Meet 2018 NUPSA President Ash McIntyre
with Winnie Eley, DVC (International and Advancement)
As internationalisation changes the nature of education institutions, it is vital that we continue to empower our students to have a voice amidst these changes, and to make sure the increasingly global nature of the student community is reflected in this representation. At the University of Newcastle, this is very much the case – thanks largely to associations such as NUPSA.
NUPSA has played a powerful role in not only making our international postgraduate students feel welcome, but in connecting them to the wider student and local community, and making sure they feel a valued, represented and celebrated part of the University of Newcastle. Those who step up to lead NUPSA do so because they are passionate, belief-driven, and hard-working students who care deeply about education. I’ve had the great pleasure of working with past NUPSA presidents, Andrew Deane and James Pinkerton, and I leave the University of Newcastle knowing the association is in very good hands with current President, Ash McIntyre.
I interviewed Ash recently and asked her to share with us what drives her, and what she aims to achieve for our students in the year ahead.
So who is Ash McIntyre?
I grew up in Maitland, and am the second person in my immediate family to go to University. Before I started my BA, I spent 12 months in Ireland working with a homeless shelter, where my interests in mental health, advocacy and teaching really accelerated. I’m now in the third year of my PhD research at the University of Newcastle, looking at representations of psychological trauma in contemporary fiction triggered by climate events. This year, I’ve also had my first university teaching experience, which for me has really confirmed that I am in the right place!
What have you set out to achieve in your term as NUPSA President?
As you might have guessed, I am very passionate about mental health. Now that supervisor training has been introduced, I hope to see the University recognise the impact of mental health issues on the postgraduate student experience and include a mental health component into this training to assist not only students, but staff, in addressing mental health in higher education.
We have also been focusing on increasing our engagement with the online student cohort, and building the student community at NewSpace. As more and more students take to online study, it is really important for us to adapt and foster student communities in the online space.
Additionally, NUPSA is lucky enough to be hosting the CAPA Annual General Meeting this year. This will bring representatives from student associations all over Australia to Newcastle, giving us the opportunity to showcase Newcastle, and our students the chance to see how student advocacy functions on a national level.
I also want to continue working to foster student community. UON is a young, internationalised University with an incredibly diverse student community. It is really important that we embrace this diversity, and create an environment of learning about the different cultures, ideas, and backgrounds that come together here in Newcastle. Just as we have students from across the globe coming here, finishing students disperse themselves across the globe, and it is a wonderful opportunity we have to foster this environment and contribute to the global preparedness of UON students.
Lastly, I would love to finally see a postgraduate space on campus. There are very few dedicated spaces for postgraduates on campus, and the stereotype of the nomadic postgraduate student is difficult to address without suitable spaces to break down these barriers.
What three actions would you call upon from the student community, staff community and alumni community to work with you in achieving those objectives?
Action 1: Formally acknowledge the increasing research across the globe that shows mental health as a key issue for postgraduate students by adopting a preventative approach and incorporating a mental health training program for supervisors and student-facing staff.
Action 2: For students, I encourage you to be engaged with your schools, faculties, support services, NUPSA and other student communities. There are things happening behind closed doors every day that impact the student experience, and student feedback and input is paramount to the continued improvement of the postgraduate experience. And if there is something you want to see from your student association, please let us know!
Action 3: The development of a postgraduate student space. For the postgraduate student cohort to receive adequate student support and to build community, it is imperative that a student space is established where NUPSA can facilitate events, support clubs, and provide postgraduate students a safe, and comfortable place to come to.
What excites you on a good day?
I love helping to facilitate events where attendance is good, and I can see students meeting each other and making new connections. Or if a student comes to us with an idea for a workshop or an event, and we can make it happen! Being President of NUPSA has been a steep learning curve so far, but it comes with its own vast set of rewards!
How would you like to be remembered as NUPSA 2018 President?
I’d like to be remembered by students for my approachability, and my enthusiasm. I would also love to be President of the executive that sees a suitable postgraduate student space established, and mental health training incorporated into standard staff training.