New student leader to push AS@U profile
UCOL's new student president Danny Goodman is well prepared for the year ahead.
He brings with him a wealth of experience as a former police officer, multiple live acting appearances, being a slave to study more than once, and successfully managing his multiple sclerosis.
The freshly-elected AS@U (the Association of Students at UCOL) president started the role this year and is already in the midst of welcoming back the polytechnic's more than 4000 students, spread across three campuses in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton.
He has also met with UCOL's movers and shakers, is looking at the association's constitution and making plans for the year.
On his list of tasks is raising the profile of AS@U, ensuring the survival of the students' association since the Voluntary Student Membership law passed and lifting student engagement.
Mr Goodman is geared for the job with a CV boasting experience as a police officer, acting roles in more than 20 live theatre productions, holding multiple qualifications and being a student representative for a number of years.
His first career was pounding the pavements as a beat cop in Kings Cross, Sydney, for three years.
He then did seven years as a "water rat" for the New South Wales Water Police and five years as a criminal profiler for the New York Police Department.
Originally from Wellington, he came back to New Zealand after getting homesick and followed a girl to Palmerston North before settling in the city.
Mr Goodman has done an an associate degree in policing practice, an honours degree in applied science, is part way through a diploma in business and a certificate of performing arts.
His theatre appearances include roles in Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, Miss Saigon and, just last year, The Mousetrap, 'Allo 'Allo and Hairspray.
He has held the position of AS@U vice-president for more than two years and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, a condition he now has control over.
From his varied background Mr Goodman says he brings strong communications skills, the ability to "wheedle things out" and see situations from both sides.
"I consider myself a people person. You deal with people from all walks of life in this role and you get those in a tertiary institution. You get the young ones who are just out of school and the more mature ones with a bit of life experience who have come back to study.
"You've got to be able to look at things from the institute's point of view and from the point of view of the students, and that can be a fine line sometimes," he said.
"It gets you thinking outside the square, which is quite apt for Palmerston North because everything is outside The Square."
One of the big challenges was getting students enthused and engaged with what was going on, he said, which was especially important for UCOL with such a poor response in the past from the student body - only 28 people voted in last year's student election, up from 11 in 2012.
It had been harder since the Voluntary Student Membership Bill progressed through Parliament, Mr Goodman said.
It ended compulsory membership of student associations, making it voluntary and voiding a lot of the association's financial support and ability to run events and promotions, often the key way of catching students' attention.
"The post-VSM environment is tough and not being able to put on as many things for students, due to a lack of money, means the students' association has suffered from a lack of visibility," Mr Goodman said.
One of his main goals is fighting for the organisation's survival this year.
There's been some belt-tightening already with changes set to be passed during the annual meeting which will scrap vice-presidents from UCOL's campuses in Whanganui and Masterton because AS@U struggled to get people to fill those positions and can no longer pay them.
There is a vice-president, an office manager turned finance administrator, and an office assistant who runs the association's shop in Queen St, Palmerston North.
"Unfortunately, there's not a huge support network, but they say it's lonely at the top and in my work it is, because we don't have the money to pay others," Mr Goodman said.
AS@U still receives funding from UCOL through a service levy helping it to provide student health services, free buses, student events, fellowship, advocacy, mediation, support if things turn sour with the polytechnic or others, and a sense of belonging and community.
"UCOL needs to blow its own trumpet more and I'm going to try to do that."
* An earlier version of this story contained some errors. They were regretted, and have been fixed.