL

Miron Nekhoroshkov – First Year Representative 

Katherine Starishko – First Year Representative

Husna Usman – Second Year Representative

Jay Modi – Second Year Representative

Sarah Nagel – Third Year Representative

Adrian Lam – Off Campus Representative

Denzel Kalmoni – International Students’ Representative

Ty Holmes – Indigenous Students’ Representative

I had a chance to speak with second-year and Indigenous student representatives, Husna Usman and Ty Holmes, to discuss some of their goals for the year and learn a bit more about the team.

Husna Usman, Second-Year Representative. Photo submitted.

Husna Usman – Second-Year Representative 

Husna is a second-year Law, Crime, and Justice major. She likes to watch Anime for fun, and held a student council position while in high school. Joining the ASA has taught her more about leadership and has given her a different outlook on what a leader should have. For Husna, leadership is three words: Vision, Direction, and Delivery.

Husna joined the ASA because of her drive to bring a voice to issues that some students may believe are unimportant. Husna believes that speaking about issues will make university life less stressful.

Discussing her objectives for this year, Husna said she would like to do better academically than last year, to understand students more, and to establish bonds with them. She wants to make a difference in Augustana. Her goal is to impact the lives of the students she can reach, even if her focus will be on second years as a second-year representative.

When asked about her thoughts on Augustana, Husna clearly stated her admiration for our small community and the room it provides for personal growth and access to professors. She believes the small campus helps increase academic focus.

I took the opportunity to ask Husna about current ASA projects. One currently being worked on is the gender-neutral washrooms, a step towards inclusivity on campus. The ASA are also aiming at fixing the water fountain in the Ravine, and are brainstorming more event ideas to engage students and to familiarize themselves to the students.

As a second-year representative, Husna acknowledges that she is held accountable for listening and representing the second-year students with any of their academics and social issues while in school.

Husna ended this interview with advice for anyone finding it hard to find their crowd at Augustana: “in the end, it is not that deep. If you find solid relationships, fine, if not, you are still chilling.”

Ty Holmes, Indigenous Student Representative. Photo submitted.

Ty Holmes – Indigenous Student Representative

Ty Holmes is a first year in the Law, Crime, and Justice major. Ty enjoys going hiking in the summertime, playing casual sports like badminton and volleyball, and playing video games with friends online and in person.

Ty joined the ASA because of his desire to support the Indigenous peoples across campus in any way possible. Ty grew up in a town he describes as “practically in the bush” in Northern Alberta, and he believes that the experiences he had there allow him to relate to the Indigenous community both on and off campus.

Currently, Ty is workshopping a newsletter to provide information about scholarships, helplines, and other important information to the Augustana community. 

In terms of projects the ASA is developing, Ty is proud to see movement in the push for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Other than that, he says that they are making excellent progress on other projects around campus, and suggests that if students want to be informed of more of these projects, you can join the student council meetings in the Roger Epp room on Wednesdays at 5:30 pm.

Augustana’s Festival of Lights

BY AVOLIN SEN / STAFF WRITER

The festival of lights, known as Deepavali or Diwali, is the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. A festival marked by four days of celebration, Diwali is observed all around India and celebrated in different parts of the world. People in Northern India burn rows of clay lights to commemorate the legend of King Rama’s return to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. It is marked as the day Lord Krishna vanquished the demon Narakasura in Southern India. The Western India festival commemorates the day that demon King Bali was appointed ruler of the underworld by Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, one of the three principal Hindu gods.

Diwali is beautiful, and one of the most pious occasions. It illuminates the country with its sheer magic and brilliance and dazzles people everywhere with joy and celebration. Diwali is usually celebrated over a number of days, and every day has a unique tradition that fills people with good hope, love and peace.

This year at Augustana, a Diwali celebration was hosted by the Augustana Chaplaincy in collaboration with the South Asian Club (SAC), who together planned an array of activities. Students dressed up in traditional Indian garments with their peers to commemorate the event. The occasion started off with captivating traditional Indian dances. The dance was inclusive to non-Indian students, demonstrating the union of different cultures. This was followed by a movie called the Ramayana, an explanation of the lore behind the Festival of Lights. This aided in describing the story of the diyas (lights) and their crucial significance, informing those in attendance of the different customs. The SAC also organized foodstuffs native to India to give the students a taste of the land. The menu for the night included Pav Bhaji, a fast food dish made of rich vegetable curry, and a soft bread bun. This was accompanied by the customary activity of modelling and lighting diyas

Overall, the entire event was well-arranged and quite lively and, more importantly, taught students about the relevance of the festivities and how they are honoured globally. As a native Indian, I would love to see more events like these at Augustana, as they respect my culture and bring back a piece of home, making worthwhile memories in my university years.

