Student profile: Corina Deacu
Meet Corina Deacu, a final-year student from the School of Engineering and Materials (SEMS). Corina speaks to us about what it’s like to be a Course Rep, what’s on her reading list for 2020 and the importance of the student voice and having your say, which is especially important with yesterday’s launch of the National Student Survey.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you study
I am a Biomaterials for Biomedical Sciences student in SEMS. I am currently in my fourth and final year of study, after having completed placement year in the R&D Department of a materials consultancy – I learnt a lot and worked on some really exciting projects, like finding alternative materials for fillers in cosmetics, in light of the single-use plastic ban.
In addition to my role as a Course Representative, I’ve recently begun working as a Student Voice Intern. I work closely with Leigh, the Education Coordinator at the Students’ Union, to help to train and organise new Course Reps. I’ve also created Course Rep of The Month as a way to celebrate success stories.
What is your role as a Course Rep/how long have you been a Course Rep for?
I was elected in my first-year. The process has changed recently, as now Course Reps are elected every year rather than for the duration of the course. My role is to make sure I’m as visible to peers as possible so that I can collect feedback and queries to be presented at Staff Student Liaison Committee (SSLC) meetings. I also act as an advocate for my course and encourage two-way communication between staff and students.
Why did you decide to become a Course Rep?
I was approached by the SU at the Welcome Fair and decided to go for it. I was a part of the student council at school and so it felt like a natural step to get involved here and put myself forward. It also gave me a sense of belonging as a new student and allowed me to get to know my School and the staff. I was running against three other candidates, which was quite competitive in a course of only 60 people - it was a nice surprise to be voted for!
Tell us about what the commitment is like being a Course Rep. How much time does it take you? What does it involve?
I attend four SSLCs per year. In between, I send out fortnightly emails to remind my peers that I’m there and to signpost them to other services that they might need – knowing who the relevant staff members are makes this a lot easier. It’s also about being observant and aware of things that are going on.
Who are the staff members you work closely with in your role?
What’s the issue/topic you are most passionate about?
This is something that I’m continuing to tackle in my Student Voice Intern role. I find that Schools as a whole can sometimes refer to the student experience as a whole, when there are a whole range of nuances to this depending on whether you’re a UK or an international student, part of a vulnerable group, BAME and so on. I want the student experience to be more tailored to these differences.
How did you make a difference in your school/faculty/department?
I’ve helped to establish a two-way line of communication between my peers and the School, as it makes the process way more efficient. I’ve recently been invited to join the Graduate Outcomes Survey board, where members of staff from across the University come together to discuss topics such as graduate satisfaction and employability. I’ll be representing SEMS and this is due to the great partnerships I’ve built with staff during my time as a Course Rep.
What is your proudest achievement as a Course Rep?
I’d say my biggest achievement was in my first year. There was a timetabling issue where days were split between Whitechapel and Mile End, with no break in between. I took this feedback to the School, and the course was reformatted the next year. This was a really empowering moment for me, as I think every Course Rep aspires to be seen as reliable to their peers and listened to and viewed as an equal by their School - this definitely did that for me.
Why do you think it’s important for students to share their feedback on the student experience?
Going back to what I mentioned earlier, I don’t think the university experience is something that’s transactional. It’s important for students to know that they get a say, especially those that may have struggled with setbacks. Going to uni is also like a transition into adulthood, so students should be able to have a customised experience that suits their needs.
Why do you think it’s important for there to be a student voice?
It’s a really useful way to tell the University what they’ve done well so they can continue to do so, and to give feedback on areas that could be improved. It empowers the people that matter the most – students. That’s why it’s important to take part in surveys like the National Student Survey (NSS), because it gives final-year students the opportunity to voice what they liked about studying here and to suggest improvements for the next generation of students.
What advice would you have for someone who is considering becoming a Course Rep?
Be brave! Be vocal and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. It can be intimidating to do this in a room with your lecturers and other academics, but this is your chance to make real change. Remember, that’s the reason why these meetings exist. Once you get over this barrier, it’s a really great feeling when staff buy into your ideas.
What’s the training like? Did you learn anything that helped in other areas of your life or course?
There are different types of training offered by the SU, beginning with generic training which outlines the role and what’s expected of you. There’s also the Student Partnership Conference (SPC) which is a whole day of training, focusing on personal development with workshops on leadership, negotiation and employability. Further training is available to Course Reps from October to March by the QM Skills Award, aimed at enhancing your skillset in areas ranging from first aid to interviewing, which I’ve found to be really helpful.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Any interesting hobbies?
I go to loads of yoga classes and I also like to read a lot. Recently, I’ve taken up boxing.
What’s your 2020 book list?
I’ve got a goal to read 15 books this year, and I’m doing pretty well so far as I’ve read two over January! I’ve just finished Out of Egypt, an autobiography by André Acimaen. It follows his childhood and having to leave Egypt due to being Jewish – it’s a really powerful and emotional read! I’ve also finished Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, I’d recommend anything that she writes.
Where’s your favourite spot on campus?
It would have to be the benches by the canal, especially over the summer when it looks really pretty. I lived in Pooley House during my first year, so I’ve got many fond memories of hanging out there with my friends.
Who would your dream dinner party guest(s) be?
I’d actually like to have dinner with my teenaged self, so I could give her the knowledge I have now – it would be a really self-reflective evening!
Who’s your role model?
Brené Brown, for sure. I think she’s incredible – she speaks about subjects which have stigmas around them, so naturally, we don’t want to talk about them. Her work is about opening up, putting yourself out there and allowing yourself to fail, as she believes that this is the formula to living a full and more content life. It’s based on a decade of research and test interviews, so she didn’t just think of it in the shower and decide to share it with the world! Her work has made a difference to my life, as it’s taught me to let myself be vulnerable and to put myself in more uncomfortable positions.
To find out more about becoming a Course Rep, click here.
If you are a final-year student and you wish to complete the NSS, click here. You can claim a £5 gift voucher to redeem at selected campus catering outlets for taking part!*
*Just forward the email you receive on completing the survey, including your name and student ID number, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will send you your £5 voucher within two weeks. This reward is available to those who complete the NSS by Monday 17 February.