Speak // 10.12.2015 // Curated by Ed.

Building a Strong Student Voice, Together

According to Tasha Hohaia, student engagement and advocacy facilitator at Auckland’s Manukau Institute of Technology, the student voice should be second to none in New Zealand’s education sector.

“Students are the biggest stakeholders in any tertiary education institute – they deserve to be engaged and involved in the decision-making process,” says Tasha.

“It’s my job to foster and support the Student Voice Group here at Manukau Institute of Technology, so I work very closely with our team, made up of current MIT students.”

The team had humble beginnings, meeting casually over pizza in lunch breaks with little organisation or structure. Tasha saw an opportunity to make their student voice more effective.

“I had a good relationship with some people at Ed. Collective. We met to discuss what was working and to identify skill gaps within our team,” says Tasha.

“It was obvious we could benefit from training to understand and participate more confidently in formal committee meetings.

“Many didn’t even know what minutes were, or how to pronounce the word “aye”, or how to move a motion. Ed. Collective helped us, developing and delivering the training we needed.”

The training gave the team tools to share students’ feedback more constructively and to greater effect with the school’s decision makers.

“The way our team works has changed dramatically. They began to run their own meetings more formally, with minutes and actions to be taken before our next meeting,” says Tasha.

“They participate much more confidently on various committees, including Academic Board and Health and Safety Board meetings, Faculty meetings with their deans, and alongside other executive, academic or student support staff across MIT.”

Tasha believes Ed. Collective’s down-to-earth approach and provision of independent, third-party advice was critical to her team’s uptake of these new skills.

“They knew just how to work with our diverse group, ranging from mature tradespeople to young business students, and a great way of communicating to make the training fun but informative,” says Tasha.

Tasha says the training also equipped the team with professional skills they can use in their careers. Pasifika Rep and first-year building and construction student, Alani Taione, wasn’t very confident when he first joined the team.

“Now he’s really engaged in the meetings and is not afraid to action things, and he speaks up a lot more,” explains Tasha. “He’s soaring with confidence, and is now pursuing a path into politics.”

For Alani it was a natural leap to make, galvanising his life experience with new-found skills.

“The training led us toward a new way of working. We started to know what questions to ask and understand our roles when meeting with MIT’s executive, and know how to share students’ needs in a language that’s positive, so it’s a win-win situation,” says Alani.

“I want to link the voice of the people from the grassroots to the decision makers, and back down to the people, for us to be more connected.

“Now, I want to do more and set up a new political party for the next election. I might be the next Prime Minister of New Zealand, you never know!” says Alani.

Through this collective effort, Tasha and team have built a strong student voice base that will benefit all current and future learners at MIT.

“The student voice is really important. It often seems easier to just make decisions on behalf of people, but unless students are involved and engaged in the process they feel overlooked,” says Tasha.

“You’ll always get a better outcome if students know that their voice matters and is being listened to and considered; that it’s a valued part of the decision-making process.”