Dancers at the Augustana Diwali celebration in the chapel on October 23, 2022. Dancers from left to right: Adaeze Dike, Nguavese Ukange, Avolin Sen, Vanessa Kinesewich, Ninotchka Fernandez, Amelia Williams, Viktoriia Martseliuk, Angelina Tam, Ona Awogu. Photo and video submitted.

The Augustana Psychology Club: Building Community and Promoting Mental Health

BY ISCA V. IRANGWE / STAFF WRITER

The main focus of The Augustana Psychology Club is to engage individuals on campus with psychology and bring more awareness to mental health on campus. The club aims to build a community through academic events such as peer tutoring, psych information night, and future opportunities. In addition, non-academic events are done to increase awareness and promote good mental health on campus by having activities such as yoga night, bake sale to raise funds for mental health resources, and movie night.

The ASA

We want to form a community of students who are interested in mental health and psychology outside of classes, where people can come in and enjoy themselves.

Ava Lang, Psychology Club president. Photo submitted.

President of the Psychology club, Ava Lang. Ava is a 4th year psychology student, who, at academic advisor of the club Dr. Paula Marentette’s suggestion, decided to get the club going this year. Photo submitted.

. . .

The Dagligtale sat down with Ava Lang, the president of the Augustana Psychology Club, to chat about the club’s upcoming events and goals for the future.

The Psychology Club, like most clubs on campus, was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the club has not been as active as its members–or potential members–would’ve liked, and they have had few events in the past three years. However, as everything is being held in person this year (so far!), that is all about to change, as the club has a few events planned for this academic year. 

Dag: What kind of events has the club held recently?

Ava: We did an info night about how to apply to grad school. So we had Dr. Rebecca [Purc-Stephenson] come in and she gave a very nice and informative presentation on that. There was lots of great feedback from everyone that went; they loved it. That’s the only one we have had so far. 

D: What upcoming events is the club planning?

A: We have trivia night coming up on [November] 23rd. Anyone can join, come out and learn while having fun–hence the trivia. We are also going to do a Kahoot, and the winner gets a gift card. 

As part of Wellness Week, we have an art therapist coming on December 1st. She is going to give a presentation and talk about how she uses art, colours, and shapes to improve mental and emotional well-being. We are still in the process of planning, but she might even have an activity planned! After the presentation, participants will get to sit down and draw or paint, whatever they want to kind of get the stress out. And lastly, we are planning a movie night on December 7th–there might be a $3 entry fee–where we’ll watch Shutter Island and have people unwind before finals.

(If you are interested in stimulating conversation, there will be a short discussion after the movie, sharing your thoughts and possibly analyzing the movie from a psychological perspective.)

D: Is the club still looking for executive members?

A: At the moment, no we are not. Next semester for sure, as most people on the board right now will be graduating. We will be sending out a notification to club members via email and posting on instagram as well to see if anyone wants to apply to be on the executive board. It is an excellent opportunity to get involved with the school and the psychology professors on campus, plan activities and be there for the community!

(Anyone can apply to be on the executive board, and the club is looking forward to having people from different years be involved in the club as to expand the club’s demographic.)

D: How does the club get involved in the Camrose community? Do you do activities with local charities or organizations?

A: We did want to do a fundraiser for the women’s shelter in town. It probably won’t happen until next year but we would love to give back to the community. It’s hard to find the right charity or shelter or organization to donate to, but we think the women’s shelter would be a good fit.

. . .

The club meets up at least once a month, and you can get in touch with the club through their email: augpsyc@ualberta.ca and follow their instagram page @augpsychclub where they post all of their upcoming events.

Upcoming Psychology Club events:

Nov 23: Trivia night @ 7 pm, AULIB 2-102

Dec 1: Art Therapy @ 7 pm, place TBD

Dec 7: Movie Night @ 6:30 pm, C 167

Achieving Presentness and Focus in the Digital Age

BY MIA ARCINIEGAS / STAFF WRITER

Whenever Tik Tok reminds me that we are indeed living on a floating rock in the middle of space, my mind can’t help but spiral. This happens at least once a week, and I am constantly full of existential dread (don’t fret, this piece is meant to be encouraging, not nihilistic).

