The Director of Student Development and Activities is responsible for the line management of most of the members in the Union Council, which is an organisation for the leaders of societies in the University. The DoSDA also recommends to the Association Board the level of funding to be given to the members of the Union Council, and helps Council members in their executive duties. He or she also approves expenditure and reports on Union Council activity to the Association Board.
What prior experience do you have that makes you suited to this role?
I am currently charities campaign convener so I have been spending a lot of time in the Union. Before I was Charities Convener, I was RAG Week Convener and before that I had various roles in the Charities Campaign which is very Union-focused so I have a lot of experience from events to constitutional reform to risk assessments and navigating the politics with the Union. I’m very involved with the Union so I want to use that experience to now act as an advocate for other student activities.
If you were elected, what would your main aims be in office?
My main aims break down into four main parts: communication, activities, redevelopment and employability. Communication is mainly about the website. We are getting a new website in May or June so I really want to work with the incoming and outgoing Sabbatical team to make sure that website is as accessible and flexible as possible for the busy lives of student activities. Connected to that, on the activities side is that obviously redevelopment is coming and we need to focus on making sure the student experience is maintained and so making sure that student activities have access to alternative society space, making sure that their resources and assets are stored properly, making sure they know about the redevelopment and that it is coming up and also making sure that they have the adequate resources and training to keep going and to be the very best that they can be during redevelopment. My other priority is the affiliation process for societies. By December this year, one third of societies were still not affiliated and that is due to old process and it is very difficult and kind of works against societies. I am very committed to changing that affiliation process and making sure that we work with societies rather than against them. Lastly is employability. I want to work with societies and subcommittees to put on the best employability events out there with the society and subcommittee to make sure that the events that we put on fit in with the goals and the people in that society want to do. I don’t think Employability Week is effective. I don’t want to have that any more. I want to work steadily throughout the year and make sure that we have both normal graduate scheme and outside schemes. I also want to out on development workshops with the Careers Centre and CAPOD and I have already been meeting with them about things that we can do for next year. I am really excited.
You are running uncontested. Why do you think that is?
I really genuinely don’t know. I know earlier in the year there were rumours as there always are about like seven candidates running but I don’t know where they have all gone. Regardless I am really excited about this week and I have been planning this week for a really long time. I am planning a campaign, scaled back obviously but I am going to all the hall hecklings and I am going to be in the debate if they let me debate against myself to make sure that students know that I am really prepared for this role. If they vote for me and not RON [Re-Open Nominations], I will do the best that I can.
You stated that you are trying to change the affiliation process for societies. What do you think is wrong with the current system and in what ways do you want to change it?
One major issue with the current system is the societies portal. If you go on the Union’s website and you are a member of a society, the societies portal is very confusing and, on the other side, because I work quite closely with the current societies committee, it’s actually very difficult to work on the other side. There is a lot of miscommunication that goes on and it is difficult for presidents to know what they have and haven’t achieved and so I think primarily what we need is a new website to make the online affiliation process easier but also to take a lot of things offline. Sometimes things are better if you just do them in person. You have meetings maybe a few times to just kind of tick the boxes. I really think right now the portal is causing a large problem. Also, I know a lot of members of the current societies committee and I know that they work extremely hard and I wouldn’t want to devalue anything that they do now but I genuinely think that they need to change the culture of the societies committee as well. It can be very intimidating at times. It can be a little stiff. I think we really need to make sure that they societies committee is there as a resource and a management committee that can really make your society be the best that it can be, rather than as a difficult body.
You speak a lot about introducing more appropriate training resources and a more substantial subcommittee training programme. In what ways would you like to change that?
Currently, I’m the head of a subcommittee, the Charities Campaign. We receive no training at the minute and so any training at all would be a step in the right direction. Meg, our current DoSDA, is already starting this process and I am really excited to work with her. I have already been working with her on developing a training programme that will include basic things like how to build a budget, how to chair an effective meeting, how to plan for the year. It will really involve working with CAPOD and they are very interested in working with us. It will also include things like how to fill out a venue booking form. This building is very confusing but all the candidates are interested in making it a better Union for students. The training will really be quite basic things but really key things for subcommittees. For societies, my main thing is about the affiliation process and it also has to do with training. Not all societies are the same. Some are huge and others are quite small so I don’t think a one size fits all training process is the way to go. I am really interested in working with CAPOD and the Profession Skills Curriculum to make sure that societies have the resources they need for everything from knowing the Design Team exists and can either help them make their own posters or make them for them, knowing that there are Microsoft Word programmes that the University offers and just making sure that people know what is available and where to come if they need more help.
You also mention about affiliated student projects. What way would these work? Would they be similar to societies in that they need so many members to be affiliated, for example?
