Cian Casey is running uncontested for Graudate Officer. In his interview, he outlines his goals for engaging posgrad students, introducing a discount card, and getting an office on the Smurfit campus.
Cian Casey is studying for a master’s in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development, and feels that the Students’ Union needs to fully engage postgraduates if they are to be truly represented. Communication is key for Casey. While he feels the position of Graduate Officer is still developing, he feels that there hasn’t been enough done to bring postgraduate students into the Union. “We’re still learning what postgrads really want because, as from experience from [being a] postgrad myself, they’re very disconnected from the Students’ Union,” he says.
The way to improve engagement between postgraduate students and the SU is in communication, as Casey explains. “The lack of engagement at Council of reps is very poor,” he says. “I’d first go to each class when they first come in, introduce myself, give them all the contact details, and I’d let them know that there are positions for reps… once the reps’ positions are filled, personally, I’d prefer to meet them every two weeks alongside Council to get the feel [of] what they feel, and we can come up with ideas and I can send on messages through them that they can give out to their respective classes.” He also proposes a monthly newsletter, vlog or blog to be able to reach many people quickly, and keep them in the loop of what he is doing for them.
A large part of this communication will initially be to find out what it is that students really want from the office conducted through surveys and focus groups. He is conscious of the role of the position as representative of students, as he explains. “You have to remember that you’re being a representative of the students so you need to know what they are thinking about because, otherwise you’re just forcing your own opinion on everyone else and that’s just not the way the Union should work.”
The welfare of students is also a concern. The proposed “ASK” initiative aims to get current postgraduate students and lecturers to give advice and tips about stress management and resources. “The idea came from the Dear First Year Me Campaign that they ran [this year’s sabbatical team], so I’d I know quite a few people in other faculties in postgrads and I would develop sort of simple questions like: ‘when you were stressed, what did you do?’
Another aspect of postgraduate welfare is stress management workshops. “Stress is, especially for postgrads, we’ve such a deal to balance… it gets very stressful at times,” he says. He is planning to arrange these by talking to student advisors in each faculty.
He also proposes a discount card for 10-20 per cent discounts for postgrads. “Suits, thesis binding and stationery, they’re the three most fundamental things postgrads need, especially for job interviews and to be representatives themselves,” Casey explains. He has not yet approached any businesses on the matter but is confident that the promise of a few thousand customers will secure a deal with many businesses. He also wants to build on the travel expenses fund created this year, which covers costs to conferences for postgraduates. Currently the agreement is with Arts and Humanities, Social Science and Law, and Casey wants to expand it to the other faculties and increase the funding for it.
An issue that has affected postgraduate students in Casey’s eyes is the lack of an office for the graduate officer on the Smurfit campus. He aims to combat this by lobbying Smurfit to give him an office where he could meet postgraduate students. “I’m currently aware of an extension with new offices and I would lobby the UCD Smurfit to allow me to have one of the offices. Doesn’t matter how big or small it is, as long as it’s a confidential room.” Casey explains that currently, the graduate officer has to meet students in the common room. “People do get frightened if you want to talk about a personal matter, and to do it in a common room with God knows how many people listening, it’s just not fair on the student.”
As well as greater engagement with the Union, Casey wants to foster a greater engagement of postgraduate students with each other across faculties. One method of doing this is a proposed International Week for postgraduate students towards the beginning of the year for all postgrad students to “figure out what’s out there and broaden their horizons”. Another proposed measure is moving the postgrad ball to the second semester. Casey feels that the managing of the postgrad ball this year has been one of the biggest failings of the office, partially due to the timing in the first semester, leaving very little time to organise it and would hope to manage it better if elected.
Analysis: Developing the Graduate Experience
Casey is running for the position of Graduate Officer unopposed, and is likely to be elected. Interestingly, he proves to be one of the strongest candidates running for any position this year. From a strong manifesto detailing well thought out plans to a good performance in his interview, Casey looks set to do well in the position.
Some of the major strengths of Casey’s campaign include his student focus, and his focus on the welfare and education of postgraduate students. Stress management workshops would be very beneficial for postgrads, who balance intense workloads. If he can achieve it, an office on the Blackrock campus is sorely needed. Having said this, the aim to have an office is currently just an idea; he has not contacted anybody about a possibility of getting office space, and it is entirely possible that his requests will be denied.
Casey’s campaign falls short on some smaller issues. He speaks extensively about surveying students, but doesn’t seem to consider that postgraduates may not engage with his surveys – especially considering other candidates have also spoken of running surveys. He has also failed to contact businesses for his proposed discount card, and his idea for a 24 hour workspace seems unlikely to materialise at best, considering this idea has appeared in various manifestos over the years. Despite these failings, Casey remains a strong candidate that has produced a thoughtful manifesto and seems passionate about improving life for postgraduate students in UCD.