That being said, how can we cope with so much new and readily available information seeping through our devices, yet still manage to remain focused on the tasks right in front of us? In my case, I am easily distracted by pretty much anything, and achieving a state of focus and presentness is not simple. I consider my phone a great distraction, and social media does not help either. Whenever I am trying to accomplish a task, I keep thinking about picking up my phone and cycling through my social media accounts as a distraction. Only, I look at this distraction as more than just a disruption of my workflow, but as an escape from the present.

By actively seeking media as a distraction, one is actively rejecting the present and the task at hand. Additionally, the information that appears in our algorithm often presents content far removed from our lives. This consumption of information foreign to one’s intended purpose at the moment subconsciously communicates that the present is not important. That being said, even if a particular present reality or task is not ideal, what I have learned to do is to actively remind myself why I’m doing said task. Also, imbuing every small component of your task with purpose helps reorient the narrative of the present. By recalling the necessity of the present moment as foundational in achieving a bigger goal or feeling, each small accomplishment becomes more fruitful.

When I am working on something particularly monotonous, I ask someone I trust to hold onto my phone and not give it back until a said amount of time elapses. By removing distractions, silencing notifications, and giving one’s mind a chance to focus on one thing, the practice of mindfulness in the present becomes easier each time. This practice can be extended to various moments, even ones where you are relaxing. I have even started implementing days where I do not permit myself to open social media for most, if not all, of that one day. This has helped me establish a sense of presentness and reduce the mental “noise” caused by too much consumption of transient digital information.

Hopefully, these somewhat scattered observations can encourage more consideration of the present, whatever that may look like for you.

Augustana’s Got Talent – Recap

GEMMA PAGE / FREELANCE WRITER

Augustana’s Got Talent (AGT) is an annual talent show held every winter which allows students to showcase their various talents. This year’s edition, which was hosted, as usual, by the Augustana Students’ Association (ASA), was held Saturday, February 27, 2021. Things looked a lot different this year: the talent segments were shown on a screen instead of the usual live show that is conducted in the Peter Lougheed center, but that did not make the event any less exciting!

Any current Augustana student is qualified to enter in order to compete for cash prizes: $1000 for first place, $500 for second place, and $250 for third place. This year, instead of auditioning before a panel of student judges as usually happens, participants were required to submit a video recording of their act by February 19. The host of AGT was Kyra Gustal, a second-year Augustana student who is currently serving on the ASA as one of the second-year representatives. She introduced each contestant, entertained everyone with her quirky, clever comments, and even showed off her cute cat.

The first of three acts was Rhea Nayak, a second-year student from Medicine Hat, Alberta who presented an incredible performance of the song “Never Enough” from the movie musical The Greatest Showman. To quote Kyra Gustal, “[I] could not get enough of her [performance]!” The second contestant was Tessa Palmer, a first-year student who has been singing in choirs since she was four years old. For her performance, Tessa sang a rendition of “Memories,” a song by the band Maroon 5. The talent portion of the show concluded with Racquel Lussier, a first-year student who played the guitar while singing “Driver’s License,” a song by Olivia Rodrigo. Her performance did not include a backtrack–simply her voice accompanied by guitar. It was incredible to learn that Racquel had only started playing the guitar recently in quarantine!

All the participants were adjudicated by Guest Judge David Draper, who is the current Vice President Academic of Student Union of the University of Alberta, who remarked that it was incredibly difficult to pick a winner amongst the three vastly talented participants. Rhea Nayak took away the grand prize, with Racquel Lussier coming in second and Tessa Palmer claiming the third prize. At the end of the show, viewers were given the opportunity to cast a vote for their “fan favourite” performer. Racquel Lussier was announced as the winner several days later on the ASA social media pages.

Hats off to all the contestants for taking part in the first ever virtual edition of Augustana’s Got Talent! So much time and effort must have gone into rehearsing and filming your entries. You all did an amazing job. There is clearly so much talent at Augustana! Thank you to all the contestants for their inspiring performances and to all the viewers for keeping an Augustana tradition alive in a new way during this pandemic year

If you missed the show but would still like to watch all the talented contestants, you can watch the entire pre-recorded show by following this link: https://vimeo.com/513050552

ASA Elections Update

BY GEMMA PAGE / FREELANCE WRITER

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all aspects of our lives are now online… including the upcoming Augustana Students’ Association (ASA) election and nomination processes.

The time has come for the virtual Spring 2021 elections. If you are a full time Augustana student and you have a minimum GPA of 2.0, you are able to run for a seat on the Students’ Council for the 2021-2022 school year! Nominations are now open and will continue to be open until February 25, 2021.

