Exit Interview with Vice President for Education Clodagh McGivern
It’s been an academic year like no other from a return to in-person campus classes amongst strict Covid guidelines to the near lifting of restrictions. It’s no doubt impacted college student’s education across the country. However, the work of this year’s Education Officer Clodagh McGivern has eased this blow significantly.
McGivern started out her journey in the NUI Galway Student’s Union as a candidate for the Convenor for the School of Business, Public Policy & Law in which she won and held the position for two years. While in the final year of her Corporate Law degree, she launched her successful bid for the role of Vice President and Education Officer of NUI Galway’s Student Union.
But before running for Convenor, she had also tried to get involved in student politics at secondary school level having run for student committee and considered becoming a class rep in her first year. She decided to run when seeing a friend run for the position of Arts Convenor.
“I remember the signatures being collected for him and I kind of thought to myself, if he can do it so can I” recalls McGivern. “So, I went around and started collecting signatures to be the next Convenor of the School of Business, Public Policy & Law. I was apprehensive about going for the position, but I ended up getting the position and I was re-elected the following year.”
McGivern then took a year out of student politics to focus on her final year, thinking she wouldn’t run until last year’s full-time elections were just around the corner and she found herself considering putting her name on the ballot for Education Officer.
“I had an epiphany and I thought to myself, it’s time to stop giving out about how students are treated and it’s time to get involved and do something about it” she explained.
The biggest obstacle during her term? “Realising that the university won’t always agree with me.” McGivern cities the union lobbying for online exams at the end of the first semester as the biggest example. “We were raising it at every committee meeting, but there was reluctance to make the switch from in person” she explains.
But she stresses that the best thing to do in these situations is to “not give up on something just because there is an obstacle.”
“When the semester one exams were happening, we didn’t give up. We continued to raise it at every committee and make sure that student’s voices were being heard. We kept pushing by going to the media and having student’s concerns raised at a national level.”
However, McGivern credits the rest of the SU team in ensuring that these obstacles are overcome and tackled head on. “I think that the important thing to know is that when you do face obstacles, you do have an incredible team who is there to support and help you. You have two other full time election officers and incredible part time officers who all have their remits and can help you gain a wider perspective on matters.
You also have the other staff members like Chris, Joanna and Lorna who are always willing to give a helping hand if it’s needed along with class reps and the student body. I think it’s important to know that to know when you do have obstacles, you have a good support network to back you.”
However, there’s still work to be done by the next Education Officer whoever it may be once they are elected as McGivern’s successor to the Education Officer role on March 3rd. And there’s one key thing that McGivern would love to see them implement- the NUI Galway Academic Strategic Plan for 2021-2025. It’s an implementation plan that focuses on assessment, digital learning and inclusion, peer-assisted learning, and research-led teaching.
“I think that it’s important that the next Education Officer works and collaborates with the different colleges to help make sure that the goals and the spirit of the goals are achieved” explains McGivern. “Accessibility has been such a hot topic this year, as students have seen first-hand how accessible college could be because of the pandemic.”
McGivern continues: “The next Education Officer also needs to show management that this has not been forgotten, just because Covid restrictions have been lifted and that students wanting this is not a phase. They need to continue to lobby for change and let NUI Galway know that students want a more accessible college experience for everyone.”
There’s no denying we’ve reached a stage where the Covid pandemic is slowly starting to fade into the background, but the issues that students face remain along with some new challenges. Yet, there’s no denying that McGivern has championed for student’s education needs all the way throughout her term.