President – Ashleigh McIntyre
NUPSA President for 2018, Ashleigh McIntyre, is a Hunter local – once she finished high school in Maitland, she volunteered overseas for a few years before she returned home for her Bachelor of Arts degree at UON. She fell in love with research, and having formed a great working relationship with her Honours supervisor, she decided to stay on in Newcastle and pursue a PhD.
Having attended a NUPSA information session at the start of her studies and hearing the Exec was short of a Research Rep, Ash put herself forward for the position. She has spent the last few years in the position, and has enjoyed getting to know how the university works, what goes on behind closed doors, organising events and helping with various student welfare issues.
“It’s a really nice position that NUPSA is in, being able to bridge the gap between university administration and the students – they can tend to be very separate.”
Throughout her time on the NUPSA Executive, one of Ash’s major goals was to increase the cohesiveness of the university, encouraging communication between the schools and faculties, student groups and the service bodies on campus.
“This year we have initiated student entity meetings – the more we work together and engage with as many students as possible, the more we can get done. Advocacy has been approached from so many different directions through so many different groups until now.”
Looking forward to 2018, Ash also wants to continue with her work in the mental health sphere – she’s been pushing for mental health training not just for HDR students, but also supervisors.
“These things sneak up on you and sometimes it takes a long time for you to realise that either you have changed or something isn’t quite right, especially if you haven’t dealt with these issues before; mental health issues are extremely common in the PhD experience.”
Like her colleagues, Ash is determined to continue working towards a more visible NUPSA, and that the student body will steadily become more involved in the work the Association does.
“Just by making little suggestions, sending ideas through or mentioning something you are concerned about – I really hope to see the students engage with us just as we are always working to improve our engagement with them.
“Even if it’s as small as, ‘I’m a bit uneasy about this,’ – perhaps some other people have come to us with similar concerns. and they are uneasy as well. We can do something about that, that’s what we’re here for.”
Vice President – Anish Saini
Having served as International Representative for two years, Anish is in a great position to co-lead the 2018 NUPSA Executive.
He’s particularly excited about the opportunity to continue his close work with our peak body, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA). Anish believes this ongoing working relationship is vital as we face continual risk of government budget cuts and tuition fee hikes. Working with external bodies is also important for another of Anish’s major concerns: seeking public transport concession for international students.
“While domestic students might not feel any pressure, international students tend not to have their own vehicles so they actually rely more on public transport. They may also not be sure of how much money they will have to spend if they are new into the country, so budgeting is important for them.”
Closer to home, Anish is also concerned about research budgets – the size of stipend students receive for lab consumables, resources, and travel varies hugely between Faculties at UON. He’s seeking to rectify this, as well as regulate the transparency of student research funds such that supervisors are required to inform the students of the existence and size of their stipend.
Next year, Anish is looking forward to the continuing growth and diversification of NUPSA events and workshops.
“We’ve noticed that we tend to see a huge cohort of international students turning up for our events, but not many domestic.
“We want to see all the students interacting with each other as this really adds into the culture and lifestyle of the University, and people can make genuine long lasting relationships.
“If we can be more visible then we can help more students – and that’s the most important thing.”’
International Representative – Ashraf Abdelbaky
English Literature PhD student Ashraf Abdelbaky is a newcomer to the NUPSA Executive for 2018, but he’s not a stranger to politics, nor to facing some of the major issues facing international students in Australia today. As well as being the president of the University of Newcastle Islamic Society, the president and founder of Newcastle Arab Student Society, he’s also heavily involved in his local community off-campus.
His hard work and enthusiasm has been recognised by several bodies – in 2017 alone, he won the UON Campus Life Global Citizen Award, as well as being voted the NUPSA Student of the Year. He was also named one of the finalists of the NSW Government International Student Of The Year Award. He was also selected by UON Global to represent the University’s international students at the Council of International Students of Australia in Canberra.
“Once I was there I learned that other universities have their own internal international student associations, and that’s what’s missing in Newcastle.
“I want to build a team and make something – we are now working towards this, a body to provide services, initiatives and programs specifically for international students.
“Many students arrive from overseas and contact us looking for help, so we really need an association of all international students.”
Ashraf is also looking to put on more events which bring international students from all cultures, countries and faiths together.
“I’ve already organised several of those, and in the future we also want to put together a committee of all the presidents of all the international societies.”
As well as these multicultural events, Ashraf is keen to organise more workshops geared towards helping students with their research skills, including writing and time management.
“While I totally agree with the current NUPSA workshops, I think we need more professional development events. We need some academics to come in to teach – how to publish, how to choose a journal, how to collaborate”.
“One of my major challenges of studying for a PhD has been learning how to organise my time – I have gained a lot of experience through all my work with other students and organisations, but sometimes you need to spend time enjoying yourself too.”
GLBTI Representative – Barrie Shannon
Barrie Shannon is returning to his position as the GLBTI Rep on the NUPSA Executive for 2018 – he’s keen to carry on with his work in advocating for the UON queer community, and in particular for trans rights.
Barrie’s PhD focuses on the young transgender and gender diverse people’s experiences of high school sex education, and how it affected their experiences and identities – he’s all too aware of the importance of education and awareness when it comes to the LGBTQI community.
“A lot of people aren’t used to seeing out and proud transgender people, and they don’t know how to respond. Then suddenly the media is saturated with trans issues and everyone wants to have an opinion.
