We chatted with your VP Community, Ru Wallace about what is involved in his role, how he listens to student concerns, his advice for students running next year and his reflections on 2020. Read the full interview below!
Can you describe what you do in your role as a VP community?
Ru Wallace: Sure. So as VP Community, I look after clubs and societies, I look after volunteering at the Union and any way that people can get involved with the Union, I'm looking after that, as well as sustainability aspects of our activities.
Did you have any fears about running for the role, and if so, how did you overcome this?
Ru Wallace: My main fear. I think when I first did my name down, for it was just public speaking and putting myself out there for the actual campaign. But there's also the sort of imposter syndrome which comes in. Once, once I did get elected of sort of feeling like I don't belong or like, who on earth let me do this role!
For public speaking, it just seemed to come naturally. I think I felt like, you know, I wanted the position quite a lot. So it just felt like a natural thing to do in it. I got used to it after a scary first couple of days. With the imposter syndrome. I don't think I've necessarily overcome that completely. I still struggle with it and you know most weeks but I sort of know what's my brain being irrational and I can. I know that this is where I belong at the moment.
What is your motivation to do this role?
I've been involved in the Union, ever since I started at uni. I think the University of Strathclyde particularly has changed my life and that's mostly due to stuff that I've done with the Union, either in clubs and societies, sports teams or volunteering for example with the welcome team. So I just really wanted to get involved and give back a bit.
Can you tell us one thing people might not know about you?
So I was brought up in quite a strict religious household and we didn't celebrate Christmas for most of my life, which I think is why I enjoy it so much. Now, I haven't got tired of Christmas yet and I still enjoy Christmas songs way too early and a good Christmas jumper.
How do you hear about student issues?
Often it's through Facebook messages or Instagram messages or otherwise through groups that I'm in contact with like clubs, action groups, things like that. Or even I just hear it through through uni friends and who are experiencing issues like and with learning or whatever they're experiencing I hear it through them. I'd also be lying if I didn't include StrathFess in this.
What are some of the key issues students have asked you to deal with this year?
I think one of the main ones which all of us has an executive. I've heard about, I've heard from students is to do with the blended learning. Students just not feeling comfortable with the idea of having to come on campus for doing coursework for lectures for tutorials for when it wasn't strictly necessary for them to be there.
What was the outcome?
After our, our efforts, the university yielded on its messaging about about blended learning specifying the courses are online only unless absolutely necessary and whether that continues into next semester will see and we'll keep talking to students about what they want and as a team will keep up the pressure on the university to learn as lessons from last semester.
What is the process for achieving the outcome?
We took the issue to a lot of committees and meetings, there were groups that were set up for coordinating the university's return and return to learning initially and just the response to coronavirus and so we brought the student voice to that. There was also various meetings with uni management as well as a big grassroots campaign that we ran.
Which was called We Stand With Students, which just got a lot of people involved and showed the university that it was a whole bunch of students that felt that the model of blended learning wasn't what they wanted, or what they needed.
What do you hope that you are achieving for students?
I hope that we've got clubs and societies running as well as they possibly can. Under the circumstances, and getting the support and funding that they need, and I hope that people are getting the opportunities to get involved and make friends and connections in these weird times and just that people feel that we're here for them to get their issues solved and stand behind them and to make sure that their time at uni is as good as possible.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I think probably the same as absolutely everyone else. I'm really looking forward to the Covid situation easing up and resuming in-person activities. When it's safe, particularly for clubs and societies, they've done such an amazing job of running all their events online. But it would be so good to get some more in-person activities and have all the cool stuff that the clubs normally do back again. That'd be awesome.
Any new year's resolutions?
The first one is to improve my posture. I'm really bad at sitting behind my desk slouched down and sitting on zoom all day does not help with that. I think another one is just to get outside more. It's very easy when you've been sitting behind your computer all day just to go immediately to Watch TV for the rest of the evening, but I think it's something that I really need to do to get myself outside and for my physical health as well as my mental health and something to work on.
What is one positive thing from 2020 that you will carry into 2021?
I think one thing which has come out of being in lockdown was just a sort of slowed down the pace of life, less things are happening. I think I take things a bit less for granted and appreciating the experiences and the friends that I do have, I do get to do.
What would you like to say to students running this year?
I'd say go for it. You won't regret it. It's so amazing to be involved with the Union as VP Community and making a difference for students and just getting to see how things work and having your voice, your say in what goes on.
What is your hope for the future staff union?
I hope we can be a place that people can feel comfortable when we come out of Covid and particularly as we move into new facilities of the Union. I hope there's going to be space for clubs and societies and space for all activities around sustainability, not just physical space, but the resources and the support that. People in groups need to do these things, and I hope that we're just really accessible and inclusive space for everyone at a tough time.
Make sure you check out what you VP Community has been up to with your Friday Student Exec Updates on our Socials Channels!