Rousing troops to get voices heard

October 5, 2007

Name: Sarah Beattie-Smith

Age : 22

Job: President of Edinburgh College of Art students union

Salary: £11,400

Practical training/education: BA (Hons) Sculpture

Working hours: Officially 10 to 5.30; more like 10.30ish till 8ish.

Your department: The students union.

What is your office like? A buzzing wee open-door office in the basement of the college. Usually full of students in need, with an average of about 10 conversations going on at any one time between the five staff and the students. Recently refurbished with Ikea furniture and feeling the cleanest and most organised it has in many a year. We even have a kettle!

What's your biggest challenge this year? The union's biggest challenge is trying to get college management to consider the impact of any decisions on the students, who are often left out of the decision-making processes. My biggest challenges will be to stay focused on the tasks at hand and to engage students in the campaigns we'll be running.

How have you/will you solve it? On the union challenge, I think it's a gradual process. In order to get management to involve students more in the decisions being made, I need to keep on top of any upcoming decisions and ensure I get class representatives and union exec members to be proactive. If the students aren't consulted, we'll just need to make our voices heard in other ways. Personally, I'll need to be really organised. To get students involved, I'll be out talking to them about their experiences, getting them fired up and helping them realise that they could have it so much better if they get involved.

Worst moment of your university career? Getting my student loan statement and realising that I'm £13,000 in debt, accruing £20-a-month interest and still earning £4,000 below the threshold to start paying it back.

Do you socialise with people at work? Not as much as I'd like but we have lunch together every day and move in the same social circles outside of work. I also work with 1,700 incredibly vibrant art students so I'm never short of good company.

Best excuse you've heard for bad behaviour? They've got weapons that could reach us in 45 minutes...

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? As with anywhere, there are jobsworths but most people are here because they have a passion for the subject they teach or a passion for education.

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