INTERVIEW: VP Engagement candidates

As part of our Elections 2014 coverage, the Soton Tab has been catching up with all the sabbatical candidates and hitting them with our own brand of questioning. This instalment […]

As part of our Elections 2014 coverage, the Soton Tab has been catching up with all the sabbatical candidates and hitting them with our own brand of questioning. This instalment features Jamie Hemingway, Ellie Cawthera and Ross Nation, who are contesting for VP Engagement.


This year’s VP Engagement candidates L-R: Ellie Cawthera, Jamie Hemingway, and Ross Nation

How would you explain what the role of VP Engagement is and why it is important?

Jamie: I believe that communications is one side of this role. It’s really about communicating what students are doing at uni, what events are happening and what opportunities there are for students. Another side is driving our students further, whether it is through RAG, Enterprise or Community action. It is about helping students do what they want. And finally it is ensuring that students and the local community work well together.

Ellie: Maximise student engagement with SUSU by organising events and developing clear communications. Highlight what us students contribute to the local community. Support and celebrate RAG, charitable societies and community volunteering. Facilitate enterprise societies, allowing students to achieve their enterprise aspirations. These roles are important because they involve representing the student voice in terms of how we want to engage not only within our student union but with the external community.

Ross: The role of VP engagement basically has two sides. Firstly, it’s about groups that have an impact. So enterprise, charity and volunteering. The other side is all about communications, ensuring SUSU listens and that it gets the message across to students properly. For the majority of students communications is probably the most important aspect, because it’s literally about connecting with all students at the university. It’s important that students have a voice, they are listened to and SUSU are properly communicating with students.

What unique experience or insight would you bring to the role?

Jamie: I have extremely strong connections and experience with various societies as well as in SUSU. I know what bridges to build and I know exactly how to implement every single one of my manifesto points. I have experience in leadership and representing students. I can come into the role and start straight away, giving full support to students.

Ellie: My passion for all roles is unbiased, making me a powerfully fair student voice. I am imaginative and would take SUSUs commications to new levels. This will improve the image of SUSU to students making it more appealing to get involved, particularly in fundraising, enterprise and volunteering. As I would be the greatest representation of the overwhelming student voice, I have the best ability to implement communication strategies so they are student-friendly.

Ross: Everything about this role I’m already involved in, at least in some way, and it’s things I actually care about. I’ve been volunteering and fundraising for most of my time at university, I’m currently setting up my own social enterprise and I’m looking at communication roles in charity for my future career. It’s not so much about the fact I have this experience, but obviously I’m not running just to have a sabbatical position. I know this role and I care about making it better.

Which do you see as the key issues SUSU should be discussing with external local groups?

Jamie: One key issue is about integrating the great things that students are doing on and around campus. Whether it is inviting the local community to said events with offers or highlighting the great work that some students are already doing within the community.

Ellie: A brighter light needs to be shed on students for the local community to see. Student passion generates amazing projects both on and off campus. Currently, local residents don’t see how we thrive in this way. Instead we’re seen as a bunch of binge drinkers who contribute nothing to the community. RAG, enterprise, and community volunteering groups all contribute so much to our local area, this just needs more publicity!

Ross: The key issue for me is probably about student safety. We should constantly be working towards making safety, particularly after nights out, our main priority with external local groups. This means working closely with the police, local clubs and community groups to actually ensure everyone can get home safely. Working on the safety bus I’ve seen how bad things can get and it’s probably one of the most valuable services SUSU run, we just need to extend consideration to ensure all students are safe at all times.

As for RAG – what do you think is the best way of increasing student involvement with charity fundraising?

Jamie: RAG isn’t inclusive. It needs to be. People don’t know what it is or how to get involved. People want to get involved; this is proved by various people or societies holding their own charity events. Yes this is brilliant, but by really promoting RAG to societies will help with co-ordination and support. I want a RAG officer on every departmental society to help spread the idea of RAG.

Ellie: The Blue Peter style totalizer is a great start to increasing presence of RAG on campus that should be extended next year. I would create a replica totalizer in the SUSU shop in order to reach more students. It’s also important that students know where money raised by RAG is going. This would inspire more students to fundraise themselves and help abolish any stigma around what happens to the money.

Ross: The best way to improve student involvement with charity fundraising is to engage students earlier with plenty of opportunities to get involved, to clearly define RAG and make it easy to get involved and to properly support the charity societies.

Which one idea would you adopt from your competitors’ manifesto points?

Jamie: I really like Ross’ idea of creating an ideas bank of past events as this will really help to support students. It really fits in well with my concept of an online handover forum. I also like Ellie’s idea of ensuring that there is always space for meetings by using space in the external community.

Ellie: A point I love is to invite more groups of the external community onto campus more regularly, such as school visits. I would extend this invite to more local businesses as well.

Ross: I love Ellie’s idea of utilising space of local businesses for enterprise groups and individuals. I don’t think the conference room in the Mitre is the best example but if we could use space in office blocks this would be much more professional.

What was the last thing you ate?

Jamie: Half a crispy duck with pancakes.

Ellie: Moroccan couscous with roast veg and bacon. It was amazing.

Ross: A free sweet chilli chicken wrap.

If you had to live in one of the university buildings, which would you choose?

Jamie: Building 34 – the education building – it’s cozy and it has a shower!

Ellie: SUSU building, no question. How many people can say “I have a cinema, squash courts, a dance studio, and a bouldering wall at my house.”??

Ross: Probably SUSU as it has The Bridge for food and drink, and somewhere those beanbags have to be hidden away to sleep on.

If SUSU didn’t have a cat, which animal should roam the union instead?

Jamie: A bunny rabbit!

Ellie: I’d really like an alpaca but I fear it might struggle with the stairs.

Ross: A duck, because they’re cute.

In a word, describe your last trip to Jesters.

Jamie: Messy

Ellie: Unrestrained.

Ross: Safe.