ARTHE KANDEEPAN & ELISABETH MAHASE

We had the opportunity to interview Brunel's student officers who are more than just a smiling face on a poster! They represent the student community and are here to act on your needs. Read on to find out what they said…

Martin Zaranyika Meet our student officers_CREDIT_Brunel Student Union

Martin Zaranyika – President

Can you give us a breakdown of your aims and what you plan to bring to the University as the student president?

“One of the benefits I have this year having been re-elected, so one of the main things I want to do this year is make sure the new team are off to a good start, so in terms of educating them and supporting them with everything that happens. When it comes to first year sabbatical officers they tend to react to things as they happen. Now that I know exactly how the year pans out... it's preparing the team as a whole and also achieving the manifesto goals that I ran on.”

“Some my goals this year include working with the university to give incentives to hard working students, with the academic scholarships; working on the worthwhile issues such as emergency accommodation and also accessing the cost of living on campus. As time has gone on the cost of living has gone up, so I think we need a clearer picture of just how much a Brunel Student spends, in order for us to inform the University.”

“As well as that, we are looking at doing a space audit with the Vice President Academic Representation (Marcus Stein). When you look at the usage of the library, especially at peak times – you can't really get anywhere to sit so we are figuring out which academic buildings we can extend the opening times for so the students have the option of studying somewhere else.”

“The university is going through a governor’s review as well, so by the time the new students come in September what we are trying to do is to ensure that the new proposal that we have - in terms of what the structure will look like – is in place for them to vote on. It's going to be a massive change as this happens only once every five years.”

Do you have any advice or thoughts for our new students?

“Be confident. I know it's very difficult but try things out. You never know how things will pan out. For me, in my second week I just went up to the union reception to say I wanted to talk to the student president and just got involved from then on. You just have to go for it. At the end of the day this is meant to be the best time of your life.”

“Experience new things, meet new people! I would definitely encourage them to get involved in the union; because I think when it comes to their university experience they're going to run into some problems here and there. The union is there to represent their needs and interests, but we can never do that effectively if we don't know what the problems are.”

What have you achieved so far as President?

“Writing the accommodation proposal that we managed to pass through last year – the university were looking to increase the rent by 4%, but we managed to get them to reduce this by 2%. As well as this we got the university to give us half a million pounds - students will decide how to spend that money - on residences. For people living on campus next year that's something they can really get involved with.”

“What we've managed to do is get their payments tailored to those types of students.

Last year Costcutter was a big thing – extending the opening hours. I think last year what I really wanted to do was sort out the issues that matter but don't seem like a big deal. Getting elected onto a national committee was a good thing – getting Brunel's name out there. We've actually gone up – for the third year running we are the top for student experience in London, and tenth nationally. It demonstrates some of the work we've been doing over the last year.”

How can we contact you if we have any queries?

“You can contact me with the details on the Freshers’ calendar. My email address is su.president@brunel.ac.uk. Some people know that out of all the past presidents, I'm the Facebook president, so you can contact me on there, too [search Brunel Su Pres]. I'm always posting and telling people what we're doing.”

Is there a new project or event you are really excited about in this coming year?

“I know Leon [VP Community Welfare] and Hannah [VP Student Activities] are going to be doing quite a lot to get clubs and societies involved within the local community. There's always that perception of students being the drunken people where as at Brunel we try and change that perception. Going out into the community alongside clubs and societies – to really put us in a good light. With some of the projects this year, we are going to try and make sure we have two officers working together...creating a team ethos. Myself and Marcus are going to be working on the space audit, bringing up the issues the students have.”

If you could tell your ‘fresher’ self one thing what would it be?

“Don't be shy! I know some people may be shy but I just say go for it!

Leon Evans Meet our student officers_CREDIT_Leon Evans 

Leon Evans - Vice President Community Welfare

To all the Freshers starting this year, can you explain your role within the University?

“As Vice President of community welfare I deal with issues relating to social policy. I can provide students with advice and can deal with more serious matters like homesickness, finance worries and anything else within our student community. I am also here to ensure that students are not only studying for a degree but also developing life skills through their university experience.”

Can you give us a breakdown of your aims and what you plan to bring to the University as Community Welfare Vice President?

“I want to ensure that students gain real life experiences. My main policies this year is the Brunel cooking workshop called ‘Let’s Cook’. This is designed teach students how to cook food from all around the world. Cooking is a real passion of mine, in first year I enjoyed cooking with others and getting tips and sharing ideas, and so this will be one of my main campaigns this year.”

“Quality of living and the decline of standards alongside rising accommodation prices is a major issue that we aim to tackle. In terms of accommodation the university have given us half a million pounds for student refurbishment and so I am working on putting together hall committees by getting students from each of the halls to see what main things are needed for each hall and what needs the most attention in order to bring them up to a basic quality of standard. This could include things like locks, ventilation etc. And also general things like installing water fountains and bike sheds on campus. More bike racks have been installed already. We are also looking to bring more social space for our students. One example would be to provide a place for student parents to bring their children, to breastfeed, and look after them. Another aim is to run a Community Action Week where we get all clubs and societies to go into the local community to share their expertise and skills, which would be a higher education award and would go towards your university transcript.

