Marta Wnuk: “I appeal to all boards to prepare your Agora participants”


For sev­er­al years Mar­ta Wnuk was watch­ing the Ago­ra from one of the front rows. Next week in Berg­amo you will see her on stage – as Vice Chair of the Ago­ra. The Gold­en Times asked her about read­ing 500 moti­va­tion let­ters, being strict, the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of all anten­na names, the way a chair should be dressed and much more.

Marta Wnuk badge
Mar­ta Wnuk.

GT: At Ago­ra Berg­amo around half of the par­tic­i­pants has nev­er been at an Ago­ra before and might feel over­whelmed or lost. What is your mes­sage to them?
Mar­ta Wnuk: That is very strik­ing num­ber. And shows the huge impor­tance of right prepa­ra­tion before the Ago­ra. Again, I would like to advise all new mem­bers to turn to their local boards or oth­er expe­ri­enced mem­bers and ask them for intro­duc­tion to all basic terms. How­ev­er, when being already in Berg­amo there will be a chance to get to know what Ago­ra is about as on Fri­day there will be Ago­ra for New­bie ses­sion which I will lead. So I like to warm­ly invite every­one who feels the need to find your path among all those terms and pro­ce­dures.

GT: In the prepa­ra­tion of the Ago­ra, you and Chair Tom Simons had to read more than 500 moti­va­tion let­ters, some even in Ital­ian lan­guage. So what can you tell us about the moti­va­tion of the Ago­ra vis­i­tors?
Mar­ta: I can diplo­mat­i­cal­ly say that there is a big room for improve­ment. When it comes to moti­va­tion let­ters of vis­i­tors, unfor­tu­nate­ly there are few moti­va­tion let­ters that address in any way the con­tent of the Ago­ra or answer all ques­tions giv­en in the box when you fill the appli­ca­tion form. Also many peo­ple think that it is the local organ­is­ers who read moti­va­tion let­ters which is the rea­son why we got so much prais­es on Ital­ian cul­ture as rea­sons to be accept­ed.

Marta Wnuk Chair
One step up: Mar­ta chair­ing at the EPM in Lei­den in Feb­ru­ary 2016.

GT: How come that there is such a mis­con­cep­tion about the Ago­ra?
Mar­ta: I think the rea­son for the mis­con­cep­tion about the Ago­ra that many vis­i­tors have is the lack of guid­ance from their local boards. I would like to appeal to all boards to take more care of your mem­bers when it comes to Ago­ra prepa­ra­tions.

GT: You will have to pro­nounce the name of 180 locals cor­rect­ly. Will you prac­tice that before?
Mar­ta: Thanks to my expe­ri­ence as Net­work Com­mis­sion­er I am quite famil­iar with names of many locals. How­ev­er, I will sure­ly dou­ble-check some more chal­leng­ing pro­nun­ci­a­tion before the Ago­ra.

Marta Wnuk Chair2
The Chair Team in Berg­amo: Erik Steen­man, Tom Simons, Mar­ta Wnuk and Lia Tus­ka.

GT: Is the work of a chair­per­son just to speak on the micro­phone?
Mar­ta: It is def­i­nite­ly more than that. Before the Ago­ra itself a lot of work has to be done that is not usu­al­ly vis­i­ble. We are respon­si­ble for the selec­tion of par­tic­i­pants, which involves read­ing the men­tioned hun­dreds of moti­va­tion let­ters. We cre­ate the agen­da that has to reflect the essence of effi­cient deci­sion-mak­ing and com­bine var­i­ous request from the net­work at the same time. We issue var­i­ous open calls, coop­er­ate with locals organ­is­ers, Comité Directeur and Juridi­cal Com­mis­sion on the prepa­ra­tions. We often are the ones that have to com­bine dif­fer­ent views and expec­ta­tions and find a best solu­tion for all hav­ing the right con­duct of Ago­ra in mind.

Marta Wnuk Krakow
Mar­ta was Net­work Com­mis­sion­er before — here at the open­ing of NWM Kraków in 2015.

GT: Which do you think are the abil­i­ties a chair­per­son should have?
Mar­ta: Being a chair­per­son requires a very defined set of skills. I used to say that a good Chair­per­son should be like a good diplo­mat – respectable, rep­re­sen­ta­tive, knowl­edge­able and a mas­ter of a com­pro­mise. Now after being in that role for few months, I can add that he or she also has to be very well organ­ised, with an eye for details, open to dis­cus­sion but at the same time very deci­sive. Being strict with time, con­se­quent and adher­ing to the rules are also need­ed qual­i­ties.

