SGPS executive candidates advocate for better funding for students

Candidates sit down with The Journal before the election

SGPS candidates attempt to run society to represent students.

This article was updated with new information on February 1, 2023 at 3:20 p.m

With election season underway, three positions are up for grabs on the SGPS executive with polls opening on Feb. 6 and 7.

The vice-president (graduate), vice-president (finance and services), and vice-president (professional) have two candidates each vying for the position, while the president, vice-president (campaigns and community affairs), and graduate student senator positions are all uncontested.


Devin Fowlie, a third-year PhD candidate in social psychology, is the sole candidate vying for the presidential position. Having completed his master’s degree at Queen’s, Fowlie got involved with the SGPS in the second year of his master’s program and is currently the vice-president (graduate) within the society.

He said he wants to run for President because he finds it helpful to have continuity in the voices advocating for student needs.

While he feels the current executive team is making progress in advocating for better funding for grad students and increasing university awareness about the lack of affordable housing for graduate students, he hopes to remain involved with the SGPS executive team to continue to advocate for better conditions for graduate students.

“I think we've created a good dialogue in this past year as an executive, and I'd like to kind of continue that in the in the presidency role by broadening my scope away from just graduate students and focusing on graduate and professional and, and then sort of allowing, you know, other folks to take over and do their own sort of projects that they think are important,” he said in an interview with The Journal.

Upon election, Fowlie hopes to continue advocating for better funding for graduate students to improve their student experience. He wants to direct more attention toward improved financial stability for students in professional programs.

“I think professional students are in a bit of a different position where they're often not receiving the kind of funding that graduate students are. But I think there's still ways that we can increase financial stability for both of them to make it more tenable to enjoy their time here at Queen's.”

Vice-president (campaigns and community affairs)

Tony Hu, Med ’26, is the sole candidate running for vice-president (campaigns and community affairs).

Hu currently sits as the graduate student trustee, representing the interests and voices of graduate and professional students on the Board of Trustees and spending a lot of time speaking with students in the student community.

One thing he identifies as a major issue facing graduate students at Queen’s is lacking an overall student experience.

“Queen’s is well known for its student experience, but I've really found, and I learned that quite early on, I however, found that that student experiences really been largely limited to the undergraduate students,” he said.

“There hasn't been this real sense of community among graduate and professional students. And in particular, I find it it's not disheartening, but I find it a little bit unfortunate that while there's so much talk at Queen's, about the quality of the undergraduate student experience that's not translated to the sort of the quality of the graduate and professional student experience.”

Having studied at the University of Toronto where the undergraduate student experience is “notoriously bad,” Hu says he recognizes the importance of fostering a greater sense of community for all students.

“There are a lot of barriers to getting graduate students more involved. One of the things that I want to do this year is to improve that sense of community that graduate students feel.”

Advocating for a greater sense of community is directly related to Hu’s past experience of improving the student experience at the University of Toronto. He hopes to increase the diversity of events the SGPS offers and wants to promote a more comprehensive policy to all SGPS stakeholders to make events more accessible graduate students.

“There is a difference [of] cultural backgrounds [among] graduate and professional students. And some students have children and other dependents and family as well that are with them. So, creating some sort of guidelines around how to make events more inclusive and accessible for this group of students is a good place to start.”

Hu also noted he is looking to work more closely with stakeholders at the municipal and provincial levels to target the issue of affordability in Kingston amid the cost-of-living crisis.

“The fact there are students […] who are at the borderline of being homeless—people who are at the borderline of not having food to eat, and they're having to skip meals, because they're not able to afford food, people who are working multiple jobs on top of their research duties, or their learning duties or their teaching duties. I mean, that is just unacceptable.”

Vice-president (finances and services)

Gabriela Fekete, Law ’24, and Matthew Kuciak, Law ’24, are both vying for the vice-president (finances and services) position.

Having completed a Bachelor of Commerce in accounting with a focus in sustainability and social impact at UBC, Fekete is hoping to bring her expertise in accounting and financial literacy to the SGPS with the hopes of better optimizing the society’s budget.

She is specifically concerned about finding ways to provide better funding for students to access mental healthcare through SGPS services.

Fekete, who worked at a counselling center in Calgary examining the cost of mental healthcare, explained how graduate and professional students can access up to $500 worth of mental healthcare through the SGPS’s healthcare plan, which works out to being two hours’ worth of time with a mental health counselor.

