New Sabbatical Officers share plans for year aheadWednesday 30 September 2015
The new Students' Union Sabbatical Officers, President Kira Cox, Vice President Education Pranay Raj Shakya, and Vice President Welfare and Community Ayo Akinrele talk about what they have in store.
What did you study at Hope?
Kira: A combined honours BA degree in Education and Early Childhood.
Ayo: Law and Social Policy combined honours BA.
Pranay: Initially I completed an MA in International Relations, and I’m currently completing my MA in Social Policy.
Why did you decided to run for President?
Kira: I’d been involved with the Union since first year after a friend who was running to be a part-time officer encouraged me to volunteer in the elections. I became a student trustee in third year and, following much encouragement from a previous Union President, decided I’d like to run for President.
Ayo: At the end of my first year, I joined the Union’s black and minority ethnic (BME) campaign group and stood as the BME Officer for the following two years. After talking with the previous Welfare and Community VP, I decided I wanted to stay on at the University and become even more involved with the work of the Union. I signed up as I want to engage with students and help people have a great experience.
Pranay: I’ve been involved in student movement for several years, working for the betterment of student facilities and positive changes. There were only six Nepalese students at Hope when I joined and as such I felt like an ambassador for my country. While completing my first MA I worked as Global Hope Training Adviser and a Student Union Journalist, as well as sitting on the SU Council as an Executive Member. I was keen to expand my participation with the Union and University, and become the first ever International BME student to be elected as a Sabbatical Officer.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?
Kira: My main focus is on employability and helping Hope students to develop their skills so they stand out from the crowd. I think it’s important for students to get as much work experience as possible and I’d like to create placement opportunities within the Union. I’m going to be looking at ways in which students can help with projects such as the Union’s website design. I’m also planning to work closely with clubs and societies to promote the range of extra-curricular activities on offer and encourage as many students as possible to get involved.
Ayo: I think the changes in funding will have an impact on student attitudes towards university and debt. I want to support students who have concerns and represent their interests with the University wherever I can. Helping to ensure students know their rights when it comes to private renting is also high on my list, along with looking at ways to make eco-friendly concepts and the green impact a priority.
Pranay: Youth empowerment is important to me and I’m keen to make students more employable through the development of existing resources, training and workshops. I’d like to establish a modern language peer mentor programme and a capacity building workshop focusing on leadership and team building. The idea is to provide an outlet for students to expand their skillsets so they’ll have the edge over other graduates when they’re applying for jobs.
Why do you think the SU is an important part of student life?
Kira: It’s a great way to network with other students, particularly for those who may be feeling isolated as they live off campus, have carer responsibilities or work part-time alongside their studies. The Union is here to support students and the team and I would love to hear about any concerns or ideas students have so we can address these with the University. I represent Hope on a political level and want to highlight the importance of the student voice in making changes happen. I want students to feel empowered and valued.
Ayo: I missed Welcome Week when I joined Hope and had to work a lot of hours in my first term to cover my fees, as a result I didn’t have the usual fresher experience and found it a challenge to meet people outside of my course. Joining the BME group helped me to find my feet and feel part of the institution. The SU is an important resource and can make student life more fun and enjoyable by helping people to have a holistic experience.
Pranay: Student Unions are an asset, providing both support and development opportunities for students. I was the founding secretary of Thames International College in Nepal’s student council and went on to become the council President. The council has now been running for eight years and I occasionally go back to help train newcomers.
What advice would you give to new students?
Kira: Throw yourself into university life. I was really shy when I arrived and looking back, I think joining clubs and societies would have been a good way for me to meet people and settle in quicker.
Ayo: Coming to university means stepping out of your comfort zone, but I’d encourage students to push themselves further and really step out of the bubble they’re used to. There are lots of outlets and something for everyone, whether you want to get involved in a committee, become a course rep or just make new friends. It’s important to see every opportunity as sowing seeds for the future and experiencing as much as you can.
Pranay: Reach out. We maybe a small University, but that’s what helps to make us a community here at Hope and makes this the kind of place where people know each other by name. The Union are here to support students and whatever the problem, someone will be able to help.
What may students be surprised to know about you?
Kira: I have five middle names, have been Irish dancing since I was five and have travelled all over the UK to see unsigned bands play.
Ayo: I once won a bottle of Champagne in a dance competition.
Pranay: In 2014, I was presented with the Golden Student award after being nominated by my peers for bringing change as a role model and helping to support other students. Recognition I was humbly honoured to receive.