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Our Journal

Introducing Andy Irwin

Our new Students' Union Manager gives his top tips on making the most out of your time at college.

Andy Irwin is Plymouth College of Art’s new Students’ Union Manager. Originally from Preston in Lancashire, he lived in Stoke-On-Trent for five years while at Keele University, before coming to Plymouth in July this year. Andy graduated in English and Politics in 2011, and then with a MA in Politics in 2012. A keen writer, skier and football enthusiast, we can’t think of anyone better to be running the Students’ Union.

Hi, Andy. Welcome! What do you do at the College and what were you doing before?
Thanks. I've recently become Student Union Manager here, which is a new role to help with the development of the Students' Union. At Keele I was the Content Editor for Concourse Magazine, and I was Webmaster for a couple of politics research groups but these roles were voluntary. Before starting at the college, I was the full-time President of Keele's postgraduate students' union, which was a registered charity and looked after about 1500 students. While I was studying for my Masters I worked for Waterstones and a motorway service station - so when I wasn't doing uni work I was carrying boxes of chicken off vans and into KFC freezers. I ran an office for an Member of Parliament one summer and I was even a baker for a while. I like to think I've packed quite a bit into six years of adulthood.

What attracted you to the SU position?
I loved working for the two students' unions at Keele, first as a volunteer and then as a full-time member of staff. Students unions really are incredible places, they're hubs of activity that can change the world when collective minds come together. I saw the SU position at Plymouth College of Art as a chance to build something up for students in a new environment, so that prospect was also exciting. My background is very political, and I've always recognised that students unions are where the little things that make a big difference happen - from students having their voices heard in the College and the local community, to bringing people together for an event or activity, in the name of charity, raising awareness of a worthy cause, or just because like-minded people want to come together to do something they love.

What are your first impressions of the college?
Students' work is wonderfully vibrant and creative, which you would expect from an art college. Still, I'm genuinely impressed by the flair that our students have. The new building looks amazing and it's very clear that things are going on here and that the College is growing. The staff have also made a very positive impression on me, the Estates team are absolutely brilliant and can't do enough for you, and the Student Support team (which I actually fall under) is also superb and really knowledgeable.

So, what exciting plans have you got in mind for the Students’ Union?
It's a case of knuckling down at the moment to deliver something positive for welcome events during Freshers' Week. High on my list of priorities is promoting the students' union as a body that has the potential to deliver a great deal of student-led activity and change, but Freshers' Week is a big thing for me at the minute. We have the SU elections in October where we will hopefully get a team of students to help run their students' union, so after the elections I will be part of the process of training the new team as well.

I want to make sure that we're able to roll out a regular and diverse programme of events. October is Black History Month - during which the SU will be celebrating the work of black artists and designers. We’ll also be launching a series of awareness campaigns during Freshers' Week (covering accommodation, money management, sexual health, safety in the community and wellbeing). I've just launched a new website (www.pcasuonline.wordpress.com) too. After that, it'll be a case of helping students to lead the sort of student activities they want to participate in, and organising the events they want to see as well as providing a representative voice for them across the College.

What advice would you give to students on how to make the most of their time at university/college?
Make the most of the opportunities available to you. I concentrated on a fairly unsustainable mix of working and partying for three years. I did well out of it and had the time of my life, but I also came away with a lot of debt and too many grey hairs. One of the regrets that I was able to put right in my postgrad year was to get involved in other things, like the magazine and the students' union. This was easily as good for my experience and development as my degree, but it also complimented it. I made a lot of friends through trying new things and not being afraid to use my creativity to make people laugh or make a point. My motto at University was a tragic little line that I pulled from an album sleeve a few years ago, but it's served me quite well, 'chase the last light of the day', and you won't go too far wrong.

For more information or to get involved with the Plymouth College of Art Students’ Union visit: www.pcasuonline.wordpress.com