Be the change: Gregory Johannson and Alex Oster 

Alex Oster during his term in India. Magnifying glass

Alex Oster during his term in India.

At least two political science students took those words to heart during their time at Concordia. Both student Senators were able to study abroad, display leadership in a variety of campus contexts and contribute to leaving Concordia better than they found it in lasting, meaningful ways.

Alex Oster started in English Literature but soon realized that he wanted to effect change on campus, and study how change can be possible on a global scale. “I wanted to be exposed to different ideas and different ways of thinking.” Gregory Johannson saw the program as a way to learn “to challenge the system in a positive way.”

Both students got involved in campus groups that appealed to each of them. Oster volunteered at Sustainable Concordia, taking on a series of projects. He met Johannson in the fall of 2008, when the CSU tried to shut down the recently adopted Sustainability Action Fund. Both students successfully campaigned against the move.

Gregory Johannson will travel before setting his sights on law school. Magnifying glass

Gregory Johannson will travel before setting his sights on law school.

Meanwhile Johannson participated in the Model UN (including a debate at Harvard), the Political Science Students Association and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations.

In 2008, Johannson worked with Student Action on Refugees (STAR) while at the American University in Cairo. He was among 10 students managing a team of almost 100 volunteers. “It was a really good experience, but it was trying. It requires a certain amount of emotional strength,” he said of his experiences with the program.

The following year Oster was selected to study at the Indian Institute of Technology in the Development Studies program. Back at Concordia, he was hired to produce a policy review of the CSU and discovered numerous versions of standing regulations and policies. “Transition from government to government was weak,” he said, adding that political differences sometimes led student administrations to neglect proper briefing of their successors.

His dedication to the project, long after his contract ended, led the CSU to invite him to join their executive when a VP left early in the fall of 2009. He finished his time at Concordia as VP Sustainability and Projects. In that capacity, he established the CSU’s first green month, with a series of activities including mash-ups where professors from different disciplines presented their vision of sustainability through the lens of their own research. Oster’s own last days at Concordia were spent briefing people taking over his dossiers. He also earned the Lieutenant Governor’s Youth Award for Community Services.

Meanwhile, Johannson’s trip to Egypt, while memorable, represents only one of the 26 countries, on six continents, he’s visited. Travel is something he intends to do over the next year, before applying to law school. He is proud of his role in this year’s Senate vote on a university-wide Open Access policy, and was an eloquent supporter of the initiative.

Next up, Oster will be looking at urban and suburban gardening projects in Saint-Lazare. He may also work on a research project building capacity of rural communities under Paul Shrivastava, the head of the David O’Brien Centre. “I got a really good education here,” he said.


Concordia University