With the ongoing pandemic, the past year has been challenging for all students and faculty. However, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) has found the silver lining to this unfortunate year to accomplish its initiatives for students at UTM.

As stated in the union’s Annual General Meeting report, the UTMSU is determined to provide immediate reductions in tuition fees for all students, health insurance plans for international students, and more funding and scholarship opportunities for international students.

The UTMSU has also focused on its plans to enforce education services for students facing difficulties with the online school environment. The Medium talked to UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi about her and her team’s accomplishments so far this school year.

“The union has successfully launched the Education for All campaign, lobbying the government and the U of T senior administration for accessible and free education for all students,” stated Yakubi. “New services including the Laptop Rental Program where the UTMSU will be investing in a number of laptops to rent to students who do not have access to a personal computer.” 

Yakubi continued by saying that UTMSU has “also consistently engaged with students on all platforms to keep them updated on all the work we have been doing since the year started.”

The union has also been working with the UTM administration, U of T President, and the University of Toronto Governing Council to provide more than 400 students with accessibility services.

Another major initiative Yakubi discussed was the financial support programs offered by the union. “The UTMSU increased the number of bursaries available to financially support their members this year,” said Yakubi. “[We have] recently introduced the Covid-19 Grant to further support members who are facing financial hardship due to the pandemic.”

This led Yakubi to discuss the challenges she and her team faced during the 2020 fall semester, their first term in office.

“The biggest challenge [we] faced this year was the pandemic,” continued Yakubi. “The UTMSU had to adapt and change all of its operations to best fit the governmental health regulations while supporting UTM students.”

Yakubi continued her statement by reviewing UTMSU’s actions in response to the global pandemic’s challenges and how it continued to provide services within the Covid-19 guidelines.  

“The UTMSU successfully updated all its operations regularly to keep with the health regulations, including student center operating hours, health and safety regulations, and delivering major events such as Frosh, Free Breakfast Wednesdays, and Academic Advocacy Week virtually,” stated Yakubi.

Ever since the Connect UTM team took over in May, the team’s major objective, which was addressed during its campaign, was to distinguish and set a foundation for mental health support.

“The UTMSU Mental Health Peer Support Program aims to address the lack of adequate mental health support and resources at the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus,” asserted Yakubi. “We have created this new service for students by students in collaboration with Stella’s Place.” 

Stella’s Place is a Toronto based mental health centre that focuses its services on youth members of the community.

“Stella’s Place provides in-person and online peer support, employment, wellness, and recovery services as well as opportunities to explore your creative self through studio programs for all young adults in Toronto, aged 16 to 29,” Yakubi continued. “We have been working very closely with them to ensure that our Peer Supporters are well equipped and trained to provide the best service available to the UTM community.”

Mitra Yakubi and her team at UTMSU will continue to provide UTM students with more opportunities and benefits before the end of their tenure.  “This winter semester, the UTMSU will hold Mental Health Awareness Week, Black History Month programming, Academic Advocacy sessions, Tax Clinic Workshops, Exam Destressors, Care Packages, and more!”

Students are encouraged to visit the UTMSU website for more information on its events and services.

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