President-elect, Lauren Hinton, sits down with qmunicate to discuss her experiences in student politics and her plans for the future of the QMU.
How did you get into student politics?
In my first year I went to the BWNPQ every week, back in 2009, and met some people who were involved already like board members and people who’d been QMU helpers during Freshers’ Week and I decided to go for Freshers’ Helper and had an absolutely crackin’ week! I met some amazing people, got to know the building really well, got to grips with how things worked and decided to run for the Board of Management. I ran for a year-long CSR (Current Student Representative) position, and then ran for the position of Honorary Secretary because I’d met quite a lot of people from clubs and societies and thought that the position where I was in contact and helping them was the best for me. I ended up getting voted in as Honorary President at last year’s AGM which was great because although I didn’t have a specific remit, I was around and here to help and it set me up very well to run for President.
What’s it like running in an election?
I was most nervous for my first election, mainly for the hustings because I’d never done anything like that before, although some of the questions can be funny – I got asked what my favourite Pokémon was! But being up there in front of people you don’t know very well is quite scary but it’s definitely worth doing and I was lucky that I was running against and with people I knew quite well so we hyped ourselves up together. Plus it was lovely weather, so we just spent a lovely election day out in the sun handing out lollipops and I ended up really enjoying it!
Do you feel there’s a huge difference when preparing to run for an Executive position unlike the other seats on the Board?
I think that for positions like CSR the main goal is to get yourself noticed, to stand out as someone that’s not only enthusiastic but someone who might bring something different to the Board. With an Executive position, you need to have much more of a concrete plan of what you will bring to the specific role. As a CSR, you can have wonderful ideas and work hard to achieve them but with an Executive role you have a specific role and you have to prove that you can not only complete it but do it in a way that no one else could.
What is the best part of being on Board?
I think the best part is to see something go from being thought up, whether it be in a committee or in the board room, just saying “Oh, why don’t we do this? Let’s see how it works”, and seeing it go from that creative idea all the way through the finance committee and discussing the PR and how it’s going to run and then finally seeing it actually happen. It’s always great to see, but when it’s successful it’s brilliant – it feels so rewarding no matter where on that path you were or how much you contributed, you still feel like it’s still something you’ve achieved together and it’s so satisfying seeing people enjoying it.
And what is the most frustrating aspect?
Although we’re in a much better position now, there are still financial constraints. We have very big ideas which are great but quite often we do have to be realistic and make sure we’re doing something that is feasible, and that not only promotes the union but actually works financially. It’s quite frustrating when people have wonderful ideas and you have to go back and say “We’re going to have to think about a different way of doing it” but I think it’s a really good lesson to learn when you’re trying to put events together successfully.
What are your main focuses for the next year?
I think my main focus is bringing the union back to the membership. In recent years, we’ve been a bit distracted with making sure that everything we do is financially viable, that we’re making money so that we can put on more things. Now, though I think that’s still important and it’s always great to have successful events, I want to make sure that we concentrate more on what’s going on in the wider campus and being part of that. So if there are small student groups organising a campaign, or there’s a wider discussion over campus about a certain issue that relates to students, I want the QMU to be at the centre of that to promote discussion. If we can represent the membership fairly, then I think being active in student campaigns is something I’d really like to do.
And, of course, Friday nights are a big focus. I think we’re in a position where whatever this limbo phase is that we have with Snap, Crackle and Pop, it’s not working. It was always intended to be a test to try out new things, but now we are in a position where we can do something entirely new. It’s a risk, it’s always going to be a risk doing something new because you can never tell exactly what people want. We’ve had surveys and we’ve got people representing the students to bring their ideas but we’re never going to produce something that pleases everyone. It’s trying to get a balance of retaining the QMU’s atmosphere which I think is what makes our club nights, when they are successful, is that people feel comfortable here no matter what they’re into, and that they know they can come in here and get a cheap drink and have a good time. So it’s an issue of getting a balance of a nice QMU atmosphere and also putting on something new and different and hopefully something that makes us stand out across Glasgow.
How can people get involved?
There are so many ways to get involved in the union, and I think it’s really important to do especially with the university hyping up the idea of graduate attributes, so you come out and not only do you have your degree, but you’ve also got evidence on your transcript of volunteer work you’ve done and how you’ve made more out of your time at university. There’s loads of ways you can do that, we’ve got the committees, which are open to all members throughout the year. They’re great especially if you have a specific interest, like our Publications Committee is always very popular because people who want to go into journalism can have a chance to get themselves into print. But all of them are rewarding in entirely different ways and each convenor brings something new to them, and you can end up with some great transferrable skills.
How are your Freshers’ Week plans coming along?
They’re going well! Discussions are well underway, and it’s been manic with the BBC Radio 1 Academy in the building, but we’ve doing our best to network and the committee are working really well together. Everyone seems to be on the same page with where they want things to go and our priorities for the week and I think it’s going to be a good one. Excited doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Any last thoughts?
My door is always open! Honestly, if there’s anything you think the QMU can help you with whether it’s big or small, I am always up for a chat with anyone. If you can’t come in, then just send me a cheeky email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.
qmunicate’s interview with QMU President 2013-2014, Calum MacInnes, can be found here, and our interview with VP Student Activities 2013-2014 & SRC President 2014-2015, Breffni O’Connor, can be accessed here.