We held our first ever SU Scotland Lounge Special Event last month, 'On the Orange Sofa'. Steve Hall spent twenty minutes *ahem* interviewing John Walkinshaw live on Facebook, with other Lounge members joining in with questions and comments. Read some of how the interview progressed below...
Steve Hall Welcome John, to this Lounge Special Event. Thanks for agreeing to join me tonight. It would have been disastrous if I'd been on the sofa on my own! So, where are you really chatting with us from tonight, and what have you been up to today?
John Walkinshaw Thank you Steve, it's great to be here with you! The sofa's very comfy, slightly squishy... I'm really in my flat in Edinburgh, where I've been doing revision and coursework problems - I have an exam in just over a week! I'm studying a Law degree at Edinburgh University, which is really fun!
SH Ooooh. So when do you finish and are you planning to become a lawyer after your degree or something completely unrelated?
JW Well, I'm in my first year at the moment, so I will graduate in 2016. I'm not sure - when I started I didn't imagine being a lawyer, although now that I have discovered you get to wear a cloak.....
SH A cloak! Man, they didn't give me one of those for doing Maths... Maths would have been a whole lot more interesting with a cloak! I've heard you have to do a LOT of reading to do a law degree - is this true?
JW Yes, there is a lot of reading... but you get used to the workload; I find it interesting so I don't mind too much.
SH What kind of things do you get up to when you're not studying?
JW A whole variety actually! Lots of music, some painting, debating, badminton and meeting up with friends!
SH Brilliant. Anyway, the time's going fast - I obviously realise now that 20 minutes wasn't long enough! Stay with us as we're moving on to the real reason we're here, which is to find out more about SU Scotland's Student Exec. John, what is the Student Exec?
JW The SU Scotland Student Exec is a group of young people who meet 3 times a year to discuss different parts of SU Scotland's work and report to the Board on various issues. Sometimes we are asked to consider things, and other times we suggest points to be discussed ourselves. Ideally there are 10 members with one chair, although in reality there are usually about 5-10 people at each meeting. Our ages range from about 15-18 (4th year at school - school leavers/university age), although this is usually flexible. The chair is generally a bit older (I'm aged 20).
SH Yeah, I've heard you're called the "Chair" of the Student Exec... Why are you called a Chair???
JW Because I sit in a chair and everyone else sits on the floor....? Actually it is short for "Chairperson". "A person designated to preside over a meeting"... says the dictionary! I jointly put together the agenda for each meeting with an SU Scotland member of staff, and lead the meeting, keeping to the given time, avoiding too many tangents and keeping the general discussion relevant and moving.
SH How did you get involved with the Student Exec?
JW I got to know the regional worker in my area through various camps and events, and he put me forward for being a member of the Student Exec. The exec has representatives from the North, East and West regions (3 from each roughly). We meet three times a year: for a day in November and in June, and for a weekend each March.
SH Why did you want to be involved with the Student Exec?
JW At first, I was really interested to learn some more about the management of SU Scotland - how it was run and so on, and meet the people who ran the centres etc. From there, I was keen to help give input into some of the important issues which come up. I also found it great to hear the perspectives of people involved in different areas of the ministry - I'm mainly involved in residential camps, so it was great to hear about missions, school groups and what was generally going on in different parts of Scotland!
Jenny What is going on in different parts of Scotland, generally?
JW Lots of amazing things really!! I guess I was thinking fairly specifically so stories of (for example) SU Groups being started up in schools where the teachers and students are really receptive, and where there are increasing opportunities in schools where there haven't been previously. So in summary, a mixture of inspiring stories from other individuals, and general things across the whole of Scotland, like the above and new nationwide prayer events being added to the calendar.
SH You said you meet in November - so has that meeting just happened?
JW Yes - on the 17th. We met in Perth, along with SU Scotland’s Board and Management Team. The time was divided into joint sessions where we met with the board, and individual sessions where we discussed our own agenda (and vice versa). These included: strategy, church partnerships, the Scottish Youth Parliament, the SU Scotland Lounge (woo!) and prioritising the disadvantaged.
SH The SU Scotland Lounge must have been the highlight of your day then!!!
JW A DEFINITE highlight Steve!
SH John, you're amongst friends here, was the rest of the meeting boring? You know, in comparison to the wonder and marvel that is the Lounge.
JW I wouldn't say it was boring Steve - parts of the discussion involved a fair amount of detail, like percentage targets - the nitty gritty. I'm quite interested in any case, although I think it helps to look at the bigger aim when thinking about numbers and such!
Jason How long have you been a member of the Student Exec?
JW I have been a member for 3-4 years now (give or take!) I joined during my 5th year at school.
SH What kind of power do you, as a Student Exec, rather than as one man, have to actually affect SU Scotland policy?
JW Student Exec has a good degree of influence. It advises on a variety of specific issues; so for example for something like the SU Scotland Lounge we might get quite involved in discussing what the content could be/aims of the group and so on - which will all feed into the final decision. For more "high up" sort of things such as strategy/priorities - we wouldn't really comment too much on the actual priority, but more HOW it is implemented - and make sure that resources are being allocated so as to fit in with the strategy/priority.
SH How can folk support the Student Exec?
JW Prayer would definitely be a great first point of contact! It's really encouraging to hear that people are praying for us and we really value everyone's support. As well as that, if you happen to know a member then feeding them your thoughts can be helpful; although I would say that the point of Student Exec at the moment is not as an information gathering team!! - more a group of well placed individuals, but as I say if you know someone personally then it would be great if you could give them your individual support as well as praying for the Exec as a whole.
SH Awesome. We'd love to pray for you guys. I would be rubbish as a chair - I like talking too much - and have let this interview go an hour overtime!!! Many apologies. Thanks to everyone who has joined us tonight. I also want to thank especially John for kindly agreeing to be the first person to be interviewed on our orange sofa. You've been great John and it's been really interesting to hear all about the Student Exec and your role on it.
JW Thanks very much for having me Steve, it’s been great to chat with you on the sofa!
SH Brilliant! Let me pray for John and then we'll draw this On the Orange Sofa Special Event to a close. Father, may you reveal more of your awesome love for John as he spends time with you in prayer and reads the Bible. May you fill him with your Holy Spirit and give him a greater sense of your presence in his life. Impart wisdom to him beyond his years as he leads the other students in his role as Chair of SU Scotland’s Student Exec. Give him insight into what the Student Exec should be discussing and what challenges and encouragement they should be passing on to SU Scotland’s board and management team. We pray for the Student Exec as a whole and ask that you bless them individually, increasing their closeness to you and increasing their productivity as they study as they give up their time to serve SU Scotland and you in this way. Amen
The SU Scotland Lounge seeks to enable teenagers to explore the Bible, discuss issues of faith and find encouragement to follow Jesus. We do this through our blog and a private, invite-only Facebook group.