By Anne Brouwer
Why would you become a student representative?
Let me rephrase that.Why would you want to read 30-page policies? Why would you want to spend hours in meetings? Why would you choose to put yourself out there and speak up to higher management? Why would you want to deal with other people’s problems? Why would you want to be the one to open up a can of worms?
You won’t believe this, but it’s actually quite fun!
Of course, there is the feeling of satisfaction for serving the greater good. I can’t deny that it feels awesome to help fellow graduate students when they have issues concerning their PhD journey.
There is the unique experience of learning how educational institutions operate, of realising how complex universities are and getting a sense of the politics behind it.
There are the networks you make, not only with fellow graduate students but getting to personally know the people in charge! You know, the ones that help run this joint, like the Dean, Associate Vice-Chancellors, Pro-Vice Chancellors, School Graduate Coordinators and so on. They are the kind of people that might come in handy when you need an extension, reference or a job.
Talking about jobs, extracurricular activities definitely boost your resume. I have built up a wide array of examples for future job interviews that show leadership skills, project management, resolving conflict situations, organising events, time management, teamwork, etc. I hate to say it, but it’s important to show your future employer that you’re more than just a person who holds a doctorate. Let’s face it, our future prospects in academia don’t look all that great, especially not when all you have been doing is your PhD, just like all the others holding doctorates out there.
But, as I said earlier, it is also just really fun. Going to exclusive events, getting free food and drinks, making new friends among your fellow PhD students, learning that the students in the other College aren’t as scary after all, and just getting the opportunity to hang out with people you would otherwise never come across.
Another great thing about being a student rep is that it allows you to get away from your PhD research without feeling too guilty about it. I quickly realised that working full-time on my PhD research was not going to work for me. It is mentally draining, I have a short attention span, and I’m easily bored. These three years should not only be about working hard on my research, but also for some socialising, fun, and freebies as well!
And if you think “it doesn’t matter because nobody will listen to us”, you’ve got it all wrong. When I started out as a graduate student representative about a year ago, I quickly came to realise that La Trobe takes its graduate student reps seriously. When we raise issues, action is usually taken straight away and feedback that we give on candidature policies actually gets incorporated.
If you are like me and allergic to people who only complain and don’t do anything to make their problems go away, and if you read this blog thinking being a student rep could indeed be fun, then shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s talk about how you can get involved!
She has completed a Master of Science degree from both the Technical University Munich and University of Wageningen, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences. Her research interests are in green marketing, greenwashing and sustainable consumption.
She is the student representative for the ASSC College on the Board of Graduate Research and the student representative for the La Trobe Business School.
Outside LTU activities she travels around the world (whenever her schedule allows it), volunteers as a marketer for a non-profit organisation, hikes around Victoria and cycles a lot. She tweets from @AnneRBrouwer.