Candidate Highlight: Laura Aker

In Candidate Highlight, we give students an overview of each Student Council candidate in a series of short interviews. 

Laura Aker is a second-year Social Science student currently running for a position on the upcoming 2020-2021 AUC Student Council. Laura believes that the skills she has obtained from her experience as an assistant to the CEO of Knowingo would be of great use to next year’s AUC Student Council. Her platform’s main focus is providing help to international students, as well as creating a more future-focused AUC. 

Q: Hello Laura. For a start, why don’t you just walk me through the reasons that made you apply to student council?

A: This process of thinking about the student council as something I’d do started beginning of this school year and I hesitated between that and going abroad for a while. I realised I loved AUC and I wanted to find ways to be more active in this space. The student council started promoting the elections and it got me thinking about my AUC experience and the problems I’d like to see solved. I enjoy talking to people about their issues and that’s when I realised these problems could be solved and I decided running. 

Q: Moving on to the policy plan. You seem like one of the only candidates discussing the issue of international students moving into the netherlands. Why is that? 

A: Most of my friends are internationals and my Dad is a tax advisor. People approached me, needing me to translate letters about tax issues and administrative problems. I found myself not knowing, and I thought: “If i don’t know and I’m dutch and I have a dad that is a specialist, then it must be extremely complicated for internationals”. There are only a few steps but you need to know what you’re doing. As a university that prides itself on being 50% internationals, you have to help your students in this process. The problem is that no one knows where to go within AUC to look for help. It would also be so easy to simply add a question on the application asking whether they need help or not in settling in the Netherlands. All these little steps are so easy and they could be really useful in helping students settling in more easily. Even though I always like to help I realised AUC should be the ones to primarily take care of this.  

Q: What would your idea of creating a website or a platform where students can find information look like?

A: AUC should advertise the options that are available to students better and have some sort of website where information can be found. They should point students to the student life officer or peer support for instance. As for the website, I think it should be a main source of information that would refer students to competent authorities and people who can help them. It should be very clear and very simple. It could also be added to the AUC website. When it comes to policies, I think the only thing I’d really like is adding that question on the application. I would also like into options for supporting new students in the first month following their enrolment. Coming to a new university is weird for everyone and people need help in the first moments of their AUC life. 

Q: This ties into the discussion that was had at the Voices event this year about AUC needing to be more forthcoming in informing the students about where the information can be found. Do you think AUC should be more proactive?         

A: I love about AUC that it’s such a human environment, but I feel like when it comes to AUC as an institution, everyone is a bit lost. It feels like this weird combination of VU and UvA regulation that we don’t know what to do with. We could definitely take a more human approach. Beyond providing the information, AUC should also be telling people “we are here for you, we are here to help you”. The AUC experience is about so much more than simply providing education and it could be made more clear. All these things that make AUC so great also give it much more responsibility. 

Q: The leading propositions you make for solving your two main policy plan points are both some sort of a framework, website or platform. Why is that?  

A: There are a couple of things there. The AUC facebook page is a great way to connect with people and find help regarding post-AUC matters like masters, but it’s very informal and not every alumni is going to read that page. However, most alumni are willing to help AUC people with their life plans after AUC. The Liberal arts and science program doesn’t really prepare you for masters, doesn’t prepare you for the requirements and the necessary credits. It happens very often that AUC third-years have to do additional courses in their capstone semester only to match the requirements for masters and that can cause a lot of stress. It would be so easy to have a website where you can look for certain masters, see what AUC Alumni have done with their lives and what the requirements were. I also want AUC to have a clear stance on a timeline for applying to and looking for masters. AUC should be more proactive in warning their students about masters requirements and urging them to inform themselves and make sure they study things that allow them to achieve their ambitions. 

Q: So your main point would be that AUC should treat the 3-year programme as a bloc during which they accompany the students, instead of saying “We give you education, you figure out the rest”? 

A: Yes. AUC should be more proactive. But only for students who want to go on with masters programmes. If someone’s wish is to do a gap year, that’s also fine and they should be able to do that. 

Q: Could you clarify your stance on the Absence policy. It was unclear to me when I was reading through your policy plan. 

A: The absence policy currently works like this: If you miss 6 classes, you fail the class, and then you can apply with the Board of Examiners if you had a good reason for missing these classes. They then review it and if it is the case, they revert the failure. What I would want to do is that we do not automatically fail the course. You don’t fail until the Board of Examiners has reviewed your case and they come to a decision. By doing that, I think we could take away some stress from AUC students.       

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