By Orla Leahy
Sinéad currently sits on UCC Students’ Union (UCCSU) as Education Officer and is running for the position of Communications & Engagement Officer for the 22/23 academic year. Sinéad’s other experience includes UCCSU Deputy President (21/22), UCCSU College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences (CACSSS) Rep (20/21), Gender Equality Rep on UCCSU, Equality Working Group (2020), UCCSU Entertainments Crew (2018-2021), Second Level Student Council Chairperson, Junior Adult Leader on Killarney No Name Club (2018 – Currently).
Sinéad aims to increase student engagement with UCCSU, should she be elected to the position of Communications & Engagement Officer. Accordingly, she will strive to increase coverage of SU events across UCC’s student media platforms. She would ensure all content created by the SU for its channels would be accessible to all students, by focusing on disabilities such as visual impairments, and ensuring every student has access to content. Sinéad would also include informational content on the new website, including topics such as student housing rights and contacting landlords.
Sinéad would increase the approachability of the Union through a number of campaigns, including the return of the “Know Your Union” campaign.
Sinéad would improve upon the UCCSU’s transparency. This would be achieved by publishing the reports of UCCSU officers, that are used at Student Council, across the website. Sinéad commits to improving UCC’s Green Campus and climate action initiatives, to make an impactful difference to campaigns including #F*CKTHEFEES, #NoKeysNoDegrees, and #TakeBackTheSpike, amongst others, improving UCC Keep Well and mental health initiatives, and running PRIDE Week.
Sinéad also has plans in place for maintaining and boosting both student engagement, and community engagement. Finally, Sinéad would work diligently to enhance student facilities in the Students’ Union Common Room, the Hub, and the Western Gateway Building.
Sinéad took the time to answer some of our questions over the weekend prior to the opening of voting.
What drives you to represent students?
I think what drives me to be honest is passion and I think what else drives me is the energy when you speak to students and you hear their views and their points, and also you hear all the struggles they are going through and it’s like I want to make a difference because not only do I actually enjoy doing this, you make a difference, you make really good friends, and really good connections within the community. I think that was the main drive for me, that you can make a difference.
What is the most important thing that you have learned during your time as Education Officer thus far?
A lot of things behind the scenes, and I think I learned as well that being involved in the Students’ Union is a lot more than just a title…I absolutely loved being Education [Officer] this year, I learned so much, I learned a lot about the university but I was able to do a lot more than just education. I was able to go to the campaigning, I got involved with the USI, and even through working with class reps, I got to hear a lot more than just educational issues.
I want there to be a strong connection to the student body with the Students’ Union because people hear the word engagement and they probably think all that’s just politics but actually engagement is a lot more than that, engagement is events, engagement is talking to students, engagement is on the ground stuff, it’s not just campaigning. I think that removing that stigma attached to it and actually connecting with the student body is why there is a Students’ Union there, and I think there needs to be a stronger connection there.
How do you believe that you can enhance UCCSU communications and engagement next year?
What I really really want to do next year is be more on the ground, talking to students, you know physically being there. I think that’s what I really want to strengthen this year because [communications and engagement] had a massive hit with the pandemic and I think we need to rebuild it again. The first way to do that is just listening to students, you know you cannot communicate, you cannot engage with students, unless you’re listening to them. It’s back and forth, it’s give and take, like communications and engagement go hand and hand. So, I want to continue what we already do, like you know our strong social media presence, but I want us to be more approachable, to be more transparent, and I want to be on the ground, physically talking and connecting with students.
What is your greatest aspiration for communications & engagement?
To be honest I think it’s the passion, I think the reason I ran is because what I’ve learned from being Education[Officer] this year is that we, as a Union, cannot do our jobs unless we have the student body. This year, I could never sit in a room with academics and say this is how students are feeling if I’m not talking to them, that’s not fair and I wouldn’t be doing my job properly.
The university can’t run without students, students are the biggest stakeholder in the university, and I think students need to really be listened to. The only way students are going to be listened to is when the Union is connecting with them. It’s a huge project but I think it starts for me by making sure I’m taking the realistic steps to do it…I’ve actually learned so much, I actually know what’s achievable. You’re as strong as your team and you’re as strong as students trusting in you…accountability and transparency is really important but also it’s to have students who actually want to have that engagement with you.
Why should students vote for you this week?
To be honest, the main reason I think students should vote for me is because I have the experience. I have the institutional knowledge and I really do have the passion and drive. I think if you go through my manifesto, there are realistic points there. I’m not promising you the world on a pedestal, like the points I’ve made are because I really think I can achieve them…I think experience and passion are a big reason why I think people should vote for me.
Voting for the UCC Student Union Elections and Referenda open on Monday, March 21st at 9 am. Further information on voting can be found at the UCC Students Union, and all voting will take place online.