Affiliated student projects are really exciting and I think they fill a much needed niche because some projects don’t work the the 25 minimum members that all need to be charged a membership fee and they are usually across multiple societies, multiple subcommittees or multiple groups. They wouldn’t operate similar to a society. Each would operate more similarly to a subcommittee in that they would probably have a budget or they could apply for grants. They wouldn’t need a minimum membership and it would be much more on a needs basis. There will be a panel that kind of assesses whether a project should be affiliated as an affiliated project. There are already a couple right now. On The Rocks is moving towards that. Blood Soc is one because of some charity law issues. It really is about making sure that just because a project doesn’t fit into the model of subcommittee or societies that they are not denied affiliation and membership of the union. The reason that they wouldn’t be created like subcommittees is that the purpose of subcommittees is to act in the interests of all students as an over arching umbrella body that supports all students. Student projects won’t have that kind of exact requirement.
Redevelopment is going to be a major issue next year. You stated in your manifesto that you will work with the University to expand alternative society space and to address the issue of society storage space. It seems that Meg has already maximised a lot of the space available from the University. What do you plan to do differently next year?
The University has committed to providing more space so I want to hold them to that commitment. There already is space in the Bute medical building and first of all, it is about making sure that students know about that space and are utilising it but that is not always the right kind of space for everyone, especially when we get into the later stages of redevelopment when Venue One is going to be unavailable so we are going to have to rely heavily on the University for space such as Younger Hall, Parliament Hall and Lower College Hall. It may not be that it’s always bookable or it’s always accessible but at least that it is being able to be used and maybe negotiating for fee waivers. It’s really about really utilising my existing relationship with the University; I work as a student ambassador and I also used to work for the Development Office, so I do have quite a few connections and making sure that they know I am committed to this and I want to see it through. They don’t want to impact on the student experience either. They want to make sure that is maintained throughout the redevelopment. That will only work if the University and the Union work really closely together. In terms of storage, that is going to be a major issue for redevelopment. The Charities office is just down the hallway here [second floor of the Union building] and we have lots of assets and we are not unique. A lot of the subcommittees and societies have a lot of things that they have invested a lot of money in and we need to utilise storage that already exists within the University, look at getting a storage unit. We do need a solution and right now there isn’t one. I plan to work closely with Meg to make that is sorted sooner rather than later.
Meg told us that with the focus on redevelopment and societies, she hasn’t really had that much time to focus on employability in the last year. How do you plan to have more of a balance if you are elected?
I think that because I want to get rid of Employability Week, there will be less emphasis on me planning employability events. I’m only 21 years old and I got a graduate job (not this one… I deferred it to possibly be DoSDA) but I can’t tell everyone how to get a job. I just don’t have that experience. Instead of planning Employability Week, I will work steadily throughout the year and I will be able to maximise my time. My goal is to work with societies and with subcommittees and utilising them to put on employability events and to make sure that we put on the events for them at the best time for them. I think I should be able to emphasise employability a bit more. Also, I am very interested in exploring the possibility of introducing an SRC Employability Officer. I really think that employability is not focused on enough in the Association and by running a dedicated officer for the job, we will make sure that they will hold me accountable and hold the University accountable to make sure that employability stays on the agenda. I’m also interested in working very closely with the Director of Representation to make sure we are utilising school presidents and their connections over employability.
You also talked about the employability workshops in your manifesto. From what I understand, this is something that the Careers Centre and CAPOD already do. How do you plan to expand that or make it better?
My thing is that I think a lot of students don’t know about the Careers Centre and CAPOD workshops. I think it needs to be a three part thing that CAPOD, the Careers Centre and the Association commit to putting on some major workshops. For example, a ‘CV speed dating’ where all of us come together, Careers Centre advisers and CAPOD advisers and you can go up to them and they can look at your CV and tell you what is wrong. Those are services that they already offer but they’re over-booked and a lot of people that I have spoken to find the Careers Centre very intimidating. My goal is to make sure that people know what is available and they can come to us and I can say ‘look this is for you, it is in Venue One and it is somewhere you are used to going’. It is not some scary thing. I also want to make sure students know the steps to getting ready and also to improve communication. That is why it is first in my manifesto. Everything stems back to communication and I see the role of DoSDA as being a link between a lot of different groups, societies and service.
Why do you think people should vote for you?
I have a lot of experience in the Union. I have a really great love for the Union and a belief that it can be better. I wouldn’t run for this job if I didn’t think that I could actually achieve the goals that I want to. I have spent a lot of time in here making things happen and also seeing students make things happen. It has been the best year of my life this year being Charities Campaign Convenor and seeing things like RAG Week, things like Race2, things like our bungee jump and our summer fair come together and I didn’t put on those events, other students did but I was there to make sure that they had the resources, they had the training and they had the support to make it happen. I really see the DoSDA as an extension of that role. I hope students will vote for me even though I an unopposed.
Do you have anything to add?
I would like to add that there are so many great candidates running for Sabbatical positions, SRC, SSC and school presidents and I want students to take an interest. We really do have a lot of say over what is going to happen next year and we have a big impact on the student experience so I really encourage students to get involved and to vote for whoever it is that they are voting for but just get out there and vote.