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In Conversation With… SU VP Science and Engineering Candidate, Rakin Choudhury

Q: To begin, I really wanted to commend you for hard work in coming this far and for showing such an interest and passion for the Vice President Science and Engineering role. As you already know, many other candidates are applying for this role, but only one will be elected. Can you tell us why you believe you are best suited for this role, and what you can bring that is different to other candidates?

A: Well, firstly, thank you very much for approaching me to do this interview. It is always nice to be commended for one’s passion and likewise may I praise you and all of the team at The Print for conducting these interviews, they really help offer students an insight into the university.

But in terms of why I am suited to this role, I have actually served as a Sabbatical Officer for QMSU before as the Vice President Barts and The London in 2017. It was in that position that I identified the need for a VP S&E and a Science & Engineering Board, and set those plans into motion.

But what makes me different is that I very much have an inclusive and student-focused approach. I know everyone strives for this but I do not think anyone else can say they have spoken with nearly 150 course reps across the faculty to gather the thoughts of every S&E student, regardless of their school, programme, or year, whether they are undergraduate or postgraduate, etc.

As such, I am not just a VP for Science & Engineering, but I am aware of the unique cross-faculty challenges of representing the students who fall in both Maths & HSS or SBCS & SMD or so on. All students are equally important in my eyes.

Q: A major part in becoming Vice President, and being a successful one, is understanding the needs and demands of the students. More importantly, contributing and influencing the University’s learning and teaching, both through participation in committees and other meetings with key University staff – to ensure that student interests are represented. How will you effectively address issues that are raised by students in these meetings? How will you also reassure students that these demands are met?

A: Well, as I say, I have already spoken with all of the course reps and prospective school reps within S&E. It is this personal approach which will fundamentally help me engage students, identify issues, and effectively address them together.

A continuing dialogue will help ensure that students feel as though they are being heard as well as being updated on the progress with the demands they have made. Our course reps and school reps will be fundamental to this collective approach to campaigning for students.

And likewise, it is the continuing dialogue with members of the university which shall ensure the university addresses the issues which are raised.

Q: As with any job, the role of Vice President Science and Engineering is one filled with commitments, dedication, passion and drive. How will you reassure students that you will remain motivated in your role; continuously representing the student body to your highest standard and always striving to implement new policies? Do you have any past experience in this field?

A: As mentioned, I have been a QMSU Sabb before, as well as a Trustee. In addition to that, I have run in SU elections five times now, been president of a few societies and on the committees of several others, and served as a course rep too for good measure. Seven years at QM, my passion still remains to represent students. If anything, the challenge will be to rein in the motivation!

Q: As Vice President, you would be the lead voice in developing and implementing Students’ Union policies regarding the quality of education and faculty matters. Are there any new fundamental ideas you have proposed for this, and will you continue to retain some of the former policies of the role or completely renew them?

A: Well, as this is the first year for the VP S&E role, there are no former policies which currently fall within it. However, as always, one will review past policies passed by Student Council and determine what is relevant to the students within Science & Engineering. If they are relevant, let us continue them by all means. But if not, it is first and foremost about identifying what our students need. The challenges to our students are changing all the time.

I believe ideas and issues need to be divided between: the short-term, such as lecturer strikes, which one will have to immediately tackle upon entering the role; the medium-term, such as tackling QMPlus/QReview issues and improving employability, which will ideally see significant progress by the end of the year; and the long-term, such as diversity in the curriculum, which I will hopefully lay a plan of action for my successors to continue and develop upon.

Q: As the representative for student’s education, such as; teaching quality, library provision and feedback, the Vice President Science and Engineering has many matters regarding their role. The most significant being a campaigner for a better-quality education for students, for each student to reach their full potential with quality teaching. Do you believe there is a lack of relationship between student and staff at Queen Mary? If so, is it important to gain an improved relationship between staff and student?

A: Is there a good relationship between students and staff? Yes. But can it be better? Yes, always.

I believe the role of the Students’ Union is to represent students, that much is obvious. But it is to represent them to the university. In order to do that, the SU must be able to work closely with the university. And QMSU has a good relationship with QMUL.

But one way to improve the relationship with the university is for QMSU to mirror the QMUL. This is why I first proposed the Vice President Science & Engineering role, to work with the university’s Executive Dean for the faculty. I think we will see a lot of benefits to the student-staff relationship come out of these faculty Sabb roles.

Personally, I have worked with Professor Wen Wang, Vice Principal for Science & Engineering, before (and also his predecessor, Prof Edmund Burke), as well as many others in the university so I feel I have a strong relationship with staff.

But that is not true of all students, who might not be as engaged by the SU. So the other ways to bring staff and students closer together involves improving cross-faculty/department social and networking events at all levels.

Q: Thank you so much for taking your time in answering this interview, as a way to end these questions with some humour and to understand the real you.If a zombie apocalypse occurred, what top three things would you scavenge first?

A: It really depends on what type of zombies these are. I see myself on the front lines of fighting against the zombie apocalypse, if these are bad zombies. As I am on the front lines, I might be easily turned (again, depending on how new zombies are made). And so if a zombie apocalypse occurred and I were a zombie rather than a human, my priorities of what to scavenge may change dramatically. Do zombies scavenge? I am not sure. I suppose I will find out when the apocalypse comes.

The manifestos for all the VP S&E candidates can be found here: https://www.qmsu.org/elections/vpse/

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