On Friday afternoon, Brig grilled candidate for Vice President Education, Daniel Wright; the man gunning for a second term.
This is his second time running for the position, something that many people weren’t surprised about. However, Daniel’s campaign for VP Ed wasn’t a guaranteed thing this year.
Daniel admits that he didn’t want to rush his decision, saying “I wanted to take the time to reflect on how this semester has gone, what have I got done, what is in the pipeline to be getting done and what more can I do?”
Talking about any doubts on rerunning, Daniel said that “it was the whole aspect of what new ideas do I still have? I didn’t want to just run with the same stuff.”
Daniel told Brig in depth about his plans for the personal tutor scheme, admitting that whilst it had been time-consuming to work on, he regarded it as being very “rewarding”. So far, Daniel has worked on bringing in more guidance for staff and students on what the scheme is and he’s worked on improving training for personal tutors, so that they are better prepared for every possible situation.
On the tutor training: “It’s not about turning them into counsellors or anything like that, because they’re not, nor should they be. But it’s about if someone comes to them and they’re having some kind of issue, that personal tutor knows how to approach it and knows where to direct them.”
He added that the training will establish more of a structure for meetings, therefore making meetings a more efficient and positive experience for students and tutors alike.
Daniel also addressed the construction work taking place on campus, saying that as part of his manifesto, he was interested in keeping students better informed about the changes around them through the use of monthly updates.
Study space is also an important aspect that Daniel touched upon. Even down to furniture, Daniel spoke about getting the finer details right for everyone: “There was a strange meeting in which I looked at fabric samples which was very odd!”
“Any furniture that comes in, I want to make sure that it’s what students actually want!” Daniel hopes to achieve this by bringing in sample pieces of furniture for students to test and vote on. By gathering feedback, Daniel wants to find the best solution for all students.
Having already achieved gaining access to study rooms for students, Daniel spoke about the need to make this rooms more accessible by showing room availability schedules.
“Yes, we’ve made all these spaces available, but if students don’t know when they can use them, it’s almost like they weren’t available in the first place.”
Next, Daniel was questioned about what he would be doing to improve the two-plus-two schemes. So far, Daniel has made to improve the experience for two-plus-two students by working closely with Forth Valley College in order to make the transition smoother. “We’re both tackling it from both ends, it’s not just one end pushing.”
The main issue that Daniel wants to address is how students settle in when they start attending the university campus:
“Yes, you are a University of Stirling student, but you don’t have half as much of an interaction with the university as you should. I want students who are on those schemes to come up here more. Not necessarily for a part of their degree, but just to have a look round campus, get a proper tour, come and talk to the students here, be part of an event… because the more that we can integrate the students studying at Forth Valley before they arrive, the less of a rocky transition that’s going to be.”
When asked if there was an area that he felt he had let students down on, Daniel admitted that the needs of post-graduate students had been neglected. “Over the course of the year, I haven’t tackled it as much as I maybe should have,” he said.
He put this down to a number of issues, namely the restructuring of the Graduate School, now the Institute for Advanced Studies. He spoke about recruiting post-graduate faculty officers, who would receive the same training as under-graduate officers and making sure that there was increased communication between the two groups.
“Because of the restructure, these plans came to a halt.”
Now, Daniel says, post-graduate students needs have been pushed further up his list of priorities. “This time round, right from the outset, what should have happened and what I wanted to happen last year, would immediately happen.”
Among his best moments in his position, Daniel listed dressing up as a cigarette, dressing up in a dinosaur costume (sensing a pattern here) and advocating on behalf of students.
He spoke about wanting to make sure the role of VP Ed became more collaborative with other SAABs and sought to make communication a priority, by making his role more visible to the student population.
“I enjoy talking to students. I’d much rather a student came in to talk to me, than sit and reply to an email. If they are able to come in and chat to me, please come in! Because it’s the most rewarding experience.”
When it came to concerns over students’ mental well-being, Daniel responded that his approach was to help lessen the burden of students with a holistic approach. He acknowledged the importance of counsellors but emphasised the difference that other points in his manifesto could have; such as making parking more readily available, thereby reducing stress. “Mental health is in my manifesto, it’s just woven amongst the other things,” he said simply.
“We are in a mental health crisis, and things need to be done,” he said, “things need to be done across the board.”
Daniel said that he was the best person for the job based upon his experience, “I know who talk to.”
He also spoke about having practical ideas that he could implement. “Every single point in my manifesto has come from some experience that I’ve had this year with students.”
“I wouldn’t be re-running if I wasn’t still passionate about what I do. And also, if I didn’t still enjoy it,” Daniel insisted, adding that he’s still very much “happy to shout about what students want, but now I have the experience to back it up.”
Voting is open now. Make sure you take this chance to get your voice heard.