Tia Cullen is a Stage 3 General Nursing student from Cork, running for the role of Education Officer in this year’s UCDSU elections. Cullen is opposed by Naomhán Mhaonaigh, a final-year Social justice and Sociology student.

Cullen presents an ambitious manifesto aimed at addressing a multitude of student concerns within UCD, including accessibility, engagement, cost of education and policy work. She is an experienced candidate, with a strong background in advocacy and student representation.

It is evident that Cullen possesses a deep-seated commitment to student representation, her tenure in various representative roles within the SU has fuelled her passion for advocacy and addressing the issues within UCD. “I’ve been involved in the Students Union for two years now,” Cullen explains. Her journey started as a Class Rep for stage two General Nursing and she is the current Health Science College Officer, “it is not just something that is going to go on my CV, I’m truly passionate about the work that I do.”

Tia not only represents students within UCD but she is also the Vice-Chairperson of the Student Nurses and Midwives Organisation, representing students on a national level.

Tia Cullen – UCDSU Education Officer, photo by Hugh Dooley
Tia Cullen – UCDSU Education Officer, photo by Hugh Dooley

When asked about her decision to run for the Education Officer position, Cullen believes that she is the best person for the job, “Through the work that I have been doing in the Union over the last two years I’ve just built up such a passion for the work that the Union does, but I’ve also identified a lot of issues that I’m passionate about trying to solve.”

With a high level of experience, Cullen believes she is the ideal candidate, “I’m truly passionate about the things I want to work on, […] I’ve built up quite a vast amount of skills within my previous roles and I do think I have a lot to bring to the table. I think that students should be confident that I can properly represent them on big issues, on a university level and a national level.”

In her current role as Health Science College Officer, Cullen has worked closely with this year’s Education Officer and the Student Union to organise a number of events. Cullen hosted the inaugural second-hand uniform sale, a health science roadshow to promote Trade union support for students and distributed placement packs with information pamphlets and supplies for students starting clinical placements.

When asked about the work of the current Education Officer, Sarah McGrath, Cullen explains, “Sarah has done quite a good job, I’ve worked closely with her on a number of issues and the work she would have done as Health Science Officer I have continued in my current role […] I think she has done a really great job but there are things I would like to improve on or maybe do differently.”

The main issue that Cullen hopes to address is the SUSI grant. As a recipient of the grant, Cullen understands the significance of financial barriers to education. “Access to education is very important to me” she expresses “if it wasn’t for SUSI, I would not be in college.”

Cullen believes that SUSI is a great support for students but it could be so much better. She hopes to lobby for a review and complete overhaul of the SUSI grant with the intention of extending it to graduate entry students.

Cullen’s manifesto is also concerned with policy work; she believes that UCD’s policies are long and over complicated for a lot of students. As a self-proclaimed policy lover, Cullen wants to make simplified guides for students on the most relevant policies, like extenuating circumstances. “I think the education role is a balance between casework and policy work,” she explains. “I want to bring education to the students, breaking down complex policies into simplified guides.”

Cullen also hopes to address the engagement issue the Union is currently facing, she believes that smaller education-related events and targeting the student body on a more local level could help improve the Union’s outreach, “I think we need to promote ourselves on a more local level instead of having these big events and expecting students to come to us because that hasn’t been working.”

While Cullen’s passion and experience is evident, the feasibility of certain aspects of her manifesto could be called into question. For instance, while advocating policy guides is commendable, there may be challenges in ensuring widespread understanding among the student body.

Additionally, the proposal to lobby for a review of SUSI and extend support to graduate entry students raises complex logistical, political, and financial hurdles. Overall, Tia Cullen is a strong candidate for the Education Officer position, whose manifesto offers a wide variety of solutions to address pressing student concerns within UCD.

With her extensive experience in student representation and a demonstrated commitment to advocacy, Cullen presents herself as a capable leader who is invested in improving the educational experience for all students.

You can vote for your preferred SU candidate, either online or on-campus, on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of April.

Róisín Lambe – Deputy Sports Editor