We made the Union cooler

 VP for Education Collie Ollie talks to the College View about Calvin Harris, criticism and nearly setting the house on fire

by Ceile Varley

Collie Oliver points out his thesis poster “sitting proudly” on the wall of his office. Beside his desk hangs the DCUSU manifesto.  Beside it three small cutouts of Collie, Cillian and Ed. Collie stands in the middle.

He says that he has “never liked being part of the crowd. Why be no-body when you can be somebody?” He talks about the importance of entrepreneurship, of self starting. He is planning his own business. “Be it in work or business, wherever you get the chance to be somebody – go for it.”

Collie is 23 years old, and has been in DCU for six years. Three years studying Business, one year work experience, one year MA in Marketing. Last year he was DCUSU campaigns and information officer. This however will be his last year.  “This is my last year here. 100%. I can’t run again and don’t want to run again. I’ve done my bit so I’ll leave happy at the end of this year. ”

He has spent the day doing campus tours and is tired but perks up when we start talking about his role. He is clearly very passionate about it and wants only one thing – to make the union fun.

He says, “Last year myself and the guys – Cillian and myself –  without sounding cliched made the union that little more cooler, that little more open than it had been previously. I think we did succeed in that. We saw a lot of new faces that you wouldn’t have seen before.”

Collie came to DCU at 17. He picked DCU because he liked sports – tennis and badminton – and lived “only down the road”, in Beaumont. He had initially wanted to do primary school teaching, but “bottled honours Irish”.  He chose Business.

He says, “I loved it from day one. My only regret is not getting involved sooner. It’s easy to say that in hindsight but first year flew by. I only went to lectures and didn’t really do any extra stuff.”

He got involved at second year, with tennis and badminton clubs, with Esoc and as a class representative. “I like being in a position of leadership, I like being able to dictate and solve issues and problems and be that voice, the intermediary between students and lecturers. I like organising parties! It all goes hand in hand.”

After his degree he completed an MA in Marketing, which he said gave him invaluable experience working with the real world. “It prepared me for my job last year – it was very hands on and so is the job. They don’t really give you much training so you’re thrown in at the deep end a bit.”

He ran for election in 2010 for the position of campaigns and information officer and was memorable as the only candidate from that year to write a poem for hustings. He said that he ran because he had a “big passion for student welfare, a big passion for creativity in events.”

He said that he had never been “heavily involved” in the students union but had “a lot of interest in student welfare. I wouldn’t say I’m political by any means, nothing to do with it at all. No that sounds wrong. I obviously have a keen interest in student politics but nothing outside of that realm. I have no interest in pursuing anything like that.”

He says his position is “one of the best jobs in the entire world. One day you might be dealing with, I don’t know, a really upset fresher who for some reason couldn’t make friends or was depressed and an hour later you might be having a beer with Calvin Harris. It’s a really really exciting job.”

He continued, “I obviously don’t like students coming in upset, it’s terrible to see. I like to think that we can make a stab at solving everyone’s problems – obviously we’re not perfect and the one’s that you really worry about are the ones that slip through the cracks – the ones that leave without really getting help or giving it a shot. That’s the worst part of the job.”

“It’s also very hard to please everybody. No matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you want it – over a thousand people have voted for you and you just can’t please all the people who will give you stick no matter how many hours you put in – because some weeks you could see yourself putting in 70/75 hours but you’ll always have somebody who’s not pleased.”

He said, “The work never stops. Campaigns & Information ended on June 14 and Welfare started June 15. A break was needed because you have to separate the jobs.”

He had a three week holiday, going to San Diego, Los Vegas and Tijuana. “I came back refreshed and broke. And hungover. Ready to start again. Brand new role and a brand new team. Well, nearly a brand new team. Obviously Cillian is still hanging around like myself.”

Ed Leamy is the only new addition to the SU team this year. I asked Collie if there was a different dynamic in the office. “There is yes. Now obviously Meg left her mark on the year and it was sad to see her go but that’s part of the job. And Ed’s leaving his own mark on the job. We’re getting on great so far.”

I asked what kind of mark he wants to leave? “Eh…that’s a very deep question!”

He talks about making the union more approachable, making it less intimidating. He also wants to improve entertainment, as it’s “one of the areas where we cater to the whole student body rather than just a niche few”.