Running for a position on the ASA is much simpler this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as candidates are not required to gather signatures in order to qualify their nomination. Instead, candidates must simply complete two online forms- the “Candidate Declaration” form, as well as, the “Eligibility for Office” form, which can be found on the Augustana Students’ Association website (http://augustana.su.ualberta.ca/governance/elections). In addition, interested candidates must submit an outline of their platform. All of these steps must be completed by 5:00 p.m., on February 25, 2021. Finally, each candidate must participate in the candidate forum that is to be held virtually on March 15, which will allow candidates to highlight important points of their platforms and answer questions posed by the student body. Voting will take place virtually on March 17-18, 2021.

Executive positions open include: 

  • President
  • Vice-President Academic 
  • Vice-President Finance
  • Vice-President Communications
  • Vice-President Student Life 

The rest of the available committee includes:

  • Two Second Year Representatives
  • One Third Year Representative
  • One Fourth Year Representative
  • Two Off Campus Representatives
  • One International Students’ Representative
  • One Indigenous Students’ Representative
  • One Councilor-at-Large. 

Next year will be an interesting year to be on the Augustana Students’ Association committee as they will begin the challenging process of switching back to in-person events after a year of online events due to COVID-19 restrictions. Social media will still, however, place an important role in providing an outreach to students. The most important job of an ASA member is being a resource to students, especially during this crazy, uncertain and confusing time.

According to current VP Communications, Rebecca Nicholson, “[being on the ASA] is more of a platform for you to do real change that matters to you. Even if you’ve never been on council before, don’t let that stop you from running!” There are many reasons for you to get involved with the ASA: if you want to plan events, help the school. There are countless ways to get involved in fostering an exciting, energetic, supportive, caring university community under the umbrella of the ASA. If you have ideas on ways to make positive and impactful changes to the ASA, get involved and do your part to make it better. After all, there is always room for improvement.

(For more information, please check the ASA website at http://augustana.su.ualberta.ca/governance/elections). 

Thoughts on COVID-19 in the New Year

MIA ARCINIEGAS – STAFF WRITER

With February approaching, I could not have imagined the world looking the way it does now, compared to when this all began early last year. I am left wondering what everything will be like a year from now; regardless, this pandemic has, and will continue to change the way in which we do things. It is a little odd, but when I see movies and TV shows, I forget that there was a time when people just did not wear masks. Even seeing videos of people standing too close to one another makes me shiver. Were we just doing things wrong? Were people just not aware of one another’s personal space?

As this new month begins, I am wondering what the rest of the year will be like. Taking into consideration how things have been going, it is likely we will be in a similar predicament for the rest of the year. I am even noticing posts online that poke fun at people who talk about things they want to do after “after COVID,” as if there is going to be a sudden end to the pandemic. As much as I wish this was the case, this whole situation has been a rollercoaster. While many people, organizations, and governments are actively working on combating COVID-19, it is safe to say that things will never be the same. We will inevitably have to adjust to a new reality, and reconsider many things we might have overlooked before.

I do not wish to focus on the grim aspects of this pandemic anymore, because I believe that the news focuses on enough negative storylines as it is. Social media and news outlets are littered with dark and upsetting stories, only leading to further mass disappointment and hopelessness. Focusing on the good is important, and this pandemic has taught us a lot of things ranging from: the space we take up in public, to hygienic procedures, and collective consideration for others’ well-being, etc. It is not wrong to tell people that things won’t go back to normal, and it is okay to acknowledge that we will never be the same. We should remain realistic about the current situation without further spreading pessimism or negativity.

While the virus began affecting other parts of the world earlier than ours, the anniversary of our first major lockdown, which happened last March, is approaching. This passage of time reflects how each country, and each person handled COVID differently. Some places appear to be functioning closer to what they were beforehand, and many are in states of semi-lockdowns with varying restrictions. Going forward, nothing is certain, and we must try our best to adapt to these dynamic changes taking place around us. We have to find at least one positive outcome in our lives or surroundings that inspire us, and run with it; ultimately, I think we have spent too long pondering over the worst of what society is capable of.

Staying Social (and Sane) During a Pandemic

By Mia Arciniegas / STAFF WRITER

I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that these last few months have been
bizarre, and I think I can speak for many when I say that it has been a crazy experience
trying to adjust to this new reality. If this virus has taught me anything, it’s that
there are many ways to do things, such as working, learning, and communicating whilst
maintaining distance. In the past few months, we have been forced to figure out how to
make things work with the resources available to us. In many ways, people have figured
out that sometimes an online meeting is easier and more convenient to begin with, and
like it or not, this pandemic is undeniably reshaping our social culture.

