UMSU votes to makeover awards roster

The campus isn’t the only thing receiving a radical makeover. The University of Manitoba Students’ Union awards are undergoing major changes, with a proposed increase of $4,000 for a total of $12,000 worth of awards.

However, many students were unaware UMSU gave out such awards at all, and believe that bursaries and grants available to students were generally awarded for excelling academically.
“To get them you have to be extremely academic,” said U1 student Reynaud Stewart when asked if he’d ever considered applying for a bursary or award.

Medha Guha, a faculty of science student, also believed that “awards are basically offered for anyone that is performing well in school.”

However, UMSU’s roster of awards seeks to reward students for the achievements outside of the classroom.

“The Finance Committee and UMSU Council approved revising the UMSU Awards, into a model that encourages and celebrates student involvement in many areas on campus and in the community, and focuses less on academic requirements,” said Heather Laube, UMSU president, when asked about the proposed changes.

New categories have been added to the roster of awards, such as the Social Justice Activism Award and the Student Involvement Award.

“The application process for these awards leaves it up to the individual to demonstrate that they are the most suitable candidate to receive the award,” said Laube.

Currently, potential recipients of the awards require no set amount of volunteer hours, or no set amount of contribution to projects or the campus community.

Beyond showcasing such qualities as leadership and community involvement, a student must provide reference letters, and letters of recommendation.

The Board of Trustees of the UMSU Scholarship and Bursary Fund, and Endowment Fund determine the award recipients.

Jane Lastra, director of Financial Aid and Awards at the U of M, reported that her department received approximately 3,300 bursary applications from students, with total of $3.4 million given out in student awards in December of 2009.

Considering there are approximately 23,951 undergraduate students currently enrolled at the University of Manitoba, this means only seven per cent of students apply for these awards, and raises the question of whether or not enough financial support exists?

“We do have a very strong bursary program, [ . . . ] however, we will not have more than enough bursary funding until we can eliminate the need of students going to student aid for government based support,” said Lastra.

Of this $3.4 million, $831,496 was directly issued from the undergraduate UMSU bursary fund, an additional program separate from the awards roster.

In 2009-2010, around 2,155 UMSU Scholarships and Bursaries were distributed through the fund.