Find ways to get informed to get involved

Learning about opportunities early is the key to finding your niche, AMS executive says

AMS President Talia Radcliffe (centre) says frosh shouldn’t wait to get involved.
AMS President Talia Radcliffe (centre) says frosh shouldn’t wait to get involved.
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Journal File Photo

You’ve graduated high school, you’ve been accepted into Queen’s and the wait is almost over. What can you expect when you arrive here in September? The Alma Mater Society’s (AMS) Executive has the lowdown.

The AMS Executive is made up of three very important individuals. This year’s AMS President, Talia Radcliffe, is the representative of the Queen’s undergraduate student body. Her co-workers include the Vice-President (University Affairs), Stephanie St. Clair, who is responsible for ensuring that student life at Queen’s is safe, accessible and fun for everyone. Ken Wang, vice president (Operations), is in charge of all things financial and ensures a sustainable student government.

Being both the oldest, and only entirely student-run government in Canada, the AMS represents 13,800 students and offers more than 500 paid positions. It also offers more than 1000 volunteer opportunities—many of which are reserved for incoming students.

Radcliffe, ArtSci ’08, said she strongly encourages first years to get involved by exploring all of their options to make sure that they don’t miss out.

“There were a lot of things in first year that I never got to get involved with because I didn’t know they were there,” said Radcliffe. “Getting involved is what the Queen’s experience is all about.”

A great first step in getting involved at Queen’s is participating in Orientation Week, which takes place from September 2 to September 6, Radcliffe said.

“There’s lots to do during Frosh Week,” she said. “It’s a chance for first years to check out what’s going on and a great chance for them to make friends.” But Radcliffe said Orientation Week isn’t the be all, end all, of the university experience. There may be events that students choose to opt out of, but it’s no big deal.

“No one should feel alienated if they don’t enjoy a certain activity,” she said. “Everyone’s in the same boat during Frosh Week because they’re getting to know each other for the first time.”

St. Clair, ArtSci ’08, agrees. She said there are alternative events first years can choose to do instead and still enjoy themselves.

“There will be an AMS ‘chill zone’ where students can play Dance Dance Revolution, watch movies, and take a rest from other Orientation events,” she said. “First-years can take advantage of these options if they don’t feel like participating in the larger events.”

After moving from overseas to come to Queen’s, St. Clair said she felt at a bit homesick. She said the event that really made her Frosh Week was her involvement with Shinerama—a charity-drive run by Queen’s students to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. During this event, orientation groups get involved in the Kingston community by washing cars or collecting empty bottles coming together to make the world a better place one coin at a time.

For on-going involvement, students can check out the many offerings of Clubs Night, running on the 16 and 17, St.Clair said. On those nights, campus clubs and organizations staff information booths for students wanting to get involved or just curious about what their options are.

“Clubs Night can be very overwhelming for first years,” she said. “But they can also find information about what’s going on through the AMS website.”

In September, the AMS website will be updated with information and applications for getting involved with these organizations. First year students looking to get further involved with the executive may want to try their hand at an interning position.

There are also five different commissions under the AMS—Social Issues, Municipal Affairs, Campus Activities, Academic Affairs and Internal Affairs. Each commission is responsible for a different area of student life ranging from human rights, the Kingston community, special events, academic grievances and the AMS Assembly respectively.

“The students that the [first years] will be working with will only be a few years older,” St. Clair said. “As a first year, you’re just as capable of getting involved as someone who’s in their fourth year.

Her advice to first years is not to put things off and to get involved right away.

“If you want to make friends you’ll make friends no matter what,” she sad. “By being involved [you’re] also being social.”

Ken Wang, ArtSci ’09, said hewas extremely social during his first year. He said he came from a high school that knew what it was to cheer and have school spirit.

“Back then I thought I was going to be a physics major,” he said. “But I realized it wasn’t for me during my first week here. I ended up meeting a lot more people outside of my faculty group.”

Wang said frosh should get out there and challenge themselves by taking risks and meeting new people.

“Grab the bull by the horns.” Tamara Redwood, ArtSci ‘10, said the difficulty she had in her first year wasn’t deciding whether or not to get involved, but fitting in everything she wanted to do.

“There are so many opportunities at Queen’s,” she said. “You have to prioritize what you want to do [because] you can only do so much.”

Redwood has been involved with helping frosh getting prepared for life at Queen’s through her involvement with both the Computing and Arts and Science faculties. She is also part of the student government, academic and fitness clubs and is also a supporter of Lost Paws, an ASUS committee devoted to helping homeless animals.

Redwood said getting involved provides much more than allowing students to meet other people.

“It’s also nice to have something to do other than just school,” she said. “It gives you things to look forward to other than your academics.”

Redwood said getting involved allows students to become more efficient with their time because they begin to learn the importance of scheduling.

She also said it’s important to get involved because it allows students to interact with their professors on a more personal. Students can receive valuable advice, glowing references and some professors could potentially become their mentors.

Redwood said she got involved with student government because she wanted to understand what actually went on within the student body and how the AMS influences life at Queen’s.

“There are so many things that students don’t know, she said. “It’s really amazing to see how much is going into everything.”

Queen’s may not be the biggest university in Canada, but it can certainly make you feel lost in a crowd, Redwood said, adding that by getting involved and networking, her experience here became more enjoyable and comfortable. It made Queen’s seem a lot less intimidating and more like a community.

“Students need something to balance their academic environment with,” she said. “Especially around exam crunch time—you don’t know how nice it is to just go play with a kitten at the humane society!”

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