When I went to meet Cody Byrne, the Vice President for Welfare and Equality in the DCU Student Union, I was excited at the chance of learning about his college experience and why he has held onto this special university for so long. Cody spent the first eleven years of his life in New Jersey in the United States, he moved with his family to Cavan which he mentioned was a huge culture shock. And at age eighteen Cody set off for the big smoke and settled in Dublin city.
When I asked Cody, what drew him to DCU, initially he said he wasn’t sold, all his friends were headed to DCU and he wanted to do something different. However, within two weeks he fell in love with the place. Having transferred from Journalism to Health and Society and eventually a year later settling on Psychology, Cody had a good sense of all aspects of DCU. ‘I didn’t want to leave DCU at that stage I loved it’
The SU Officer recalls singular events that made his college experience so amazing, being a part of Global Brigades, volunteering abroad and even the ski trip he took with the Snow Sports Society. His favourite part of college however was watching himself become a person he was confident to be ‘simple things like seeing myself get more confident in things, it’s nice to reflect back and think oh I remember in first year I had difficulty making conversation and now five years later I’m in front of 300 people making speeches’
When asked about why he ran for the Student Union he reveals it was nothing spectacular that made him want to take the plunge and apply for the role, but merely a passing comment on a night out ‘Lorna Finnagan told me I’d be good at it in a bar and that comment just stuck with me’. I think it’s clear to say that Lorna was right as Cody has blossomed into the role. This is clear from the get go when he spoke at the Orientation talk at the beginning of the year. Speaking in front of students and faculty Cody proudly acknowledged that he was gay, and what an impact he made ‘Three people messaged me on Facebook a week after saying that after I said I was gay in front of all the students they went back and told their parents they were gay, that was nice’
Cody says that the best part of the job is the interactions he gets to make with people. And the interactions they make with him. He notes that on really hard days he tries to stay as positive as possible ‘I actually have a folder in my computer and it’s all positive messages so if I ever feel tired I just read them’
The Welfare Officer had a lot to about mental health in DCU, noting that we have yet to really develop coping mechanisms ‘We are a generation without resilience’. Cody notes that the things we see on social media can distort how we see ourselves and that the media can really aid in the misconstruction of our self-identities. His main mission as of now is to get people talking openly about not just their mental health but also their sexual health. ‘When I walked into this job I thought it would be mental health, mental health ,mental health, now I’m realising its all sexual health that’s what I dealt with. There is a sexual health stigma more than anything else’
On a final note, Cody has a poignant message for HerCampus readers, and it’s not what you would think. ‘You should be tired in college, if you’re not tired in college you’re not doing it right. College is the perfect time to develop your mind set. Don’t be complacent. There’s a session on today about volunteering abroad? **ck it I’ll go and see what happens.9 times out of 10 it’s going to pay off. Don’t read this article at home and think oh yeah that’s good advice and go back to scrolling through Facebook’.
As Cody, will not be running for Welfare and Equality Officer again I asked, what’s next? ‘I would love to continue what I’m doing now but on a bigger scale’ in human rights or activism’. I think it’s clear that no matter where he is headed next his impact on DCU has been a big one. From speaking with him I can tell how empathetic and genuinely concerned he is for students. Even towards the end of the interview he asked me ‘so all good with you?’ and not because he feels like he must but simply because he wants to know how you’re doing and that’s a lovely thing to be aware of. To know a member of your Student Union has the best interest of the students at heart.
Photo and thumbnail by Síona Cahill