Orientation manager's job to ensure experience eventful

Otago University Students Association events manager Vanessa Reddy gets prepped for another...
Otago University Students Association events manager Vanessa Reddy gets prepped for another Orientation. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
As thousands of "shiny, wide-eyed" first-year students descend on Dunedin in the pursuit of higher education and social enlightenment, Vanessa Reddy is well prepared for another year of entertaining them.

The Otago University Students Association events manager and her team of staff and volunteers have a year of diverse events on tap for the student population.

Now in her fourth year as an events manager, and her 10th for OUSA, she continues to love the "remarkably varied" role.

From the initial event of Orientation, through to the Capping Show, Mothra Student Film Festival and regular market days, she organises it all.

"I'm always amazed that one minute I'm talking to a band in the green room, then I'm hanging art, or I'm at the pool, in jandals, getting soaked as hundreds of students cheer on their hall in swimming sports."

While there were low points of the job - when bands manage to leave their gear behind at airports, or collect the wrong gear (a more common occurrence than you might think), and some of the random demands they make to organisers, such as having a plain cheese pizza with a raw capsicum on the side awaiting them at the gig - supporting students was the best.

"Even though we are putting on all these things, we really want them to achieve in the classroom," Ms Reddy said.

She wanted OUSA events to provide a way to create memories and showcase student talent, but not distract from academic success.

A year spent travelling around universities in the United States showed her how their focus was on pastoral care for students.

If a student was seen to have problems, either with drugs and alcohol, or with their studies, support staff delved below the surface to find out where the behaviour stemmed from and help them overcome it.

First-years were "shiny, wide-eyed [and] ready to take anything on" while those returning were interested in different activities and wanted to find out "How am I going to stand out from the crowd?" when they entered the working world, she said.

And the event Ms Reddy will not be missing this year - the Saturday night gig featuring Minuit, Ladi 6, DJ Rekha, Metals, Kween G and DJ Bad Ezzy.

The assorted all-female line-up was "fantastic" and she was fizzing about seeing a great mix of New Zealand, US and Australian talent.

However, she understands it might well be her last.

With attempts to introduce voluntary student membership (VSM) to tertiary unions, OUSA events "could well all be over", she said.

Should VSM prevail, she had a few plans up her sleeve.

Name: Vanessa Reddy
Age: 35
Occupation: Otago University Students Association events manager
Years in role: Four
Study: University of Otago, 1994-1997, bachelor of education


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