Do you have any advice or thoughts for Brunel students starting their first year of university?

“Make sure you enjoy it. First year is the time to meet your friends for life. Get out as much as possible and join as many clubs and societies as you can. Don’t forget about your degree completely, but remember that no other year will be as free and open as your first year to try new things! The emphasis on first year is about getting involved and immersing yourself within the student community.”

What have you achieved so far as VPCW?

“We have had the bike racks installed which will be accessible outside the Hamilton Centre. We are running a ‘SSHH bus’ which stands for ‘silent students happy homes’ which will pick students up from Liquid and Academy and take you home and will be running from September. We have set out the weeks for Green Week and Community Action Week as well, so we have clear timelines to work towards than we have done in the past. We will have set up hall committee teams for the new term, you can find out how to get involved by looking on brunelstudents.com. We will also be having an officer ‘Come Dine With Me’! So stay tuned for that!

What changes can you see happening in the coming academic year?

“We are hoping to see a move to online coursework submissions, so that coursework can be submitted from anywhere. More direct representation for students, such as mature students, part time students, off campus and students who are parents. And more face-to-face engagement with student officers rather than just being a face on the wall.”

If you could tell your ‘fresher’ self one thing what would it be?

“There are lots of things I would tell myself! But …one would be, know your limits! An ambiguous answer, but still important whether it is in terms of work load, involvement or how much you drink!”

How can we contact you if we have any queries?

I am on Facebook under Brunel Vpcommunity Welfare, or you can find me on Twitter @UBSVPCW and my email is vp.communitywelfare@brunel.ac.uk

Marcus Stein Meet our student officers_CREDIT_Kirsty Capes

Marcus Stein - Vice President Academic Representation

To all the Freshers starting this year, can you explain your role within the university?

“I'm here to represent the academic needs of the student body when talking to members of University staff, and to ensure that your voices are heard on major academic and employability issues.”

Can you give us a breakdown of your aims and what you plan to bring to the University as Vice President Academic Representation?

“One of my aims is to address the effectiveness of our reps; I want to break down the social barriers between students and their reps by making reps easier to identify, and by increasing their involvement in academic societies’ events, as these represent key opportunities to engage with students. I’m also looking at ways to improve the training and support we provide our reps, and would like to increase the extent to which we recognise and reward their hard work.”

“Another one of my aims is to increase support and awareness for academic societies; I think that they're a useful resource for gauging how students feel about their course, and identifying areas that need improvement. I also believe that they can be used to create a greater sense of community when it comes to academia, by encouraging peer-based learning and getting more students to think of their lecturers as partners in their learning.”

“Space is also quite an issue for students, particularly during exams; I'm looking to assess how study space is used throughout the university, and to subsequently promote their existence to students, because a lot of the time you find these spaces are underused whilst the library is packed!”

“I also want to expand on the work of our previous VPAR, and ensure that the academic support provided for dissertations is made accessible to all final year students, including those with earlier deadlines. As a former biosciences student with a dissertation deadline in January, I can’t describe how valuable this support would have been in term 1!”

“I'm also aiming to make online submission and assessment prevalent this year; I’ve already made significant progress with this over the past couple of months as part of a working group.”

“I also want to increase our library resources, with a particular focus on electronic copies of textbooks, so that students can find the information they need more readily.”

Do you have any academic advice or thoughts for our new students?

ü  Join academic societies, especially those relevant to your course - they’re a great way to meet students on your course who can help you out if you get stuck!

ü  Get to know your lecturers! A lot of them are very friendly and keen to help you learn and succeed.

ü  Find out who your course reps are! Same goes for your personal tutor; if you encounter any problems with your module, course, or department, they're your first point of contact! Reps are also there to push for positive changes that will improve life at Brunel. Think you have what it takes to be a rep? Visit www.brunelstudents.com/reps to find out more! (Hurry, nominations close October 3rd!)

How can we contact you if we have any queries?

You can reach me between 9am-5pm on 01895 267603, or via my email: vp.academicrep@brunel.ac.uk

I’m happy to help with any queries you may have, but if your query is course-related then try speaking to your reps or personal tutors first; if they do their job properly, you won’t need to contact me!

What changes can you see happening in the coming academic year?

“I’m anticipating a lot of changes behind-the-scenes that will benefit Brunel's students, but will go largely unnoticed by them! One example of this includes a lot more sharing of good academic and administrative (appeals, mitigating circumstances etc.) practice between departments as a result of the University’s Transformational Change Project (TxP).”

Is there a new project or event you are really excited about in this coming year?

“Well I'm really intrigued by Leon's Cook Shop project. I'm excited to see how that develops over the coming year because it’s something completely new; it's never been done before (to my knowledge!) and I think it has the potential to really push healthy, affordable eating at Brunel.”

