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2016 OUSA President excited for year ahead

Tuesday 16 February 2016 9:27pm

The 2016 President of the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA), Laura Harris.

The 2016 President of the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA), Laura Harris, hopes to help the Dunedin community better engage with students this year.

Miss Harris has a strong background in student politics, having been OUSA’s Education Officer in 2014.

Her goals for the year include ensuring students’ voices and issues are heard in the build-up to Local Body elections, and helping reduce exam stress by providing a 24/7 study space.

With students flooding back to Dunedin and orientation taking place next week, we here at Bulletin Board thought it was a good time to get to know her.

1. Where are you from?
Invercargill, home of the cheese roll!

2. What are you studying?
Last year I completed a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English and Linguistics and a minor in Asian Studies.

3. Why did you want to be OUSA president?
I am deeply fond of the time that I have spent at the University of Otago, which has inspired a desire to make enhancements to OUSA and University systems, so others can have similar, or even better, experiences here at Otago. I also have a long history with OUSA through the Are You Okay? programme that helps at OUSA events, and having been the Education Officer in 2014. Between those experiences, which provided me with a foundation of knowledge about the University experience, and the fantastic team I have behind me I believe that vision can be a reality.

4. How do you feel coming into the New Year and your new role?
I am really excited and enthusiastic for the year ahead. Although things are quite busy now, it is all still very new and exhilarating. Mostly, I am eagerly awaiting the return of the students because they are such a big part of what my role will be.

5. What do you think the challenges facing the OUSA are?
I think one of the issues that representation-oriented organisations always contend with is ensuring that the views they hold, and the services they provide, actually cater to and represent the largest cross-section of their members (in this case our students) as possible. The diversity among our student body means we need to persevere to interact with and understand them often, so they can engage with the student experience we provide as much as possible.

6. What are your priorities for the year?
With this year being a Local Body election year, a focus for us will be making sure that our students' voices are heard on a local level, so that topics that are important to us can be discussed and considered. We also want to see the Dunedin community as a whole better engage with our students at the events we run, such as the International Food Festivals and Market Days on campus. Complementary to these goals are smaller service-based ideas, like decreasing exam stress with a 24/7 study space and free flu vaccinations, to name a couple.

7. Orientation is a huge event for the OUSA – how is planning going?
Suffice to say, things are pretty hectic around here. OUSA orientation is often likened to a festival week, so the Events team has been working away furiously to ensure the week is a success, while my executive and I are occupying ourselves sourcing chocolate wheels and shaved ice machines for our tent at Tent City. It promises to be an exciting week of fun with a great atmosphere, so I encourage you to have a look around at all of our varied campus events.

8. Despite a change to the University Council structure, OUSA has retained its voice. How important is that voice around the Council table?
It is extremely important. The students represent the largest component of the University community, and it is vital that someone who has an understanding of the student experience is able to articulate opinions and ideas from that perspective. This allows us to actively participate in crucial decision making at Council level. Students may not have the specific skill sets that many other Council members are able to bring to the table, but they do have a unique awareness of contemporary student culture that cannot be underestimated.

9. What next after this year?
More University. I have been accepted into the 2017 Master’s in Teaching and Learning endorsed in Secondary Teaching Programme here at Otago. After which I hope to become a secondary school teacher.

10. Anything else you wish to add?

If anyone has any ideas about what might make life better for the students of this University, or even if you just want to talk about something generally, please do get in touch at I am always interested to hear ideas and insights from the wider University community.