Ella Johnson talks to 21/22 Wellbeing candidates Karli Wagener and Millie Loader
As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, SU Executive Officer elections are very much underway, and you have until 5pm on Friday to cast your votes. As part of LSM’s election coverage, I spoke to the two running candidates for Wellbeing – Karli Wagener and Millie Loader – about their manifestos and aspirations for the next year if elected.
Both candidates express excitement at the potential return to campus next academic year, and the changes that will bring to the role. Geography student Karli is running to be re-elected as SU Wellbeing Officer for a second successive term, and hopes that re-election will not only allow her to carry out last year’s manifesto points that were put on hold, but also tackle the new challenges faced with delivering a safe return to campus for all students. She hopes to continue campaigns ran this year, such as Random Acts of Kindness and the male mental health campaign, NoShame, and is excited about the potential for events and workshops in these campaigns on campus.
New candidate Millie Loader hopes that being back at campus next year will allow her to ‘analyse the facilities that are only campus-based, and see what I can do to move them online – or find another way to make them more accessible’ for those who can’t easily make it to campus. She hopes to get first-hand student opinions on what can be done to improve their university wellbeing, pointing out that being on campus will aid greatly with this. She attributes her shyness and patience to the makings of a good Wellbeing Officer, and vows to listen to students to the best of her ability.
When asked about collaborating with other executive officers, Karli is quick to point attention to her collaborative manifesto effort with fellow running candidate, Annemarie Deeb, with their post-Covid recovery strategy. Recognising the significant collaborative effort between Wellbeing and Education Officer on return to campus in the next academic year, the implementation of the blended learning standard will allow students an non-pressured return as ‘we’re all at different stages of getting back to normal.’ Karli, as current Wellbeing Officer, has seen first-hand how student mental health has been impacted by COVID and lockdown, and a sudden return to campus will be detrimental to some people’s mental health. Our education must reflect that, so allowing students the option of campus-based and online learning will cater for students at all levels of recovery post-covid, and ‘look after their academia and wellbeing.’ Karli and Annemarie have also publicly endorsed and campaigned alongside Presidential candidate Rhiannon Jenkins – with their shared interest in many issues, notably tackling sexual violence on campus.
When Millie is posed with the same question, in regards to working with her potential fellow executive officers, she says she plans to work on events and workshops for student outreach. She provides the example of collaborating with the new Sports Officer to provide health and wellbeing events both online and on-campus dependent on government regulations. Additionally, she mentions working with the education officer ‘to develop educational workshops and events surrounding many different topics.’
When asked about her main priority from her manifesto, new candidate Millie Loader says she wants wellbeing services to be more accessible and inclusive for students. ‘Distance learners, commuters, students with anxieties among other things may find it difficult to access the uni’s facilities in the same way as others- for example I am a commuting student, and in my first and second year I felt very isolated and unable to attend events, workshops and join societies because of how hard it was to work around trains and lectures’. With the move to online learning this year, university facilities have been considerably easier to access as we all work from home, and Millie want to continue this even once restrictions are lifted so that everyone is having the same opportunities. ‘More and more students may be dealing with anxieties regarding being in close contact with other people after the lockdowns and finding ways to ease them back into it or make them more comfortable by being available online is my main priority.’
Karli maintains her main priority from her manifesto as the COVID recovery strategy, but within this, she recognises ever increasing demand for counselling services within the university, and hopes to work with a group of clinical psychology postgraduates to set up a counselling scheme for students to help to ease the strain and long waiting times. She also highlights the importance of outsourcing counselling support, reasoning that ‘we are an educational institution, and no matter how many councillors we employ, we will never be able to actually cater for every student’ so dealing with an external company will better meet that need. She also hopes to bring in a two personal tutor scheme in collaboration with Annemarie, to allow students greater support for all aspects of their life – whether it be personal or academic.
Millie cites her personal experiences for her inspiration for running. ‘Throughout the majority of my education, from secondary school to university, I have needed support from the wellbeing services the schools have provided, I know the importance of having a good support system that you can turn to.’ Her experience working ‘with charities supporting youth who have struggled in many ways’ has impassioned her to continue helping students to improve their wellbeing. She hopes to become accessible to all through introducing 1-1 chat sessions as Wellbeing Officer, in which students can come to her directly with any struggles or issues. In the Executive Election podcast this week, she notes that she doesn’t ‘interrupt people when they speak, and that has given [her] the ability to give the best possible help and advice’ and wants to avoid ‘generalising’ when addressing student needs and concerns.
Karli’s experience this year as Wellbeing Officer has allowed her to ‘form connections’ with the SU, societies and students which she only hopes to build on for another year. Despite only being able to carry out some of her planned campaigns due to the pandemic, Karli has already secured some wins for our return to campus, including university-funded sustainable period products for all toilets on campus. Through choosing to re-run for a second year, Karli wants to continue her work into creating a university-wide Wellbeing Wednesday, period inequality and sexual violence across the university, while also working alongside the Education Officer to bring a recovery strategy for all students.
Millie hopes to “care for [student’s] wellbeing more than they are already getting” and Karli hopes to “protect student’s wellbeing and academia” – but who will Leicester students vote to represent their interests?
Voting closes at midday on Friday 5th March, you can read manifestos and vote here