PGSS executive midterm reviews

Financial Affairs Officer: Matthew Satterthwaite 

Following the resignation of former secretary-general Jacob Lavigne in September, Satterthwaite took on a number of responsibilities outside of the portfolio of Financial Affairs Officer (FAO) during the Fall 2017 semester, including chairing both the PGSS Board of Directors (BoD) and the Executive Committee. Despite his increased workload—and a lengthy and costly legal battle between PGSS and the Canadian Federation of Students—Satterthwaite was able to maintain a budgetary surplus in the Fiscal Year 2016-2017.

As Chair of the BoD, Satterthwaite facilitated the hiring of an office administrator and a new Student Life Coordinator. He also created a new staff position within his FAO portfolio, the Library Improvement Fund Coordinator, to administer the more than $400,000 in the PGSS’ underused Library Fund. Satterthwaite intends to follow through with his campaign promise to create a Sponsorship commissioner in the upcoming semester. Although Satterthwaite did not host Financial Roundtables with Post-Gradute Students’ Associations (PGSAs) to give financial updates, PGSS hosted a “PGSS Essential Skills Training" day, during which PGSAs were able to view the PGSS’ finances.

Satterthwaite’s plans for the Winter semester include reviewing and standardizing the contracts of all PGSS employees and making changes to the Society Activities Manual (SAM) and the Corporate Operations Manual (COM). Satterthwaite also hopes to raise student awareness of PGSS’ Grants Program, which has over $30,000 still available to students seeking funding for academic projects.


External Affairs Officer: Hocine Slimani 

In the first half of his term as PGSS External Affairs Officer, Slimani completed his predecessor Jacob Lavigne’s work overseeing the dissolution of the Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Quebec (FÉUQ). This included negotiating for PGSS members to be able to apply to receive a portion of FÉUQ's remaining funds. Since the collapse of the FÉUQ, PGSS no longer has direct representation at provincial government. Slimani is in favour of affiliating with the Quebec Student Union (QSU), and has consulted with other executives, the PGSS External Affairs Committee, and PGSS Council on the matter. In the remainder of his term, he will need to present the benefits and costs of affiliation to his constituents, and conduct further consultations before putting affiliation with one of the students’ associations to a vote.

In collaboration with the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Milton-Parc community, Slimani reached an agreement on behalf of PGSS to mandate UTILE–an organization that promotes affordable student housing in Quebec–to conduct a feasibility study on housing for McGill students living near campus. PGSS will soon file for affiliation with ThinkGrad, a think tank for graduate student issues with representatives from several large Canadian research universities.


Internal Affairs Officer: Mansha Imtiyaz

As Internal Affairs Officer, much of Imtiyaz’s role is to plan community-building, cultural, and social events for graduate students. This semester, she prioritized planning events that focus on topics outlined in her platform: Innovation, cultural inclusivity, and mental health. This semester, PGSS hosted a startup competition and Mental Illness Awareness Week, and plans to host International Week (iWeek) next semester—all evidence of Imtiyaz’s commitment to fulfilling her election promises.

Imtiyaz has a full calendar of events in the works for next semester. She hopes to host a celebration of Thomson House’s 50th anniversary and is also working on creating an annual PGSS Awards ceremony to recognize the work and achievement of student groups on campus.

Another significant part of Imtiyaz’s portfolio is internal communications with PGSS members through e-mail, Facebook, and other social media platforms. She is currently unable to track reads and click-throughs on her mailing list, but notes that the events that she publicizes through this platform are typically well-attended. Further, her Facebook events have boasted higher numbers of PGSS members listed as “Going” or “Interested” than last year’s.

Academic Affairs Officer: Shufeng Zhou

As Academic Affairs Officer, Zhou has been working on improving graduate student supervision—the only campaign promise on which she has delivered so far. She has organized the “Managing Your Superior” workshop as a way to inform PGSS members about strategies to handle misunderstandings and disputes with their supervisors.

Zhou also ran promising to improve library space, increase ease of adaptation for international students with a “pre-McGill program,” and boost scholarship opportunities. However, in the first half of her term as Academic Affairs Officer, she has not accomplished these goals. Zhou does not appear to have made any progress on her proposed project to convert the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) into a library and student activity centre. Instead, she has tabled work with the Library Improvement Fund coordinator for next semester. Zhou has not demonstrated any visible initiative in bettering international students’ experience or McGill’s scholarship programs either, and does not express any intention to do so in the Winter semester.

Furthermore, issues she claims to have addressed remain insubstantially solved. For instance, Zhou said that she has been focusing on updating PGSS representatives’ contact information, but the PGSS website only displays the executives’ email addresses, which are often insufficient avenues to get in touch with them.


Member Services Officer: JennyAnn Pura

In her second term as Member Services Officer, Pura has secured funding for student resources, including the new supplemental counseling service Empower Me. She has consistently demonstrated her commitment to advocating for student parents through her focus on Study Saturdays, a free weekly volunteer-based babysitting service for PGSS members. In addition to continuing projects from last year, she has organized essential skills training for PGSA executives.

While the Member Services Committee she created last semester has yet to increase its membership, Pura’s experience in her role should facilitate efforts to attract members next Winter. Despite external challenges such as a change in the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie du Québec legislation, which discontinued the annual flu shot clinic normally hosted at Thomson House, Pura has scheduled a number of upcoming events. With a focus on health provision, she is currently planning PGSS health screening days for members and hopes to launch a bone donor drive. She has also finalized plans for an Ottawa networking trip for both undergraduates and graduates in January, with a limited number of spots reserved for students sponsored by the First Peoples’ Office. Next semester, Pura will run a study in collaboration with DivaCup to assess whether the company’s sustainable menstrual product can be widely offered to members.

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