With the upcoming Student Union elections coming up, I felt it would be a great time to get the experience of someone who has ran and been elected! Megan Reilly, your SU Welfare Officer has been good enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions to give you an idea of what her journey has been like.
Can you tell me a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you studied here?
So my name is Megan Reilly and I’m from all the way over in the East, from Drogheda. I came here to study Arts but after a year realised it wasn’t for me, and started in Commerce instead. I absolutely fell in love with Galway as a city when I visited it in fifth year, and after a year of college here I knew I didn’t want to leave Galway. A few years later and after being involved in the Students’ Union from day 1, as a class rep and part time officer, I was elected as full time Welfare Officer! Other things about me that you may need to know; I love toast and the ocean!
How would you explain the role of the SU Welfare Officer to those who don’t know?
So, the role has three main areas; campaigning, committees and casework. The campaigning side of things means that I run the Welfare Crew, and coordinate condom runs, the themed weeks such as Mental Health week and SHAG week.
The Welfare officer also sits on committees within the University structure, and is there to represent the student voice. For example, I would sit on the Board of Directors of the Health Unit. It’s a really important part of the job, and a massive way to enact change.
The last part, and the biggest part is casework, which involved seeing students on a one to one basis for any problems that aren’t specifically related to education. The Welfare officer is a listening and referral service, so I listen to people’s issues and give them options and support services. It can be tough, but it’s also really rewarding.
Of course, there are a million and one other things that are involved in the job; speaking to media, engaging with local organisations, talking an events, and lots more. Every day is totally different and it’s so exhilarating.
What made you want to become the Welfare Officer for the students of NUIG?
I had always gotten such a thrill from helping my friends, and being a level headed one in a crisis. I love advocacy work, I love campaigning, I love providing people with solutions, it seemed a pretty perfect fit. You don’t have to have all of those things to be the Welfare officer, you just have to have a passion for helping people and being a support!
What did it feel like to have won the election and be entrusted with such a position?
It was a pretty overwhelming experience from start to finish. Seeing my team come together and knowing I was fully supported by them, having the students of the University trust me to lead on issues such as finance, accommodation and mental health. I always try never to forget who got to me here, and the people I represent.
Can you name one thing you’ve learnt from your experience as the SU Welfare Officer that you feel has really benefited you?
I’ve learned that college isn’t a one size fits all model, everyone has their own journey to make and that’s okay. We have a tendency to think that other people have their lives together, but really we’re all just plodding along on our paths, doing our best. And that’s why it’s so important to be kind to people. Maliciousness gets you nowhere.
What would you say to someone who is interested in running in the upcoming SU elections, but is a bit apprehensive or nervous?
Chat to the person in the position, do your research, and go for it. If you have that niggling feeling in you, then run. It’ll amaze you how people gather around to support you. There might not ever be a moment when the stars align and you know without a shadow of a doubt that you have to run, you just have to trust yourself and take that leap. Being able to represent the Student population, and having the insight into the inner workings of the University is a fascinating, worthwhile experience.
Finally, could you describe your overall experience of your time in NUI Galway in one sentence?
Wow, this is a tough one. I’d would say that this city and this University are incredible places, but without a doubt the best thing about them is the people.