Since the start of our term, the Executive team has begun reviewing all of ESSCO’s services and evaluating what benefits it provides to its members. The purpose of this is to ensure that we are functioning as efficiently as possible, and ensuring that membership to ESSCO does provide value.

As part of this evaluation, our current President, Liam Morrow, spoke with the first ever ESSCO President, Jeff Calvert. The following conversation took place to gain some insight into what the original goals of ESSCO were, and what hopes Jeff had for it to become.

Jeff, a University of Western Ontario engineering student at the time, recalls complaining with his friends about the quality of instruction, and the cost of books at their schools. The quality of engineering education was in serious need of improvement during the 1980s. There were many issues with high failure rates, excessive use of the bell curve to adjust engineering grades, and overall poor quality of instruction.

“Finally we got to the point, we said, look, engineering students have no voice. Nobody is speaking for engineering students on these issues. Let’s get together and speak for them.”

The social climate of engineering at the time was one of the primary reasons that ESSCO was formed: to understand and address the needs of engineering students from around the province. As the first president, Jeff set out with the goal of improving “the quality of engineering student education in Ontario.” The structure of ESSCO was inspired by CoFIQ (today known as CREIQ/QCESO), the Quebec organisation of engineering students. In the Fall of 1987, CoFiQ gave a presentation at a Regional Engineering Student Societies’ Association to help ESSCO get started.

“The key pillars were curriculum, quality of teaching, and cost.”

However, the newly formed organization did have its fair share of roadblocks along the way. “The first thing we realized was that nobody was going to take us seriously when we have such an image problem.” Engineering students at the time were often shown in a bad light, and therefore were not given attention from PEO, CODE, or the government. It was difficult to get the recognition needed from the external organisations who could actually help make a difference.

During Jeff’s short time involved in ESSCO, he was unfortunately unable to see his initial goals be reached. The first year was mainly spent working on remedying the image of engineering students, in an effort to move forward with their goals. However, Jeff comments that we have come a very long way since then. “I think things have changed a lot in this period of time…I think engineering students themselves are far more sophisticated.”

With regards to moving forward, Jeff offered some ideas and advice. “The opportunities now to influence the quality of education are huge.” He suggested creating a specific goal, and building a strong social media campaign to accomplish it. He also suggested creating an advisory board of past executives, with the goal of improving continuity as Executive Teams change from year to year.

ESSCO would like to thank Jeff Calvert for taking the time to share his story with us, and we look forward to working with him in the future.

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