Student unions make university life more exciting

This Tuesday, the American ambassador Rufus Gifford paid a visit to the Department of Political Science and Government. The visit was organised by two student unions.

2014.04.11 | Nina Hermansen

Emil Zink Tronche and Maria Mundt from PF and IP-NU welcomed Ambassador Gifford. PHoto: Lars Kruse, AU Communication

Organising major events with very important guests would make most of us break a sweat and lie awake at night.

But the young political science students who volunteer for the student unions, the Politological Society and IP - NU, do not let the pressure get to them. In recent years, the two unions have organised major events with such prestigious guests as the Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh, and the Danish ambassador in the Ukraine, who came to AU to talk to the students and lead debates.  

On Tuesday 8 April, the unions had once again joined forces and invited the American ambassador Rufus Gifford. The large lecture theatre at the Department of Law was crammed with students who were ready to debate anything from the Crimean crisis to the NSA’s surveillance programme and the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement.

Click here to see photos from the event.

The event was organised by the International Centre, but all the practicalities were handled by the department’s student unions.

“Doing this encourages me in terms of my studies as well. The student unions contribute to making university life more exciting – and it is just such a giving experience for all of us,” says Mia Rytter Lund from the Politological Society in answer to the question of why she is willing to work more than ten hours per week as a volunteer.

Every year, the unions hold five events of varying scope, and the purpose is to give the political science students new perspectives on issues they deal with in their studies and to give them a more practical view of what life will be like once they have earned their degrees.

“It gives us more motivation in the courses we are taking – but it’s also about networking and working together on a fun project. We get to meet a lot of exciting people, both here at the university and out in the real world. And this is something we will all be able to use in our further careers,” says Kirstine Juul Holm from the union IP - NU.

In the days leading up to the ambassador’s visit, she spent a lot of time coordinating and preparing topics for the ambassador to address. Unlike the Politological Union, the sole goal of IP-NU is to promote debates about international politics among students and faculty at the department.

Encourages dialogue 

When asked how they have managed to get someone like Fogh and Gifford to come to AU, Mia Rytter Lund and Kirstine Juul Holm have one simple answer: they find that the university encourages dialogue between people, and this makes people want to visit us.

“In the case of Anders Fogh, I actually think he contacted the university himself, because he wanted to come talk to the students,” says Mia Rytter Lund. Kirstine Juul Holm proceeds to explain that it is often easier to attract the big names, because they know they will get speaking time.

“We have a much harder time getting people to come to the smaller events. We are voluntary organisations, so we don’t have money to pay them.”

It was not hard convincing Rufus Gifford to visit AU, and he was clearly excited about meeting all the eager and inquisitive students.

“What I really like to do in groups like this is to open it up for questions. Certainly let's talk about Russia and Crimea, but everything is on the table. Knowing Danes, I know you are very knowledgeable and curious about the American political system, and I can talk about that very easily. So I am very happy to talk about my past life - and very happy to talk about my current life,” said Gifford at the event on Tuesday. He was behind the most expensive election campaign in the history of politics, when he was fundraiser for President Barack Obamas campaign in 2012.

“I love these forums; mostly because I do want to hear from you. It is part of my job. A lot of people ask me: How hard can your job be? You're in Denmark. The truth is that the job is what you make it. And I won't stop moving. I will continue to work as hard as I can. So hopefully I will hear from you more than once - assuming you will listen.”

Should Rufus Gifford come back to AU, it will likely be the student unions that will be pulling the load again.