This is insufficient, Fekete explained, who noted it takes between six and seventeen meetings with a counsellor to see positive change in one’s mental health.

“The current, you know, allocated amount of $500 is not enough to fulfill even that minimum success session threshold that a student would need to see a change in their mental health,” she said.

Kuciak did his Bachelor of Commerce at Carleton University where he focused on International Business. After graduating, he held several roles in Canopy Growth Corporation’s finance department over a two-year period. He currently sits on the SGPS Finance and Services Committee, which oversees spending within the society.

Kuciak similarly hopes to see that student fees spent within the SGPS are “spent and allocated in a fair and prudent manner” while concerns regarding rising tuition and living costs rise.

“I want to make sure that every dollar that is given to the SGPS is allocated out or spent in a way that is respectful towards, you know, students giving their hard-earned money to a student run organization,” he said.

Kuciak also said he hopes to increase awareness for students about bursaries, grants, and services that are available to professional and graduate students through the SGPS.

Vice-president (graduate)

First-year PhD student Jordan Balson and second-year PhD candidate Steacy Coombs are both in the running for the vice-president (graduate) position.

Balson, who has been at Queen’s for the entirety of her post-secondary career and has executive experience in a number of AMS clubs, is running to advocate for better funding for graduate students.

Having consulted with the PSAC 901 union, Balson recognizes graduate students are not making livable wages through their funding packages and hopes to change this by advocating for better funding conditions to faculty.

Balson also hopes to promote a greater sense of community within the graduate student community by implementing inter-disciplinary learning workshops where graduate students from different departments can teach their specific skill set and better round out their own education by learning from other students.

Coombs’ platform also stresses the importance of better funding for graduate students, and also wants to advocate for more accessible learning opportunities for all graduate students across the University.

Coombs, who is immunocompromised and has a disability, told The Journal she missed a month of both school and TA work after an experience where her faculty severely mishandled her accommodations. She cited this experience as informing her desire to run for the election.

“Our schools and systems were built for able-bodied individuals, and any change is just absolutely rejected,” she said.

“The big question is, why aren't accessible classrooms the standard, why do disabled people have to put in so much time and effort to get their accommodations met, when typically, it's a band aid fix that doesn't actually solve the problem.”

“So, this is why I plan to hybridize classrooms and lecture halls through the use of adequate equipment such as microphones and cameras with live streaming capabilities.”

Vice-president (professional)

Maya Kawale, Law ’25, and Elizabeth Frangos, Law ’25, are both in the running to represent professional students across the University.

Both candidates have experience working in governance offices during their undergrads and want to promote better opportunities for community engagement among professional students.

Kawale is specifically looking to provide new ways to make it easier for professional students to engage in the overall community.

“I am a law student, and I can see how easy it is to get so busy and not want to take on additional roles, clubs, social activities, just due to the heavy workload,” she said.

“I want to create an inclusive environment and allow professional students to be more connected. And I think that this can really be achieved. It's just a matter of being that point of connection and actually being able to engage with the student body and hearing everybody's opinions and what they need.”

She hopes to offer opportunities to better integrate the different professional student faculties through events such as medicine versus law sports games.

Frangos said she hopes to foster greater community among graduate students by offering more opportunities for digital participation.

She also hopes to provide a more personalized experience to professional students and promote greater awareness of existing resources available to them, such as mental health services.  

Graduate student senator

Emils Matiss, a first-year neuroscience PhD student, is running for re-election for the graduate student senator position. He is the sole candidate in the race for this position.

Some of Matiss’ previous achievements in the role include advocating for better academic and health policies for graduate and professional students during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as providing resources to students and faculty affected by Russia’s invasion on Ukraine in early 2022.

Looking ahead to a second prospective term, Matiss wants to advocate for better funding for graduate students as the housing and cost-of-living crisis persists.

“With inflation and proposed tuition hikes, we’re kind of eroding the hard-fought stipend increases that were put into place this year,” he said.

“[If] you speak to any graduate student, everyone will immediately identify with laughing that yeah, my stipend covers my rent and that's it. [Our stipend] is meant to be something that covers cost of living, so including rent, food, utilities, and it's not doing that.”

Matiss said he will continue to prioritize the issue posed by inadequate funding and the cost-of-living crisis at Senate meetings.

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