“I’m a firm believer in the power of numbers. One of the reasons that we hired Emer our new Marketing officer is to get a  bit of PR, a bit of publicity that’s needed for campaigns.”

“Last year we had a sort of tunnel vision I suppose. We thought we could do everything ourselves and run great campaigns. We ran some very good ones. But also.. I’ll put my hands up and say some of them – well, two or three of them – were very, very (long pause) average. We got the message across but could have harnessed more resources externally. We thought we could do it ourselves but then it’s easy to see in hindsight.”

He went on, “Last year our please talk campaign, although It could have appealed to more people, had some great ideas including the please talk wall. Which we’ll be doing again this year.

Other colleges are actually going to run along the same lines as us so it’ll be a bigger event. We’re going to see if we can cover a bigger area as well, maybe a wall in the venue.”

He remembers coming to DCU at 17. “It was very very daunting. It’s easy now to be very confident with crowds and giving presentations but…I was a tiny first year. 5’5/6 and just started college. And I only had one friend, I suppose. One of the guys in my school that went to DCU and although I met a lot of friends in my course i didn’t really get involved until second year.”

I asked him if he’s changed since then. “My principles haven’t changed. My morals haven’t changed but I’ve grown in character and that’s what DCU does for you.”

He continued, “I’ve become more confident in public speaking. More socially and emotionally developed. I was very shy back in first year but that’s the only change – I suppose I’ve got taller as well. Put on a few pounds.”

He advises first years to “get involved from day one – employers don’t just want academic people, or nerds for want of a better word, but rounded people.

You only have three years – well, I’ve had six years – but you only have 24 weeks in the year, before you know it’s Christmas – don’t miss lectures, balance between social and extracurricular. If you’re gone to week 10 or 11 without going to lectures there’s a problem.”

“Do I have any disaster stories? I’m sure there’s a few drunken stories.”

“There’s one night, let me have  a quick think back, see when it was again…Christmas ball 2009 I think – just after reading week Final year – and a few of the guys were going on placement so it would be the last time we’d see each other. Got a bit messy. Went home, put on a sandwich in the George Foreman. Forgot to turn it off. Fell asleep on the couch and woke up the next day. The George Foreman had short circuited thankfully otherwise it woud have been on fire. Only thing left was this nice black frisbee of bread. And my mother found me on the couch with this nice smell of burnt sandwich all around the house.”

“Another issue close to my – this is going to sound so wrong – close to my heart is definitely sexual health awareness. I’m not talking from personal experience here or anything else but it’s very easy for students to leave the home and come to college and be exposed to all this drinking and partying and promiscuous behaviour.

He continued, “It’s riskier for girls than for guys because girls are obviously more open to exploitation. It’s very easy to lose sight of morals and whatever , especially with a bit of alcohol, so what I will say is always think contraception.”

We had a brief diversion where he told me a story – “from College View years ago, or maybe an Tarbh” saying that Larkfield was the most sexually active campus in Dublin at the time.

He went back to the question. “It’s easy for students to become sexually active in college and we’re all exposed to a lot of stds – many are silent so you don’t know you’re a carrier. So for all of shag week we’ll have –  now, this is not confirmed yet but hopefully – free std testing that week for all students.”

So what’s next for Collie? Characteristically he has a “few little ideas. I have my own company that’s nearly set up called University Entertainment group. I’ve been working in that genre since I was 16 but have only branded it recently.”

Collie worked for Red Bull on campus for years and still does, part time.”Six or seven hours a week”

He says, “I’m Student Brand Manager for DCU so whenever clubs or societies have events i can provide them with stock, different red bull branded stuff.” He said it “works hand in hand” with his role as VP.

He goes on “Red Bull was another job, a brand that’s been every close to my heart so I wouldn’t mind working there either. They’ve been very good to me over last four or five years.”

He says his company “won’t be launched until this job finished. But hopefully the grant will come through and I’ll take on Ireland in the entertainment world.”

Leaving his office I ask if there was anything else he wants to say. There is only one thing.

“Can we get a better photo? Jesus Christ. Talk about wasted.”

He promises to send on the “Perfectly edited and photoshopped” pictures from a recent photoshoot and the interview is over.


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