Be heard in the ASSC Student Advisory Group

The ASSC Student Advisory Group (SAG) is back for 2021 and looking for students to join! The purpose of SAG is to provide a communication channel for students to discuss ways that the university can improve the student experience.

Claire Kearns, Master of International Relations and long-time SAG member, shares her experience of what she gained by being part of the group:

Unbelievably to me, 2021 is my 7th year on the Student Advisory Group (SAG) for the College of ASSC. The time seems to have flown by. But, in another way, it hasn’t. During that course of time I have embarked upon a transformative lifestyle and educational journey, a process that is not done yet.

I joined the ASSC SAG originally out of angry frustration. As a person with a disability, I found it impossible to navigate the various enrolment systems and in a fit of anger I signed up to the SAG to tell someone, anyone, what precisely needed changing. I expected my tenure on the committee to go something like this: go to first meeting, rant, and rave, make such an embarrassing scene I either would never feel comfortable going again or would be asked to never return.

Instead, what I encountered probably helped pave the way for my success at La Trobe. I was listened to, but not fully understood. But, after the meeting, the conversation kept going and led to the change of integral parts of student systems. I saw one little check box button get added to the enrolment page which said, “I have a disability and need help with enrolment”. It took me ages to get the assistance I needed, and now there was a simple button because I had been heard!

This was life changing for me. I realised I had power to help change things for the better for future students.

I am aware many people join things like SAG simply to add pad out their CV. Nonetheless, having been a member for this long, I have come to learn there are a few other important things that you can gain by joining. My list goes:

  1. You can find your voice – trust me, you’ll need to find it to progress with your academic writing.
  2. You can meet – virtually or in person – people who might never have stopped to talk to you. I still have friends from SAG from 7 years ago and I have watched them leave LTU, get engaged, buy a house, get their first job post-graduation.
  3. Just the simple point of being listened to, even if only by other students, and hearing people agree with you, is very affirming.
  4. Learning to respectfully listen and respectfully disagree with others is a life skill that is transferrable to every other area of your life.
  5. Meeting staff and seeing them outside of the classroom is very valuable. When I changed disciplines, the key staff already knew who I was, had some idea how I work best and helped me navigate the change. I feel lucky that happened, but I also feel that it wouldn’t have occurred if they had not been able to put a face to a name.

Lastly, SAG has given me the opportunity to get far outside my comfort zone. At heart, I am not the sort of person who would consider themselves a leader. Via being a member, I have run peer-support and orientation sessions (very daunting!). There’s a big sense of personal achievement for me in becoming one of the people other people consider first in helping others.

If you would like to join SAG for 2021, please register your interest.