Graduate students urged to get involved

An interview with the president of the Graduate Student Association.
September 15, 2011
By David Adelman

The secret to university success is student involvement says Graduate Student Association (GSA) President Robert Sonin. And he continues to take campus life to a whole new level.

In 1993, Sonin set foot onto Concordia University’s campus as an undergraduate history student. In 2007, he returned to acquire a second bachelor’s, this time in philosophy. Fascinated by the works of Immanuel Kant and other great philosophers, he decided to further explore the subject at the graduate level.

What has remained constant in Sonin’s academic experience is his contribution to campus life. He never settled to be a 9-to-5 student. “I was always involved in school politics, whether it was with the Concordia Student Union or the Board of Governors. I felt it was my obligation as a student to be responsible for student life on campus,” says Sonin.

Feeling very dedicated to Concordia, Sonin sees education and campus life with an informed and mature perception. “You learn so much when you are dealing with different student associations. I have been a member of many associations and took pride in watching them evolve,” explains Sonin, who believes a strong dialogue between students and administration results in a stronger university. 

Sonin considers himself a citizen of the Concordia community and encourages students to see themselves beyond the student “box” mentality.  “From my experiences at Concordia, I learned first-hand that getting involved on campus teaches students valuable life skills and lessons that aren’t taught in classrooms,” he adds.

With a passion for teaching and guiding others, Sonin’s goal is to complete his master’s program and become a professor at the CEGEP level.  For Sonin, it’s students who pave the road towards a better future. “There is absolutely no comparison between students who give back to their community and to fellow peers and students who just attend class and leave. That feeling of gratification is priceless,” he explains Sonin, who wholeheartedly believes all students have something valuable to offer to the university.

When asked the question how to encourage student involvement, Sonin laughs. From all his years of talking to students on campus, he deduced that students don’t get involved for two simple reasons: lack of interest and lack of time.

“Student associations require a lot of dedication and effort and many students have jobs and other priorities besides their studies,” he says; however, there is another reason many students don’t like to admit. From his experience, Sonin believes many students do not feel they can contribute to campus life. “Every student has something to offer. Everyone has common sense, personal judgments and experiences that can add to any situation,” urged Sonin.

But being heavily involved in campus student life isn’t always fun and games. Graduate students have a lot less time than undergraduate students because of the heavy concentration of work. “Many graduates I know wish they got involved during their undergraduate years because of all the amazing opportunities they have,” he says.

As president, Sonin’s goal is to represent graduate students and to improve their university experience by addressing specific issues such as tuition hikes and funding for graduate students. “The biggest satisfaction I receive is encouraging students to participate in campus life,” he says.

Sonin is hoping to have a very active year and believes that student involvement will blossom as the GSA continues to engage students through social media, events and one-on-one conversations.

Journalism student David Adelman is an intern with Concordia’s University Communications Services.

Related links:
•  Graduate Students Association
•  GradSkillsPro


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