The School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) Affairs group is a part of the St. George’s University Student Government Association (SGA), working primarily to address student issues and concerns related to the School of Veterinary Medicine.
SGU News spoke with Jennifer Kirk, DVM ’22 (expected), SGA’s president of SVM Affairs, and Maria Coppola, DVM ’22 (expected), SGA’s vice president of SVM Affairs, who shared the importance of the group’s mission, how it was crucial in helping to formulate SVM’s distance learning curriculum, and how students can get involved.
SGU: How do you advocate for SVM students at SGU?
Jennifer Kirk: We have four main priorities that we focus on. They include:
- Communications between the SGA SVM representatives and the student body;
- Facilitating effective communication between students and professors;
- Advocating for the SVM student organizations and clubs; and
- Addressing both nonacademic and academic concerns with the SVM and University leadership teams.
SGU: SVM Affairs was very involved in helping vet students navigate the early days of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Can you share some key instances where you were able to help students in Grenada?
JK: We played a significant role in assisting students during the evacuation. We made sure to work with the administration to figure out logistics to allow all pets to evacuate with their owner and helped coordinate that. We advocated for the students that still had mid-term exams to take during the evacuation. We had multiple SVM students at the airport and at Modica Hall making sure that the process to get everyone home safely went smoothly.
SGU: As the School of Veterinary Medicine ramped up its distance learning program, how did SVM Affairs contribute to the process?
JK: We were in many meetings during the evacuation to ease the transition from in-person to online learning. We gathered feedback for the SVM crisis team that was crucial in implementing new protocols for the best online learning experience.
One such concern we had was making sure students had access to all the materials needed. We know that not everyone has a conducive workspace in their home, especially with WiFi issues. We advocated for these students and, as a result, SVM made recordings downloadable so that students can stay on track despite these problems.
We continue to communicate regularly with our Executive Board, faculty advisor, Dr. Arend Werners, as well as University and SVM leadership.
SGU: What is the most important aspect that students are looking for as part of distance learning education?
JK: Students really need the interaction aspect of learning. I think it’s especially important to provide the incoming Term 1 students with that inclusive aspect as they are not able to be in Grenada, and they don’t get to facilitate vital in-person relationships with their professors and peers.
SGU: Can you name some initiatives that the group will be working on for students this term?
JK: I would say mental health. As taboo as it is to talk about it in society, I do think it is imperative—especially now that we are all isolated at home—to talk openly about how we are dealing with the pandemic. The SGA will be hosting a virtual movie night on September 11 to talk about burnout in the medical and veterinary fields, but I would like to include more mental health awareness initiatives for SVM students this semester.
Maria Coppola: My answer would be increased communications to vet students, which is even more important now that we’re not all together. It’s important that we check in with students and that students check in with us. We try to make ourselves available as often as possible throughout the day, whether that be on Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp, etc. You name it, we are most likely available on it!
SGU: How can other students get involved?
MC: At the beginning of every semester, we send out a call for representatives. Students can easily join by filling out the application and sending in a headshot. If there are numerous applicants, we then hold an election and each term will vote for who they would like to represent their class.
— Laurie Chartorynsky