Massey University Students’ Association (MUSA) is celebrating the announcement of their newly elected President for 2018. Ben Schmidt was named President last week, after he stood unopposed in this year’s election. Schmidt was Welfare Officer for the 2017 Student Executive and tells Massive he thinks MUSA still has a huge role to play in advocating for students and their university experience in Manawatu. Jamie Lee-Bracken sat down to chat with the incoming president.
Why did you decide to run for presidency?
This year as Welfare Officer I saw there was plenty that MUSA could still do and campaign for, especially around transport, renter’s rights, and to support our international students, so I decided to run.
Have you always wanted to be president?
Not really, I certainly never expected to end up as President when I was started as a MUSA volunteer in my first year, just like a lot of this year’s awesome executive!
What issues at Massey Manawatu will you be wanting to address now you’re in this role?
For students a lot of it comes down to money and mental health, and the two are often quite related. So anything to reduce financial and mental stress really. In particular we will be campaigning for a wider, later bus service. We need to do a lot more to support our amazing international student community, and will be developing an international or English as a second language student buddy or drop in academic support system. We will also be ensuring that students are consulted and represented properly when decisions are made by Massey that affect their papers and courses. Most importantly we want all students to be informed and empowered to stick up for their rights.
What’s the campaign process been like for you?
A bit less stressful than last year not having as much competition, but the best part is always getting to talk with a range of students and to listen to their experiences.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, that you’ll use in this role?
“Your maximum is your minimum!” Probably these sage words from my PTI on basic training. I’m looking forward to giving it heaps alongside the student’s awesome new exec.
How has being the Welfare exec prepared you for this role?
Being welfare exec has helped a lot. It really just comes down to relationships. Working with students, clubs, and community organisations like the Manawatu Tenants Union has opened up a real cross section of our awesome students, their issues, and what we can do to fight for them and empower students to stick up for their rights.
Manawatu is known for catering to students, is there anything else you want to see happening for students to greaten their experience next year?
Next year students can definitely expect more events and more free food from MUSA as these have been key ideas for the whole exec team. Expect to see us campaigning for better transport options, knowing your renting rights, and better support for international students. If you want to get involved with this, let me know!
Who is your role model?
It is super clichéd but everyone’s a role model in some way, from the awesome people like Sarah Tastard who never give up through to the mahi of our new and past exec in always challenging the status quo. Probably Kevin Reilly from the Manawatu Tenants Union though; he’s spent most of his life fighting for tenants having a hard time and always sticks up for the vulnerable and challenges the powerful. We can learn a lot from fighters like him.
What has been some advice given to you by the current president?
While she hasn’t given me any particular words of wisdom, it is really the example she sets in always taking the time to put people first and encourage them. We are always there to stick up for students first and cannot afford to lose sight of that.
What can students expect from you and your exec in 2018?
They can expect a much more engaged MUSA that will be tackling and campaigning on the big issues. All of the team are determined to make MUSA more active with more events, and with more free food. Mental health is also a big one that many of us are passionate about and have struggled with ourselves. Most importantly, we are your exec so don’t hesitate to talk with us about your issues and awesome ideas for MUSA.