Support and advocacy for SGPS students
January 29, 2015
Employee, teacher and mentor are just a few of the roles that graduate and professional students play while at Queen’s University.
To support them in those many roles, the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) have student advisers, a team that provides confidential advice and assistance to other SGPS members. Trained in a wide variety of subjects that encompasses university policies and procedures, conflict resolution, active listening, harassment, discrimination and maintaining a positive space, they’re equipped to handle many of the problems that students may face.
Becky Pero, a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography, has worked for the past year as a student adviser.
“There are challenges that SGPS students face that we don’t talk about,” she says. “They need somebody to listen and hear what they’re saying. Who better to do it than a peer?”
Created in 2001 in response to the need for advocacy and support services for graduate and professional students, the advisers offer strategic advice for resolving concerns and conflicts. Oriented towards self-advocacy, they aim to give students the tools they need to solve problems on their own, or to direct them to the appropriate service when they need greater support.
“Students often come to see me with questions about rules, regulations and department-specific procedures, and I set them in the right direction” says Ms. Pero. “Advisers can support students when they go to a difficult meeting or can contact another party on their behalf.”
Funding for the four student advisers comes from the SGPS as well as the School of Graduate Studies. Each year, the advisers create reports about the issues they’ve seen most consistently and make policy recommendations to keep them from happening again in the future.
“Graduate and professional students take on a huge challenge when they enter their studies,” says Dinah Jansen, Vice-President (Graduate) of the SGPS. “The majority of students get through their studies without any major problems, but the adviser program exists for those who have faced issues and want to repair relationships or navigate policies.”
In her role as VP (Graduate), Ms. Jansen oversees the student adviser program and advocates at a system-wide level for SGPS students.
“Students need advocacy and help, and it can be very useful to have someone listen to your concerns,” she says.
The advisers can provide help for problems big or small and welcome faculty to refer their students on for advice and support.
More information can be found at their website.