Ash McIntyre is a PhD candidate in the School of English, NUPSA’s 2018-19 President and 2016-17 Research Representative.
NUPSA has been a part of my entire postgraduate experience, and I can honestly say that it changed my life, and made me a completely different person.
I first heard about them when I went to a faculty information session and the then-president spoke about NUPSA, and mentioned that there were three positions available. I didn’t know anyone doing their postgraduate degree, nor was I a very social person. In fact, I was always incredibly shy, and because of this, people often thought I was rude or arrogant. I admit that I also did not like the fact that part of my SSAF money was going towards an association like NUPSA – what did they do for me? I didn’t go to their events, or need their help with anything. How did they affect me anyway?
Ultimately, I decided to ask about the Research Representative position to force myself to talk to people. I knew that if I was going to get involved in anything on campus, I would have to put myself in a position where I had to do it, or my anxiety would get the better of me. Well.
I spent almost two years as the Research Representative, and then another two years as the NUPSA President. I don’t want to go on about all of the things I got to do in those roles – you can see all of that in my past newsletters – but I do want to say that you might be surprised at how much NUPSA’s activities have impacted your student experience, even if you’ve never attended any of their events or workshops.
NUPSA, as long as I have known them, have been a constant voice in behind-the-scenes workings across the University and beyond. It is easy for postgraduate voices to get lost. Our cohort rarely feel they have the time to join panels or advocacy groups. Sometimes we fear the consequences of speaking up about issues we face. Other times, we feel like speaking up won’t make a difference, or that our issues are supposed to be part of the experience of being a postgraduate.
We are also a small cohort compared to the undergraduates, so our unique issues are often overlooked. But to the best of their ability, NUPSA always ensured that there was a postgraduate voice in the room and worked damn hard to make sure that voice was heard. The NUPSA staff, and many of the student volunteers that have made up the NUPSA Executive over the years, will have had an impact on some aspect of your experience, in ways you may never know.
Even though the new student structure (if all goes to plan) will provide much more thorough, diverse and effective representation for all students, it is with a heavy heart that
I watch NUPSA close its doors. My experience with NUPSA was extremely powerful, and the passion shown by the staff and members of the Executive was truly inspiring. There were times I cried under my desk in frustration, because we were unable to help a student in a difficult situation. There were times I cried laughing with students at events, or at office banter. There was a time I cried because a camel bit me and I was shocked. I sound like a mad crying person here, but I’m not, and that is my point, I suppose. Being on the Executive is a volunteer position, and a lot of work. But it is also personal. NUPSA represents over twenty years’ worth of postgraduate student journeys. So many of the triumphs, wins, pitfalls and challenges students face have moved through that office, either directly or indirectly, and changed those who work inside it.
I met some of my very best friends at NUPSA. I found my voice at NUPSA. And I am chock full of funny, sad, inspiring and wholesome stories from my time with NUPSA, and all of the students it helped me meet! So, I’d like to take this opportunity to recognise everyone I encountered on my NUPSA journey: all the students I met, the staff, support people, and of course the present – and final – Executive. To all of you, thank you.