Auckland-born, Christchurch raised Melissa Lama is stepping into the role of Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) President for 2022.
Melissa is currently finishing her Master of Business Administration and hopes to explore a PhD looking at Pacific youth resilience and how engagement in that space feeds into policy.
We took a moment to ask Melissa a few questions about why this role is important and what she would like to achieve as President this year.
Why did you want to become OUSA President?
Last year I was the University of Otago Pacific Islands Student Association (OPISA) President. Being among OUSA executive in this role made me aware of the different happenings around the University on a strategic level. I also felt I had a lot to give from my experience of being a young mum, trying to study and all my other different social obstacles. I felt I could serve students and get them engaged in decision-making. While I'm in this role I want to make myself a really accessible president for everybody. I want to bring in some of my Pacific culture and my community and be a representative for them in this space – we can branch out.
What do you feel are the main issues currently faced by students?
Obviously COVID-19 is a big one with all of its different changes which seem to occur on a daily basis. There is also the transition of leaving home and understanding how the tertiary system works. There are a lot of wellbeing issues and students come here with a lot of academic expectations for themselves. There are many diverse situations in students' lives. I want to encourage kindness and support in these things. On a positive note, I think this generation of students is so full of ideas, everyone is so unique. I love discovering their energy and hearing what they bring to the table. I think we should be learning from them.
What are your aims for this year?
My aim for this year is to have as much engagement as possible with students. I'd like to have them interested in student politics and I'd like to know that what we have is reflective of them. I'd like to ensure sustainability for the Association. I'd like to work with the University on how we can collaborate, advocate for the issues brought up by students and work on a lot of the sustainability goals we have set over the years. There is so much more I want to learn in the sustainability area.
What aspects of the usual student experience are still on offer in our current climate?
While all our big events for Orientation Week have had to be cancelled, we are still working to create other opportunities which fit in with government guidelines. It won't be the same but I do want to highlight Clubs and Socs is still open, the four-dollar lunches are on again, and Radio One and The Critic are back into the swing of things now too.
We have our usual OUSA support services including tenancy support, the foodbank, the hardship grants as well as the Hub - an online service which has great resources on it. We also have the Radio One card which gives you access to discounts.
The President role is one of 12 executive members who are here to represent and advocate for students.
A final word?
I'd like students to know I am someone you can talk to. I'm here to support and to listen. Most of all, I don't want students to feel they are alone. There are always plenty of us here for you. We rally together to support, that's what makes being a student here special.
Kōrero by Internal Communications Adviser, Chelsea McRae