Otavio Schaitza: Label Interview

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1) What made you want to run for this position?

I have had the honour of being involved in John Phillips Hall Committee as a RAG rep. There, we had the challenge of delivering a positive experience to what was traditionally known as the least involved hall on campus. Luckily for me, the other people in the Committee where some of the smartest and most committed people I’ve ever seen.

We managed to get 3rd in the Action Christmas Food Drive, raise 800 pounds for charity (https://www.ataxia.org.uk/, donate!) in the RAG 10 pound challenge, win best Buddy Box on Mental Health Day and, most importantly, allow our members to experience a little of what Loughborough is all about.

At the same time, we missed many an IMS game, had to fight tooth and nail to get enough volunteers for Action and didn’t participate in any Raids.

It was a harsh reminder that the Postgrad life is not the same as the Undergrad life (due to course load, maturity, nationality, among others). It also served to show that LSU, if they want to create a more inclusive experience, need to adapt to those differences. Imagine how it is for postgrads in town, they might go their whole time here without seeing what all the fuss with the “Best Student Experience” is about.

This is what motivated me to run, allowing others to experience a little of what I experienced this year. Because I truly believe it has served not only to increase my overall enjoyment of Loughborough, but also to cope with the challenges of an MBA which, ultimately, was what I was here for.

2) What experience do you believe you have that ensures you will be able to represent the diverse postgraduate population we have here?

I’ve previously worked as a Administration and Community Relations Coordinator in a country that was not my own, a role which involved, among other things, constant communication with a very diverse set of stakeholders (government and traditional authorities as well as community leaders) and making sure their expectations were met. I believe the opportunity of working in such a foreign environment, with such a diversity of people, has taught me a lot on how to work together with the very heterogeneous population we have here.

Not only that, but more specifically to here and now, I have had the opportunity to interact with a sample of our PG population while working in JP Committee.

However, I am the first to admit the need to improve the understanding of who are the Loughborough PGT and PGR students. This is why the first point in my Manifesto is to work with our Marketing team on a way to leverage the wealth of data already collected or in the hands of LSU, as well as learnings from previous experiences.  Also, working with the International DO as well as with the Welfare EO would also be crucial in adapting our activities to the diverse cultural and personal backgrounds we have here.

3) How do you believe LSU has impacted the postgraduate experience at Loughborough since their first Postgraduate Executive Officer began their role last September?

I believe the impact George has had has been very positive. The creation of PGIF and of a specific PG Sports Day shows that they are trying to adapt their offerings to Postgrads. Moreover, the idea of trying to bring an event to town, with their Pub Quiz Night, shows that they are trying to go to where most of the population is. John Phillips winning Hall Committee of the Year was also something that could only have happened due to the fact we had a champion on our side .

Lastly and more importantly, on the Education side, events like Speak Week and all of the Graduate House offerings are also very important in supporting PG students’ academic experiences, all of which George was instrumental in organising/advertising.

4) What is the toughest challenge facing postgraduates at both our main campus and our London campus?

For all of us I think the biggest worry is what is our next step, be it in an academical or corporate setting. We have all CHOSEN (which is our biggest difference from the undergrad community) to pursue further education, and the reason for that is that we believe it is going to help us in the future. This is why I think there is the need for more work with both the Enterprise EO and the Careers Network in helping students take that next step.

5) How do you envision incorporating Loughborough in London into the wider Union strategy of being as inclusive as possible, given the difficulties faced by being over 100 miles away?

Making sure that all section heads have at least some kind of plan on how they are going to interact with London in their strategic plan is the first step towards making LSU incorporate London. I do understand that most of the University is still based in Loughborough and that its always going to be a priority, but we need to make sure that London is not left aside, otherwise we are not representing a significant part of our population.

Ultimately, representing a population 100 miles from here is a daunting challenge, there is only so much we can do from far away. This is why in my Manifesto I talk about empowering London so that they can shape their own student experience. This could come in the form of capacity building workshops for the Committee there, transferring knowledge from our Exec to them, or in financial support for students there to participate in key areas here, for example the Student Forums. In the end, I really do believe that the LSU plans for the future have to include the creation of a sabbatical position for London and I intend to engage the LSU President and the University in trying to find a way to make this a reality in the next few years. Meanwhile, I commit myself to be their advocate and to try to be there every two weeks, so that communication channel is kept open.

6) What could the current PG EO have done better this year to improve the experience of postgraduates at either campus?

I was criticised in the R.O.N manifesto for maybe not being too innovative and the main reason for that is that I believe George has been doing great work, work that I intend to continue and build upon. That aside, from my experience as a student here, most, if not all, interactions between me and LSU happened through my Hall, while I didn’t feel the same inflow coming from my programme and department. Perhaps increasing work with the DSF and ensuring that postgrads have representation in each Department’s Committee might increase engagement at a departmental level. This could also have the added benefit of creating a new channel of communication, with potential to reach all of our population.

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About Author

This is Leanna's third year involved with LSU Media. Having been Label Culture Editor and Assistant Editor on committee, as well as a columnist and Feature Content Coordinator, she's now taking on the Label Editor role. Leanna's job involves ensuring Label content is published to a high quality in print and online, encouraging new and old volunteers to get involved, and sitting as a member of LSU Media Senate.

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