In Profile: The Oxford SU President Candidates (Part Three)

Profile

Image Description: A turquoise and white banner with the words “Student Union Election 2021: Meet the Candidates” overlaid over a black and white image of the Radcliffe Camera.

In the run up to the SU President By-Election, the Oxford Student has put together a series of interviews with the candidates to find out more about them and their vision for the SU. All candidates were posed the same questions to see how they compare on similar topics.

This is part three of a three part series profiling the SU President By-Election Candidates. Candidate profiles have been arranged in alphabetical order, and interview answers may have been edited for clarity and grammar.

 

STÉPHANIE GERRITSEN

Why do you think that you’d make a good SU president?

I have held leadership positions in university organisations across Oxford, the US, and The Netherlands. I have seen what works and what does not work. I want to bring the best of each to Oxford. Furthermore, being MCR Vice-President of Regent’s Park College this year has taught me how the university functions. Combining all of this with my willingness to speak up, my determination to get things done, and my drive to give back to the Oxford community would make me a great SU President.

What do you think the most important part of the SU president’s job is? How would you do that well?

The most important part for me is to connect the students with the University. As SU President, I would be the voice of the entire student body. It is very important that the students feel supported and that their interests and concerns are being voiced to the University, to create real change. I want to listen to the students, engage in conversation to really understand what they need, and make that happen.

Why are you running to be SU president?

I am running for President because I have some amazing ideas that will really help the students. Furthermore, I am not afraid of taking on the challenge of convincing the University to change existing practices. I want to create more outreach for the UNIQ programme, I want to improve the Careers Service, and I want to create a post-COVID support centre. This will make the students feel more supported throughout their degree and improve job chances afterwards.

What would be your main priority as SU president?

While all my 3 points are key, the COVID support centre is most urgent and covers an incredible range of COVID related issues. For example, this would help students with long-lasting medical issues and students who underperformed on (marked) assignments due to COVID. While I hope COVID will be resolved by Michaelmas 2021, we need a support centre for students, assessing these problems on a case-to-case basis. When the disease goes silent, the long-term effects will come to light, and we need to be ready for those.

As we emerge from the pandemic, what’s your vision for the SU going forward?

Going forward, the SU will need to play a big role in reshaping the university back to the new normal. In the short term, we will need the COVID-support centre. I can also see the university wanting to keep some hybrid elements, but we need to fight to ensure these do not harm the quality of education nor the student experience. The SU needs to listen to students now, more than ever, because shaping the new normal creates a huge opportunity for change and improvement.

What’s been your proudest achievement during your time at Oxford? What’s something that you wish you’d done differently?

My proudest achievement is keeping my peers going during lockdown in Michaelmas as MCR Vice-President. I instituted our weekly walks scheme, where students met up and grabbed a bite to eat, keeping our social interaction going, without anyone getting COVID. My biggest regret is not having gone to more dinners and events in Michaelmas when it was still possible. If I would have known that Hilary would be fully off-site, I would have gone to every event I could have.

 

VLADA KOROLEVA

Why do you think that you’d make a good SU president?

I have relevant experience as I worked on leadership positions starting from high school. I  am passionate about the job. I believe that my experience at leading my MCR during the pandemic and being a Student Rep helped me improve my negotiation and communication skills. I am an open-minded person and aware of the diversity of the student cohort. My background and struggles made me more aware of the mental health and financial problems that many Oxford students experience.

What do you think the most important part of the SU president’s job is? How would you do that well?

Master the Art of Negotiation: trying to do the most you can for students, but not pushing to the extent where the university would refuse to discuss specific topics at all. Another equally important thing is to be a good team manager and actively listen to other Sabbs and students. Being in leadership positions, I had experience in successfully negotiating on behalf of students and working closely with my teams on the projects.

Why are you running to be SU president?

I think that I am a good fit for the job, and being a leader is something that I am very passionate about, have a lot of experience in, and am good at. I didn’t have the most incredible experience in Oxford myself due to the pandemic. Therefore, I want to make sure that the next year would be better and brighter for Oxford students. I also want to represent the Eastern European Oxford cohort, who, from my perspective, are currently underrepresented.

