Collins enjoying Students’ Union role

Neil Collins is this year’s Welfare Officer in the Students’ Union and is tasked with dealing with a tough part of college life; the welfare of the entire DCU student body. He isn’t phased by it, as he tells Brendan White that it’s been an enjoyable few months in the job so far.

Our interview is less than a minute in and there’s a knock on the door. Neil answers, but is back within a minute. He starts to answer my question for a second time; the phone rings. Feeling the need to ignore the phone and continue the interview, he simply can’t. He can’t leave a knock unanswered or a phone unanswered. He can’t, and won’t leave a student needing help to lay idle.

Neil Collins is a busy man, a very busy man in fact. Meeting with students on a daily basis, attending meetings, setting up events while also dealing with the ever-growing paperwork involved with being a DCU Students’ Union sabbatical officer.

Mental health is a big part of the job but he is delighted with how things have gone so far in terms of preparation, and his passion for it knows no bounds. Mental Health week takes place in week six in semester one.

“As you can see there’s a lot going on”, Neil says, laughing to himself. “Since I’ve started working, it’s been about mental health. Mental health has definitely been my priority.

“Most of the things I do, whether it’s sexual health, or talking about drink, there’s always kind of a link to mental health, so that’s kind of the main thing.

“With mental health, we’ll be more of a consistent presence throughout the year, there’ll be more on-going stuff rather than just weeks here and there. There’ll still be a week campaign, Mental Health week in week 6, but I’m going to have a second one in the second semester as well. On the scale of things, mental health is firmly on top.”

He has spent the last few weeks organising SHAG week, Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance week, one of his two big events this semester.

Collins says that this week will be one of the biggest SHAG weeks compared to ones he has seen in other colleges. He is hoping that the week has a lasting effect on students who think more about their sexual health.

Neil is passionate about his role, and that passion shows strongly when he speaks about his nominated charity for the year.

“We pick some charities every year we’re going to fundraise for, and the charity I put forward was Headstrong, and thankfully it got voted our flagship charity for the year.

“That’s kind of huge because it’s a measureable way of saying that ‘these lads are acknowledging mental health and doing something about it’. That’s our flagship charity of the year, that’s the one I put forward, so I’m delighted.”
One big thing this year for the new team was the rebranding of SU. New signs and posters all over The Hub making it a brighter and more friendly looking SU, but where did the idea come from?

“We went to Leeds during the summer, to visit the Leeds SU”, Neil explains, “and if you’ve ever seen it or ever looked around different student unions, it stands out a mile. Their marketing, the way they market and brand their union is powerful.

“Like you can do all the good work possible, the stuff you do can be amazing and the work you do might be amazing, but at the end of the day if people don’t know that it’s you who is doing it. Then it doesn’t have the same effect. That’s why we have rebranded the whole place, the randing on the SU page as well is brilliant, and it’s way more studenty, more cooler.”
While only in the job a number of months, Neil looks back to see how it compares with what he expected.

“It’s what I expected it to be in some ways. It’s not until you get here that you realise what you need to do, and you realise the job itself. I had some ideas of what it would be like, but it’s only when you actually get in that you realise what your priorities need to be, what you need to do, and what’s actually important.

“It was similar, somewhat to what I expected, but I’ve been quite shocked by the amount of people that need help and assistance. There are positives to that too, that they are coming to look for help, which is great. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year, and I’m looking forward to kicking off these two campaigns.

“It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. I was here Saturday last week too until late enough; I was here until 1am Tuesday night and midnight on Wednesday night. During the day it’s very hard to get paper work done and emails done because you have to have your door open all the time to people coming in, and when you’re in, you have to give them your full attention.

“I’m not complaining at all, it is difficult to get stuff done, but that’s the job. It’s very busy but I’m really enjoying it so far.”

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