If you could tell your ‘fresher’ self one thing what would it be?

“Be brave and try more things. You will never have more chances to try new things and meet new people than you do in your first year of University! And as you progress through University you’ll have increasingly less free time (and sleep!), so make the most of it!”

 

Hannah Jones Meet our student officers_CREDIT_Kirsty Capes

Hannah Jones- Vice President Student Activities

To all the Freshers starting this year, can you explain your role within the university?

“My name is Hannah and I am the Vice President of Student Activities which basically means that I represent students from sports, societies and those involved in RAG which stands for ‘Raise and Give’. Every year we elect 4 charities that we raise money for through exciting events. We have about 50 sports clubs and 104 societies so there is a lot of extracurricular activity for freshers to get involved in. As vice president, I act mainly as a voice for students and lead on campaigns and issues that affect students at Brunel to enhance their student experience at university and increase their employability by offering them opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities, such as being a member of a society or being involved in the student led media group.

Can you give us a breakdown of your aims and what you plan to bring to the University as student activities vice president?

“I was elected this year on a set of manifesto points and I plan to see them all through! In terms of sport, we are looking at making it easier to run clubs by providing more support structures and training whilst reducing the amount of paperwork clubs have to go through in order to run. Also to provide clubs with priority booking over external bookings for training times which is important when we want to improve our performance and provide proper training. We are also working on making sporting activities more affordable by considering payment in instalments rather than a lump sum at the start of each year.”

“Secondly I am looking to establish links within the community and other local sports clubs to form a pathway to increase participation and give opportunities for coaching, facility assistance and membership. I’m having meetings to discuss improving the criteria for both sports performance programme and sports scholarships and making it accessible to our students.”

“We are also working to put together an intramural programme to allow individuals who want to play sport recreationally and socially. Students won’t have to commit to a club and can turn up with their friends and play some sport and have fun. We aim to trial this programme with a selection of sports.”

“One of the big concerns on my agenda this year is Varsity, which is here at Brunel this year. We are hosting the event, so I want to see more involvement, and for it to be focused more on participation and making sure the rules are fair this year. I also want to look into the possibility of involving societies in the event as well. We are in the early stages of planning that at the moment.”

“I want to see more sports and societies raising money for RAG. We want to support our local charities this year more than we have done in the past. When we raise money for each charity we never see what happens so we would like to make sure we see the changes that happen with the money we raise. Kate Taylor [RAG Chair] would like to see academic and skills related RAG events going on during the year and not just sports events, an example would be things like fashion shows. We would like RAG to have a continuous presence all year round to raise money for charities that we choose as a union!”

“We are putting together a support structure for academic societies and how we can integrate them into the student rep structure. This is so that we get more of the student voice into the courses and how they are run and we plan to trial this through a select number of societies. A big feature on the Societies Guild Chair’s [Ali Milani] manifesto is getting funding for all societies. We have a number of free societies and then those that have membership and we are looking at how we can support all societies financially. Another major issue about societies is the limited amount of storage space they have which we intend to improve by doing a storage audit to see how spaces can be used better to benefit societies.”

What can you offer for our new students as vice president of student activities?

“As a representative I can point students in the right direction. Freshers can come to me with problems/issues which we as a union can then act upon. I can inform students of the variety of clubs and societies they can get involved in but they can also create their own club or society! Basically the union, so the officers and I, are the voice between the student body and university and therefore we can lobby the uni on behalf of the students to improve their student experience!”

What have you achieved so far as Vice President?

“My manifesto points are a work in progress throughout the year, so I outlined what I want to achieve and when by and have begun working on that. These include issues such as priority bookings, instalment options for clubs, funding for societies, storage space and RAG charities as mentioned before. We are currently planning and preparing our agendas for the start of term so we are ready for freshers so they can be implemented in time.”

What changes can you see happening in the coming academic year?

“The main change is that the University is changing from 8 schools to 3 colleges. All of the structures of the schools are therefore going to change and we as a union have had to accommodate these changes and will be changing our governance to fit in with this new structure. Each of the vice presidents will be representing each college throughout the year. As an officer team we want to be more transparent and have open office hours for students.”

If you could tell your ‘fresher’ self one thing what would it be?

“As a fresher I was very keen and always got involved. In first year I volunteered, became a student rep and was part of the hockey committee. I would say to just get involved, and if you have an issue, raise it. The union is here for the benefit of the students and can help with a range of things: welfare, extracurricular activity, representation, accommodation issues, money issues, mitigating circumstances, course issues… the list is endless! I’d also say to myself to spend my money wisely and budget, make friends and HAVE FUN!”

How can we contact you if we have any queries?

I am on Facebook – VP Student Activities (Hannah Jones), or you can find me on Twitter @UBSVPSA, my email is VP.Activities@brunel.ac.ukand my office phone number is 01895266622

Also look out for a blue t-shirt and blonde hair during freshers’ week!