Candidate for the position of Vice President for Education

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Rhiannon Ledwell

Persistent, Loud: Empowering Your Voice


Hello! I am a second-year student in Gaelic Studies/Archaeology. I initiated the creation of this hopefully soon-to-be-new degree (I was first told this was impossible!) and discovered possibilities for change through direct work with professors and heads-of-department.

To enact change, I have had to be stubbornly persistent and vocal. My success illustrates the dedication and necessary skill to amplify individual voices and empower students to create meaningful academic paths.

I am a professional composer and sitarist (Indian Classical musician), with a music composition degree and arts management experience. As an international student from an economically impoverished background, and the first in my family to attend university, I am sensitive to how the cost-of-living crisis affects students' education, and to particular problems experienced by international students.

I am actively involved in University life as an Archery committee member, a Student Ambassador, and Gaelic class representative, so I have familiarity with AUSA, several UoA offices, and academic committees.

What are your three priorities for the year?

Gathered from peer conversations:

  1. Much of learning happens not in lectures, but through hands-on experience/discussion. The number of tutorials/practicals have decreased over several years—The things that most encourage creativity and innovation are being stripped away. Some students complained of so little in-person interaction that their course feels self-taught. We do not attend university for guided reading of a textbook. I want to help bring the vibrancy of academic discourse back into classrooms. To encourage practical experience, I propose academic credits for volunteering. If you spend ten hours in the lab sorting medieval animal bones, you could receive corresponding credits—like psychology students receive for participating in peers’ experiments. This would be especially beneficial in programs that do not include placement.
  2. Complaints concerning timetabling: Many students experience multiple clashes, even between required classes (and occasionally exams). This necessitates catching up online or dropping classes, and discourages joint degrees. It negatively impacts student experiences, and I will work with the timetabling team to improve this.
  3. One positive change during online learning was the implementation of take-home final assessments, essays or projects. This reflects real-life situations, with time to research and consider ideas, accommodating a variety of learning styles. Based on student opinion and results, this format should be preserved/reinstated.

What unique skill/knowledge can you bring to the role to stand out from the other candidates? 

As a mature student pursuing a second undergraduate degree, I can draw from experiences in a variety of higher education settings, from US liberal arts colleges to a multi-disciplinary arts school.

Musician and management roles have taught me creative approaches to problem-solving and independently organising projects/events.

What do you think is the biggest issue that students are facing at the moment and how do you plan to tackle it? 

The cost-of-living crisis is affecting the education and mental health of students. Students are taking on extra work hours and spending less time on studies. We are using funds meant for education expenses to pay bills.

Having to work several part-time jobs negatively impacts our education, and I will look at how academic policies (e.g., revising extension criteria to consider economic pressures) and scholarships might better support students, join the VP for Welfare to explore increasing need-based aid for all students, and supporting NUS’s campaign for free student bus travel.