We chatted with your VP Education, Chelbi Hillan, about what is involved in her role, how she listens to student concerns, her advice for students running next year and her reflections on 2020. Read the full interview below!
Can you describe what you do in your role as VP Education?
Yes. So, in my role as VP Education and I do a lot of things from quality assurance to representation of students and of course like education is such a broad term, I think in whole Uni could be classed as education, but it kinda helps me see how everything else fits into education and improves your learning experience.
Did you have any fears about running for the role, and if so, how did you overcome them?
I was pretty scared to run for this role just because I was so used to studying and I was almost terrified to take some time out from my studies. But it has been one of the best decisions that I've made.
What is your motivation to do this role as VP Education?
I think the motivation to do this role came from being a Rep for a long time. I was a Rep all throughout my studies and then Faculty Rep and it just really highlighted to me a lot of issues that students are facing. So that really encouraged me to run for this post and prove that.
Can you tell us one thing people might not know about you?
So my close friends all know that I used to do weightlifting competitively, Olympic weightlifting, and I was actually British weightlifting champion for my age and weight group at one point.
How do you hear about student issues?
So as a Union we engage your students in a lot of different ways. Some are formal such as like surveys, forms or forums that will facilitate but we also kind of value informal feedback through Facebook or through emails.
What are some of the key issues students asked you to deal with this year?
So I think for a lot of students it has been a really hard year and I think a lot of that has been driven by Covid and the financial impacts of Covid for students. So we've been asked around issues such as fees, hardship funds and just generally the student community not feeling like they're having their voice represented. So that's a couple of things I've tried to work on.
What was the outcome for some of these issues?
So fees were really one of the big topics that we had students discussing this year, specifically increase and international student fees. But then also the costs associated with learning how students are trying to sustain that during Covid when a lot of part-time works not been happening. So we managed to secure some scholarships for those who pay fees are assessed on an individual basis and we've got extensions of the hardship fund. For representation, we actually launched a Strath Rep system and which makes it much easier to contact your reps who'll feed into us and allow us to inform the University of student issues.
What is the process for achieving the outcome?
So usually if we want to get something done. There are a couple of ways you can do through university committees and take papers there formally. We also have a student Parliament where we talk about issues that are particularly affecting students and we as a body of student representatives agree to some actions and outcomes for ourselves and we also launched public campaigns. So trying to get support from Government or other bodies that will represent students.
What do you hope that you are achieving for students?
When I came into that role. I really wanted to kind of level the playing field for all students. So, whether that be making education more accessible for people who need it or adjusting fees and hardship funds and supporting people who need extra support in our studies. So just to create that equality across campus.
So what are you looking forward to in 2021?
In 2021 I'm hoping there's a Covid vaccine and we can all get back on campus to see you and to run the freshers that we've missed. To actually just be face to face with students and welcome those who haven't been on campus yet.
Any New Year's resolutions?
My New Year's resolution this year is probably going to be to give myself a little bit of a break. I think everyone this year has worked so hard to just get us through this mess. Our students, staff and officers as well and I think we all deserve a little bit of a rest and hopefully we can take a little bit of a slower pace this semester just adjusting to life.
What is one positive thing from 2020 that you will carry into 2021?
So I think going forward to 2021 I'm going to be taking my zoom and internet skills with me. Before I was tech-phobic and I probably wouldn't have used half the resources I'm using now. But thanks to the pandemic I have embraced it and I'm looking forward to implementing those where it's more suitable to stop maybe long haul travel for meetings when we can just go online.
What would you like to say to students who are running this year?
I'd like to say that if you're running in Elections it's a scary time, it's always going to be scary when I ran for faculty Rep it was scary. When I ran for this it was even scarier. But just put yourself out there and be the best person you can be. People are going to be attracted to what you bring to the table, whether that's kindness, intelligence or compassion people pick up on that through your campaigns. Just be yourself.
What is your hope for the future of Strath Union?
I hope for the future of Strath Union we come back in 2021, we're in our new building, everyone's not scared to be around each other because we don't have coronavirus anymore. We can have a party. We can get our study session started back up and we can just kind of return to a bit of normality.
I'm looking forward to seeing how Strath Union evolves in the next couple years because I think we've got a lot of exciting things coming up and some amazing opportunities that come with the move to the New Building.
Thanks for chatting to us Chelbi! Catch all of your VP Education and other Student Exec updates each Friday on our Social Media channels.