Humans of La Trobe – Kat Nordern

Kat Nordern is an advocate at the La Trobe Student Union, helping students with any problems they may face (academic or otherwise) and the perfect hum for the Queer edition of Humans of La Trobe!

How long have you been at La trobe and what do you do?
I work at the La Trobe student union as an advocate, but that’s half my job. I also work with Office Bearers (the student representatives) on policy. I have been at La Trobe University for about 3 years, but I’ve been working in student unions since 2004, more than ten years. This is actually the longest job I’ve ever had!

So you’ve been through a few jobs? A couple of years here and a couple there?
Doesn’t everyone do that? I really like working for student unions. Love working with students, they are friendly, kind and I mean it’s a nice working environment

What keeps you at La Trobe?
I really like working at the university. It’s really friendly. The ducks! That’s what we all come for right? Staff at LTSU are fantastic, really awesome.

Describe the role of an advocate? What do you do on a daily basis?
This is always interesting. What I tell to complete strangers who want to know what it is, when students are in trouble with the university, or the university is in trouble with them, my job is to help them in the process. We actually deal with a lot of issues, mainly administrative, academic or even welfare issues they might have. If its something we can’t fix, we’ll make sure they get to the place they need to get help. So we do a lot of referrals. I always tell students if you have any issues, come to the student union. We’ll make sure you get the help.

Students might feel like their problems are too small or not worthy of seeking help for, so what are more specific examples of some queries you’d receive?
The main issues that we see are academic misconduct, unsatisfactory progress letter, special consideration, taking leave, not happy with a mark you got on an assignment, if you think there’s something unfair happening in your course. So basically anything that there’s a policy or procedure for at the university, its our job to understand that policy, and help students understand it too.

Is it purely academic?
We can also assist with the complaints process, which may or may not be academic. There can be complaints about other things that are not studies. So basically, anything at university we’ll be able to find a way.

We have many students out there who come out during their time at university. They could feel lonely or not know where to go. University is a big intimidating place. What’s you advice?
This is something I understand, as a Queer woman. There are definitely services at La trobe set aside for students that need that support. If you put in LGBTQI on the La Trobe search button its all there. There’s networking, events and where to get support. There’s a lot of stuff here available to all students.

Lets picture the mind of a queer seventeen year old, coming to university. What is the first step they should take? What would you do?
It’d all depend on how distressed I was of course. However, nothing can really replace the role of counselling. It’s a great place to start. They will give some great advice. I’ll note though, and this goes for all students, not just queer students, get involved. It’s the best thing you could ever do. This is in clubs or societies on campus. For Queer students I’d say get in contact with your Queer officers in the student union. Meet other like-minded people. Studies show this is what leads to success, getting involved, finding people with a similar mindset, people you can talk to. I’ve found students get the most help when they come together and receive support from friends. That’s my number one piece of advice, for anyone at all, get involved.

Any other words of advice for students?
Ask for help, its quite hard and I understand. I can’t stress enough the importance of talking to people. Ask for help when you need it. La Trobe is the sort of campus where if you don’t know whom to ask, ask anyone, they’ll point you in the right direction. Otherwise, just come to the student union!

By Kevin Kapeke interviewing Kat Nordern

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