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- VP Engagement Candidate Interview with Charlie Morris
Wessex Scene interview Charlie Morris, who is running for the position of VP Engagement in the 2018 Union Spring Elections.
Why have you decided to run for the role of VP Engagement?
I’ve been involved with the Union for the past three years. It has been absolutely the best thing I have done throughout my university career and I want to be able to give that experience back to students.
I specifically chose VP Engagement because everything I have worked towards, the whole time I have been here, has pretty much led up to this. I am so passionate about volunteering, fundraising and enterprise – it’s everything I love and I want to give it back.
What tactics of engagement would you use to approach different students? Especially those who are international students, post-graduates, or those who do not particularly enjoy the drinking aspect of freshers?
As a non-drinker myself, I think I have quite a good knowledge of how to do that. I think the most important thing is just having a face to face conversation. I know Facebook and social media is fantastic, but it is very easily ignored. I think we sometimes underestimate the power of a conversation and I would really, really like to just get out there and start chatting to people.
I want to run specifically tailored events, such as postgrad and international events. I would go along to all of these and introduce myself so that later on, if anyone has any issues, there is already the communication there. This should make it a lot less intimidating.
What are the main problems you identify within the remit of this role and how do you aim to fix them?
I think we have an issue within the Union of trying to involve students who aren’t already involved, if that makes sense? As we’ve seen over Freshers, with the Bloc Party being cancelled, there is a shift in the what students want, and we as the Union, need to respond to that.
What I aim to do is listen to students and do what they actually want. So, for enterprise, I spoke to the current Enterprise Officer, Neel, and he said that students aren’t getting involved because there is no incentive. This is why one thing on my manifesto is to start offering these incentives.
What experience do you have that would make you an excellent fit for this role?
I spent the last year as RAG President, which means I eat, sleep and breathe all things fundraising at the moment, so for that side of the role I absolutely think I am the best candidate. I have also volunteered throughout all three of my years here in several different roles.
I’ve been on the Engagement Zone committee for the last two years, which means I have an in-depth knowledge about how the zone works and how funding works. I’ve also worked a lot with Andy, the External Engagement Coordinator, so there is already knowledge and relationships there. I’ve also been on Union Senate this this year, which involves making decisions on policy-making and running the union.
What would be your three most important focal points for the upcoming year if you were to be elected?
I actually have one point for each of the three different sections.
For halls I want to develop the halls’ common rooms and make sure they are all of a high and equal standard, because I think there is quite an unfairness across the halls at present. For example, Chamberlain has an incredible common room, but Monte and Glen don’t even have one. I really want to look into that, and make sure every single halls has a common room of a good standard.
Secondly, I want to offer incentives across enterprise to help engagement, and I also want to introduce casual Wednesday afternoon volunteering. As we all know, time is a huge, huge issue for students and there are so many people who want to get involved in volunteering but just can’t commit the time. By having Wednesday afternoons, people can pick and choose, and work with whatever amount of time is best for them, while still giving back to the community and have something for their CV.
One of your key focuses in your personal statement is enterprise and providing more incentives and guidance for entrepreneurs. What sort of structures will you put in place to ensure a fluid process? and would you hope to provide financial investment in this area?
I definitely, definitely want to introduce incentives and I think to start off with it is really important just to recognise the incredible work that student entrepeneurs are doing. That’ll mean monthly awards, and recognition of hours and things like that to show that we recognise the good work that our students are doing and we want to shout about it.
For example, Ethico, which is one of the enterprise groups, has produced environmentally friendly coffee cups. I think that is incredible and it hasn’t been shouted about. I also want to put in place more defined structures, so if you reach a certain amount of hours with your volunteering you get different awards. This could be small things like a free pint at Stags, just little things that show we recognise the work you are doing and we want to help you.
As for funding, it is definitely something I want to look into because for the work and for the amount of students’ who do enterprise, the funding does not match up. In terms of the amount, I don’t want to promise anything, because I don’t know how much is available. I think that this is something which will involve a lot of conversations with the presidents of different enterprise societies, the Enterprise Officer and co-ordinators to find out exactly what we need and how much we would need for it.
You also mention in your statement how you would like to ensure Winchester School of Art (WSA) students are involved in the planning of Freshers. Could you expand on this point and how would you aim to encourage this?
I think this year for Freshers, we’ve seen more engagement with Erasmus Park students than ever before, but I still don’t think it is enough.
Sometimes we slip into the idea that because it is WSA, art-related activities is all the students want, which from my personal experience of speaking to students there is not the case. Things like the Drag Queen Bingo are great, we should start rolling that out – any event that we run here in Southampton that is feasible I would like to transfer and run there as well. I don’t think that it is fair to consistently ask students to travel to Highfield just to run events. I want to sit down, have consultations with Halls Committees, invite previous freshers to come and chat about exactly what it is that they wanted and what events they enjoyed on Highfield that we could move across.
You mentioned before that Wednesday afternoons could be an opportunity for casual volunteering in the community. What types of volunteering would you like to encourage here, and what connections in the community do you have that you could utilise?
The type of volunteering I’d really like to push is skillset volunteering. As students, we all have a huge range of skills. So many are experts in their field, and I don’t think we are using that.
I know a group of nurses who went up to London a couple of weeks ago to run free health checks, and it is things like this we could run in our local community. For example, I study English, and I know lots of people who are very keen to start reading groups and creative writing workshops, which is another thing we could do.
Through my work as RAG President, I have many connections to the local community, as we run a lot of events for local charities. I feel like I really have the knowledge of what needs to be done within the community, and I can be the go-between for the students with the skills and the organisations which need those skills.
To find out more about Charlie Morris and what she wants to achieve if elected as VP Engagement, read her personal statement here.