What would be your main priority as SU president?

If I could pick only one, it would be mental health issues, as it affects students the most and covers all areas of our life. Currently, the capacity of mental health services is very limited, and often it takes ages to reach them. Sadly, sometimes it happens in the most challenging situations. It needs to be changed. During the vacations, the availability of mental health services is even less, while often students could be even more vulnerable and stressed during this period.

As we emerge from the pandemic, what’s your vision for the SU going forward?

First of all, SU should give the opportunity to current students (especially international MSc students) who didn’t get Oxford experience to come to Oxford and get at least some of the experience that they would during the regular year. I also believe that SU should be more visible among students and open to new ideas and criticism. I would work closely with Common Rooms and Division Reps to act more efficiently and use the successful ideas among all colleges.

What’s been your proudest achievement during your time at Oxford? What’s something that you wish you’d done differently?

Surviving the pandemic (knock on wood). I don’t feel comfortable saying that something was my proudest achievement, while most of the things that I’m happy about, I achieved together with people who worked with me. I am glad that, as an MCR, we were able to have in-person events despite the pandemic and hopefully would have a proper celebration at the end of the year. I work with a fantastic Exec team, and I am proud that I know them. I wish I slept and socialised more during MT20 (when we still could).

 

YANNIS BAUR

Why do you think that you’d make a good SU president?

I’ve been on various committees, both as team-member and leader, which has taught me some excellent people skills. The varied nature of these committees means I know how to work closely (Freshers’ President), but also negotiate (Keble Ball President) with colleges, and how to interact with the wider Oxford community (OU LGBTQ+ Social Secretary). Finally, as a 4th year and member of both Common Rooms, I believe I would form a good bridge between the two.

What do you think is the most important part of the SU president’s job? How would you do that well?

Oxford common rooms and societies achieve and produce incredible things – especially with regard to creative and activist output. However, I often feel that the isolating nature of these bodies means a lot of effort and money goes into things that could be far more efficient if people worked more collaboratively. I think the role of the SU, and thus its President, is to streamline this incredible force of energy. And so make Oxford a safer, more vibrant and diverse place.

Why are you running to be SU president?

I would like to bring about a lot of positive change – both for the people and the planet – but I think a huge difficulty the SU faces at the moment is visibility and frankly popularity. I think there is a substantial divide between SU and common rooms/uni societies, and as SU President I want to ensure students know what we are doing and how it benefits them.

What would be your main priority as SU president?

I think better and quicker communication channels are key. It is important to lobby the university and colleges on behalf of long-term issues concerning access, the environment, welfare and inclusivity – and I absolutely want to continue those efforts. But it should never mean that this comes at the detriment of the current students, who must always feel like the SU, and I, are there for them and always approachable. Every student has a right to proper representation and consideration.

As we emerge from the pandemic, what’s your vision for the SU going forward?

I think it would be highly beneficial for the SU to seriously restructure its approach to engaging students. As things reopen, I want to build on my experience to provide an SU that is exciting and fun, with events that draw people in. I would also like to work much more closely with JCRs and MCRs to build up a far more tailored and individual connection to students.

What’s been your proudest achievement during your time at Oxford? What’s something that you wish you’d done differently?

Towards the end of the Keble Ball, one of my mates grabbed me and put me on his shoulders, and all my friends started to clap. Seeing a year’s worth of hard work finally pay off in a night that went exceptionally well, and experiencing the appreciation by my fellow students for what the committee had put together, was incredible. I would like to take that feeling and energy and apply it to everything I do for the SU and its members.

As a finalist only 1.5 weeks away from my first exam, I regret not taking more notes throughout my degree… If second year Yannis could have just written some of his thoughts down, that would have been amazing. Alas, I now pay the price with long hours in the library/my ‘study room’, but if that is the price of four amazing years at Oxford, I’m more than happy to pay it.

All candidate manifestos are available on the SU website. 

Header image credits: Jonas Muschalski 

 

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