VP Activities Abigail Mustard Candidate Interview

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Ahead of the 2019 Union elections, Wessex Scene interviewed Abigail Mustard, who is running for the role of Vice President Activities.

What made you decide to run for the role of VP Activities?

Mainly because I just love the societies at uni, we have such a great range and I’ve been part of a few this year, like Zumba and Women In Business, and I think that we need someone who really wants to put their love for societies into making them grow. Being the President of Women In Business has also made me aware that there are quite a few issues from the committee side of things, and I think having a friendly face for people to come and talk to would be really beneficial, especially with the current restructure.

In your manifesto you state that, if elected, you would make sure all activities are equally recognised by the university. Does that mean that you believe this isn’t the case currently?

I mean, there are a lot of societies so it is really difficult for people to know about all of them. Steve Gore has done some amazing things for sport by really promoting those societies, but this definitely hasn’t been the case so much for the non-sport societies. That’s why I think that having a face to promote the non-sport societies like Steve has been would be a great thing, espeically for the underrepresented societies. We only really have Bunfight at the moment as a way of discovering societies, and then this year the second bunfight was introduced, but it didn’t seem as though many people knew about it. So I think there’s improvement to be made on the work that’s already been put in place, such as creating more opportunities like these for people to find out about and join societies, including more taster sessions and better advertising for them.

How do you plan to go about making these changes?

Well, firstly, the website needs improving. At the moment, unless you know which exact society you’re looking for you have to scroll through pages and pages of them and I think that puts people off. I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about Women in Business and they wished they had been more involved but they didn’t know we existed. It’s hard for students to get their societies out there particularly if they are new or small, so I think better promotion on the website is key.

What exactly about the website would you like changed?

I don’t think the SUSU website is particularly aimed at students. I know it has to be professional, but I think that a layout change would make it better. The home page in particular needs rethinking, for example a calendar that shows your events in a more user-friendly way and potentially having a rolling home page that changes every week or so, featuring different societies, especially in the lead up to events such as Bunfight. I also want the society pages to be more visual, and I’d like to create greater social media links because it’s probably [the]way for a society to attract members. I do think that ultimately the SUSU website is a good place to learn more about societies but currently the overwhelming way it’s structured puts people off.

‘Employability’ falls under the role of VP Activities, what are your plans for improvement?

I think employability and careers events are so important but at the moment they aren’t very well attended which could be due to lack of promotion, or promotion that occurs too late. Also the reward for going doesn’t always seem that beneficial in the short term, so I think having more employers coming in might draw students to events especially as students can get opportunities to make an impression which can benefit their application, but perhaps people don’t know that that’s the case. I also want to look at which companies attend these events and think more about hosting the companies that students want to see rather than those the University wants to see, so I want to find out more from students about what they want from the employability service. Judging by the popularity of the Maisie Williams event I wonder whether more events like that with people who have been successful in their field would be a good idea. So I think it’s just a case of reassessing the way some of the events are run, focusing more on the voice of the students, and getting more people to attend. I’d also like to reach out more to second years so that people don’t miss out on opportunities and aren’t as overwhelmed by it when they reach final year!

In your manifesto you identify that risk assessments committees are required to fill in can be lengthy and confusing, why do you feel that this is the case?

I think part of the issue is that people don’t know who to contact when they need help, so if elected I’d want to create closer links with societies so they’d know they can always come and talk to me. All the committees I have spoken to share the same consensus that there needs to be more clarity about what needs to be done when committees roll over, so I want there to be more structure with this because risk assessments might not be being done as effectively as they should be, and I’m not sure if they’re even being monitored. I would make a Google drive just so everything is a lot clearer and there are no communication issues. Through this I would create a generic society handover checklist so that things go more smoothly and students don’t have to worry so much, especially if they have no experience.

You propose society coffee mornings in your manifesto, how would these work?

There are all sorts of coffee mornings that happen already but I want to create a space on campus maybe monthly or fortnightly depending on demand for all different committee presidents to come in and meet each other, have a catch up and potentially organise collaborations. I want it to be natural and for ideas to spark, but also having a member of the uni team there could then facilitate plans and proposed collaborations.

Another thing you mention is wanting to build on successful fundraising schemes, what do you have in mind?

I really love RAG and I think they are doing some amazing work, but I do think they need better representation which, again, the website could help promote, but also I think more conversation about RAG and what they do is key. The main issue is that students may not be aware of what RAG do, so having committee members around to talk to people more would be really beneficial and that’s something I could help with as I would have a more direct link with them in the role.

All VP Activities candidates have mentioned wanting to improve storage facilities for societies, what is your plan and what makes it the best?

I’ve had loads of questions about this actually so I went to have a look on Wednesday to see what the actual situation is and I found that the sport space is quite well organised but for other clubs and societies you have to walk through another room to get to your stuff, which is problematic when classes are on and you don’t want to interrupt. So I would like to look into changing this if possible by changing a meeting room or something into more dedicated space for societies, but if that really isn’t possible then I would look into timetabling to highlight when people can make the most of their space and I would like to reorganise the current space and give it more structure. I think it’s a case of looking at what societies have now and making sure the space is best organised to suit their needs.

None of the candidates for this role have mentioned their ideas for supporting the media societies, particularly Union Films. What are your thoughts?

Again, they need more promotion from the Union, sometimes people aren’t aware of what the brilliant media societies do, how they can get involved, and how beneficial these societies can be in terms of employability. I know that media societies have their own remits and they already collaborate, but I do think that having them work together more would be a great way of increasing their presence on campus. In terms of Union Films, I actually had a membership last year and loved it, so I want to promote this more as it’s such a great thing to have on campus, and it’s something that is fairly unique among universities. I was actually asked this morning about showing Bake Off at Union Films screenings and I wonder whether having popular TV shows would be a good way of increasing its popularity. Screenings at Stag’s have proven to be really popular but a lot of people at uni don’t drink and I think this would be a great way of increasing events that cater for this, so it’s something I’ll definitely be looking into.

Find out more about Abigail Mustard and her policies by reading their manifesto here.

More articles in Union Elections 2019: Vice-President Activities Candidate Interviews
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  2. VP Activities Corin Holloway Candidate Interview
  3. VP Activities Fiona Sunderland Candidate Interview
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Fourth year English Lit and French student. 2018/19 Lifestyle Editor.

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