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Student President Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo on the past and upcoming semester

AUSA head sits down with The Gaudie to chat about the challenges of the first semester and the goals for the second

By Clive Davies

photo courtesy of Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

So how long have you been AUSA president?

I started in July 2022, so it’s been one semester, not very long.

What are your main responsibilities in your role?

As student president, we like to joke that I do everything and nothing at all. Basically I kind of manage the whole team and the student union, I’m kind of the head of the political direction and representation in that sense. I do a lot of representation work, but that also means I do have my own campaigns as well just like every other student officer. So I do a bit of everything and that’s kept me busy, especially this term with the cost of living crisis, that’s been one of our biggest campaigns. Whenever we find that there’s something important that we want to do usually that’s my main focus.

What were AUSA’s biggest priorities last semester?

The biggest thing was definitely cost of living, we were trying to figure out the best way to respond to the situation, that is definitely ongoing work, we’ve been working very closely with the university on that.

Our second priority has been focusing on international students, the university had a huge issue with late arrivals last semester and that has been affecting students very severely, especially with master’s students who start their courses late, that sort of causes a ripple effect. But that wasn’t the university’s fault, that was UKVI visas coming in late.

Thirdly, just raising engagement has been a priority, I think we did that really well, in the student council elections we had the biggest voter turnout in a very long time, and that’s been amazing to see – more students in our space, obviously the end of COVID had a hand in that. But yeah, creating a space that students actually want to spend time in, creating events that students actually want to come to and have fun, just do everything that we want to do when we are students.

What would you say was the biggest challenge of the winter term?

I think our role is challenging in itself because we do a lot of work behind the scenes. We’re not the best at communicating everything that we do, because we’re so busy. I think letting students know exactly what we’re doing, what we’re working on, what they can do and how we can work together, that’s probably been the biggest thing that we need to improve on. Now that everyone’s back here in their activities we’ve got a lot of complaints within student activities from committee members and stuff like that, so it was a very hands-on experience last semester. I think our achievements have also become our biggest challenges; I just hope it means we’re actually doing something!

What is your biggest goal for the upcoming semester?

I think continuing what we’ve started and hopefully leaving some sort of legacy, you know, making our roles attractive to students, making everything we do at the student union more relevant. I think AUSA’s had a bit of a bad reputation in the past and now we’re slowly building it back up again, it’s a slow process but I think we’re definitely gonna get there at some point.

What are you most excited about in the spring term?

Other than winter ending? Definitely organising more events and campaigns, especially since NUS is now helping the fight for students over the cost of living. We’ve been having a huge role in that, making sure that international students are also involved, that their experiences are recognised by that campaign. That’s been really interesting, especially since we’ve been starting to get more involved with NUS Scotland and really putting Aberdeen Student Union on the map!

Is there anything in particular you would like readers of The Gaudie to know about?

If there’s literally anything that you find interesting or want to do you can just message us and have a chat! It doesn’t mean to have to start a whole campaign or project by yourself. Even just things you don’t see or would like to see more of, we’re literally here for that, we’re paid -- it’s a paid role, it’s our job! As long as we’re increasing engagement and making all of this relevant for students I think we’re heading in the right direction.


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