Since the initial lockdown in March, I have witnessed the most interesting ways in
which people are maintaining their social life while at a distance. To begin with, people
have already been utilizing social media prior to the pandemic, and no matter how you
look at it, we were already dependent on different apps to communicate with each other.
Even before this pandemic, in-person connections were on the decline; ultimately,
COVID-19 fast-forwarded an impending reality.

Beyond texting, or social media messaging, there has additionally been a rise in
the use of virtual meetups through zoom and google hangouts/meets. I have grown
even closer with some of my friends through quarantine because we have found new
and unique ways to communicate and spend time together, even virtually! One of the
first applications I learned about was a chrome extension called “Netflix Party” where
you can watch Netflix with anyone with a link to your private room, and this has honestly
been a lifesaver, and I’ll admit I have spent far too much time on there. The next is a
little less common, but if there is content you want to watch on youtube, there is a
website called “watch2gether” where you can enjoy videos with anyone you send a
private link to.

Now, If you are wanting face-to-face time with someone or a group of people,
and don’t necessarily want to be talking the entire time, I have found that virtual study
sessions are just as great. If you miss meeting up with your friends and working on your
respective projects or studying together, then group facetime calls or virtual meeting
apps offer a great way to collaborate while also motivating one another to get through
our individual work. It is possible to do almost anything this way, from working out,
attending talks, yoga classes, etc!

On a final note, despite these new circumstances having influenced the way we
interact with one another and forcing us to become more dependent on digital platforms,
it is just as important to have time for yourself. It is okay to close your laptop, get away
from your phone, and relax. I hope this article was helpful, or that it at least gave you
some ideas, or new thoughts relating to how we connect during these strange,
confusing, and uncertain times.

The International Student Experience

Gurmehar Bajwa / Staff Writer

Working from a different time-zone has most certainly been a challenge for most international students. The issue is with a lot of the classes being synchronous, which forces us to attend classes at the scheduled time irrespective of our circumstances or preferences. Sipping on coffee at 2 AM while you navigate through classwork is not the most pleasant experience. Add to that internet constraints and bandwidth limitations, especially in India, where I’ve struggled to stay on a Zoom meeting without being kicked out of the session. It’s an undeniable fact that online learning isn’t the same as in-person classes, specifically because students tend to feel detached, which makes it easier to lose focus or get distracted. Additionally, we either over-stress because we’re under the impression that we’re constantly falling behind on our deadlines; or we don’t stress at all because the concept of homework doesn’t feel real. 

The greatest problem of all that most international students face, even under normal circumstances, is connecting with people and being part of the campus social life. Navigating through college life and classes can be stressful and online communication doesn’t allow much room for active socialization or networking opportunities. The experience we signed up for tends to get misplaced despite the attempts of several different faculties on campus reaching out. On the other hand, most of us are hesitant to reach out on our own, especially since we don’t know what to expect or how to go about it; it’s a new system to learn for us all. Perhaps it is imperative to understand that everyone is feeling the same way and at some point, we just need to let go of any apprehensions we may have and take it upon ourselves to communicate with someone. 

“To stay or to go?” has been one of the most complex decisions students have had to make, regardless of their time-zones. This is because the penalty of skipping out on class online isn’t as destructive to our schedule as opposed to if we were to attend them in-person. Another issue heavy on the minds of international students, especially those attending this term from their homes, is the uncertainty of travel. As each nation constantly updates and changes its travel restrictions, it gets hard to keep up and ensure travel eligibility and safety. Students have also shared that most of the time the information they received on travel was ambiguous, later causing inconveniences. However, the email sent out by the U-grads Digest last week helped clarify how we could enter Canada, and it also offered helpful tips and checklists to keep in mind before any intended travel.

On the brighter side, we, as international students, got to stay at home and enjoy the company of our families. Fortunately, we have more time to spend quality time with them and cherish our moments together owing to the ongoing situation. Instead of going out to Fat Burger or Mike’s, we get to enjoy home-cooked meals that we’ve missed. COVID and the consequent lockdown hasn’t just affected us but also the professors who now have had a hard time complying with and tending to all the new requirements. In spite of these difficulties, they have been extremely accommodating, ensuring that things go smoothly and provide the best possible experience for everyone involved given the current circumstances.

In the end, it’s a peculiar situation we find ourselves in but can still make the most of it and hope for more stability once things start crawling back to normalcy.  

“Found a new way to communicate with team members! I’m certain after the pandemic is over, each and every meeting that we call for will be weighed if it is absolutely crucial. If not, we can meet over video calls! It has really taught me the importance of communication and value of time, how to maximize productivity, keeping the same situations.“ -Mehul Choudhury