“It’s important that we set the record straight, and continue to advocate for the people whose voices get silenced – those voices which belong the people who being talked about.”
While he’s keen to emphasise that the University does have an anti-discrimination policy around gender and sexuality in place, he’s also aware that it is not always properly enforced.
“We want to make sure that students feel secure and that can live their lives the way they want to, and have that support and not be rejected or treated differently because of it.
“That does all line up against the policy but as we’ve unfortunately seen in a number of cases, people don’t take notice of it.”
Barrie first got involved with NUPSA when he replied to an email advertisement for executive vacancies. He was looking to get involved with a project completely unrelated to his studies – and he encourages other students to do the same!
“I can go a bit stir crazy just sitting there doing one thing – only ever dedicating my mental faculties to one project. It’s good to have a bit of diversity and plenty of things to do outside of study.”
Research Representative – Igbayemi Daniel Akeremale
Since arriving at UON in April 2017, Daniel has been looking forward to joining the NUPSA Executive. Having stood on many executives in his educational and professional life, he’s keen to he’s keen to bring these skills to bear with his new HDR colleagues.
Daniel moved to Newcastle from Nigeria, where he trained worked as an architect before becoming an architecture lecturer. He’s long held the ambition of travelling overseas to pursue his PhD, as well as working closely with student unions and advocate groups – not just to make the most of his leadership experience, but to learn from his colleagues and take these lessons home with him once he graduates.
“Right from when I was in secondary school, I have always found myself in situations where I have to represent my colleagues.
“When I was a student architect I was made secretary of my department, and when I became a lecturer I was elected welfare officer of my academic staff union.”
It’s not just political and advocational experience Daniel is looking to gain throughout his time in Newcastle. His PhD project focuses on supply chain management in pre-fabricated housing construction – unlike Australia, this type of housing doesn’t exist in Nigeria, despite it being a potential solution to ongoing housing shortages.
In the coming years, Daniel is looking to focus on student welfare issues.
“As we all know, it’s difficult to focus when we are struggling with our own personal issues. This can generate an unpleasant mental health experience, and that can be a barrier to success.”
Coursework Representative – Faria Quoreshi
Faria Quoreshi is excited to commence her second term as Coursework Representative, and she’s got plenty of ideas for how to move NUPSA forward with their continuing efforts to support the postgraduate student community.
She first found out about NUPSA when she was introduced to the 2014-16 president, Andi Deane, by her friend and co-executive member, Anish Saini, in her second semester of study at UON.
“Ever since I’d enrolled I’d been getting all these emails from NUPSA and I was just like, ‘Who are these people?!’ – but once I met Andi, that’s what really piqued my interest – he was so proactive and enthusiastic.”
Despite being heavily involved with her Law School throughout her undergraduate studies, it had never occurred to Faria that she might be able to help her fellow coursework students through similar advocacy work.
“Even though I deal with so many coursework students through my studies, I really felt that we weren’t being represented properly, or that our interests weren’t always taken into account.
“So I decided to get involved with NUPSA – I’m not very good at being idle!”
One of the main issues Faria is dedicated to is providing coursework students with help with their assignments, especially those who are newly enrolled.
“We have students coming from all over the world and many of them have never had to do work like this before. I think we’ve done a great job with providing workshops to help with this, and we need to carry on.”
Like several of her fellow executives, Faria is enthusiastic about continuing to increase the visibility of NUPSA.
“So many people who I tell about NUPSA ask me, ‘What do you guys do?’, and when tell them about some of the events we’re running, they respond with, ‘Oh I totally want to go to that!’
“So I guess if I could end on anything, I’d end on saying, ‘READ YOUR EMAILS!’”
Satellite Representative – Nicholas Scanlon
He might be new to the NUPSA Executive for 2018, but Nic Scanlon isn’t new to NUPSA – he was on the committee back in 2002, and he’s pleased to be back.
During his first Master’s degree, he campaigned for changes to graduation. Back then, postgraduate students were only able to graduate in the April ceremonies, meaning many had to wait long periods, and lots of international students had to miss out on their big day.
“I don’t like whinging and not doing anything. If you’re going to complain then you might as well do something – talk to someone or write a letter.
“It was the same back then, and that’s why I’ve decided to sign up again.”
Nic is now studying a Masters of Property Management, and, like many satellite students, does most of his studying at weekends and after work. He has a full time job in the city and so uses NeW Space several times a week.
While he’s enjoying having a dedicated study space, the building fills up quickly at weekends (only two levels remain open during this period). He’s looking to address this during his time on the executive – as he’s keen to make sure that satellite students receive the same level of service as local ones.
“We pay the same amount but we don’t get the same service. I hand in my work, it comes back, I get my mark but no feedback – so I don’t know what I’ve done wrong or what I should change next time.
“In terms of business, you always get feedback from clients and that’s how you get better. You need to know what you did wrong or you’re not learning.”
As well as the limited feedback on assignments, Nic is concerned about the overall lack of communication between lecturers and students.
“We don’t have that lecture time, nor the periods after lectures for discussions – so the only way to contact our teachers is through email, but sometimes it can be weeks before they reply. We’re just not getting the same for our money.”
Nic is also keen to make sure that NUPSA make sure all their workshops and resources are available online – something we’ve been working towards in 2017.
“Those resources are excellent – but satellite students are generally are working through the day or are in a different time zone. So if something is being presented then it should be available, even if it’s just a link, or it’s recorded and put on YouTube.”