In the second of our profiles of the two candidates running for the position of Education Officer, the only contested race for the 2022 UCDSU sabbatical elections, the College Tribune spoke to Martha Ní Riada.

Ní Riada is the social secretary for L&H and a member of the Academic Advisory Strategy Group in the School of Law. We spoke to her about her campaign launch and plans if elected.

Why are you running for the position of Education officer? I’m running for Education Officer as through my work on the Students as Partners research project and the Academic Advisory Strategy Group I’ve seen the pitfalls within our education system here in UCD and it’s clear to me what needs to be done to address these issues. I strongly believe in the impact that students can have with a collective voice and hope to utilise this in a campaign against unpaid internships and work experience.

I hope to provide support for students through producing a faculty-specific reference guide that outlines the available student supports as well as outlining which would be the most appropriate to use. I want to create equity of opportunity for students on a national level through campaigning against unpaid internships and work experience. I’ll also run workshops on the internship application process and create a database for undergraduate work experience opportunities to try and counteract the privilege of certain groups.

What approach do you intend to bring to the role of Education officer? As Education Officer, I intend on promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our education. I hope to take a hands-on approach as I want greater student engagement with the Students Union and with campus life. I believe that Covid forced a change in university life and we have to adapt how we approach student engagement. Many students are exhausted after coming through two years of remote learning and others feel completely disconnected from their peers, therefore, we need to help bridge this gap by giving students greater academic support and making events on campus more accessible.

I intend on organising a creative showcase that platforms artists, photographers, musicians, actors and other creatives as the contribution of the arts to the creation of a rounded education are seriously undervalued by UCD. I believe this will provide a much-needed boost to student life, improve engagement with the SU as well as create stronger links between the SU and collaborating societies.

What are your plans for campaigning? Do you intend to take an in-person approach if it is allowed by the returning officer? I hope to run an in-person campaign so that I can facilitate discussions with students surrounding the important issues which I hope to address as Education Officer. In order to fully expand on my plans for next year, I think it’s important to have conversations with students where I can truly show my commitment to these ideas and get student feedback. As well as in-person canvassing on campus and lecture addressing, I have a campaign on Instagram and Twitter @martha4education which I regularly update.

You are currently the social secretary for L&H and a member of the Academic Advisory Strategy Group in the School of Law, how do you think this experience can translate into the sabbatical role? Student societies play an invaluable role on campus and I believe that they add massively to our learning experience through facilitating course-specific workshops, running career events and providing a much-needed outlet for students to get support from like-minded people. As social secretary of the L&H, I know how beneficial societies can be and as Education Officer, I hope to build stronger ties with societies, in particular those that focus on a particular educational discipline. Collaborating on events and using the wealth of knowledge that those in societies have in their area will be invaluable to my work.

The knowledge I have gained through the Academic Advisor Strategy Group will be greatly beneficial to the role of Education Officer. I know the issues in our education system, not only from a student perspective through running focus groups, workshops and surveys but from a staff perspective as we sat down with lecturers to discuss student support. Through working directly with over 200 students I was able to pinpoint the main issues in academic student support. My experience of writing a report on the Academic Advisor programme and working closely with lecturers will undoubtedly be of the utmost importance as it shows an ability to effectively engage with policy and maintain strong professional relationships in committee settings.

Could you please provide a short, roughly 75-word bio and summary of the main parts of your manifesto? I’m a final year Law with Social Justice student from Meath. I will focus on three main areas if elected; equity of opportunity, educational support, and increased diversity and inclusion. I will campaign to end unpaid internships and work experience and organise workshops on the internship application process. I will create accessible faculty-specific guides outlining the academic supports available and lobby for more plugs in the library and a better heating system. I will push for greater student empowerment through the promotion of the Students as Partners approach giving students greater choice in their curriculum and assessment. I will lobby for the provision of sleep & sensory pods to provide greater support for all students.

Conor Paterson – Co-Editor