Marta Wnuk Chair3
Ago­ra prepa­ra­tion of the Chair Team.

GT: How is the coop­er­a­tion with­in the Chairteam, espe­cial­ly with Tom Simons?
Mar­ta: Very good. We have very com­ple­men­tary views on the role of the Chair­per­son and a sim­i­lar atti­tude towards work on Ago­ra.  Our prepa­ra­tions go real­ly smooth­ly and in a very organ­ised man­ner.  Tom does his sec­ond term as a Chair­per­son so I can learn a lot from his expe­ri­ence, which I appre­ci­ate great­ly.  Also Lia, Erik and Sven­ja are a valu­able part of the team and I can say that we have real­ly great team dynam­ics.

GT: Will you be a strict chair? At the last Ago­ras some peo­ple were hard to sep­a­rate from the micro­phone…
Mar­ta: How strict I will be will depend more on peo­ple and cir­cum­stances, rather than on my own tai­lored-in-advance plan. On the one hand, I believe that the Ago­ra means own­er­ship of mem­bers for the future of the organ­i­sa­tion, so that they should have pos­si­bil­i­ty to voice their opin­ions and be lis­tened to. On the oth­er hand, the absolute pri­or­i­ty of a Chair­per­son is to assure a good and effi­cient con­duct of the Ago­ra, which means some unnec­es­sary dis­cus­sions have to be cut. The art of chair­ing an Ago­ra comes down to con­stant­ly bal­anc­ing those two aspects and decid­ing on what is the most impor­tant in a giv­en moment.

Marta Wnuk Wroclaw
Mar­ta Wnuk last week at NWM Wro­claw.

GT: You are always very ele­gant. What are the clothes and acces­sories that you will wear behind the chair table?
Mar­ta: I am a big fan of ties! But more on a seri­ous note, I think that vol­un­teer char­ac­ter of our organ­i­sa­tion does not mean that we shouldn’t strive to be pro­fes­sion­al. I believe that right appear­ance is a sign of a respect for oth­ers and shows that one takes its posi­tion seri­ous­ly. I am not the kind of per­son that dis­cuss­es clothes much but I can say that the Gen­er­al Assem­bly is a very spe­cial event of great rel­e­vance so my set of cloth­ing will be care­ful­ly adjust­ed to the occa­sion.

GT: Tell us how your AEGEE jour­ney start­ed. When did you join AEGEE and how?
Mar­ta: I joined AEGEE in March 2012. I was a sec­ond year stu­dent then and look­ing for some non-aca­d­e­m­ic activ­i­ties. The per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty came, when I got a leaflet at my uni­ver­si­ty adver­tis­ing a Local Train­ing Course orga­nized by AEGEE-Poz­nań. This is how I dis­cov­ered a whole new world of pos­si­bil­i­ties. I also met a won­der­ful group of peo­ple pas­sion­ate about East­ern Europe. I joined them and we end­ed up organ­is­ing two edi­tions of “I’m for the East!” Fes­ti­vals.  The first weeks in AEGEE deter­mined most of my lat­er choic­es and sparked my life with pas­sion with­out which I can’t imag­ine my life now.

GT: You were active in AEGEE-Poz­nań and board mem­ber of AEGEE-Warsza­wa, Con­tent Man­ag­er of the East­ern Part­ner­ship II project and Net­work Com­mis­sion­er. And now Ago­ra Vice Chair…
Mar­ta: Those four years I’ve spent in AEGEE were indeed incred­i­bly inten­sive. It was a roller coast­er of var­i­ous expe­ri­ences marked with many mile­stones. All I did I was doing with pas­sion and com­mit­ment.

Marta Wnuk Wroclaw2
At the NWM Wro­claw Mar­ta gave two Ago­ra prepa­ra­tion ses­sions.

GT: Which of your tasks was your best AEGEE expe­ri­ence?
Mar­ta: It is hard to choose one task or posi­tion or to say that one was bet­ter than anoth­er. All my tasks were valu­able in their own way.  When focus­ing on the last year only, I can say that I was real­ly proud of the East­ern Part­ner­ship Youth Con­ven­tion. I have nev­er had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet so many like-mind­ed peo­ple with whom I would have achieved such amaz­ing results lead­ing ses­sions as a train­er. Also being a Net­Com­mie was a very spe­cial and mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ence and I will nev­er for­get how much appre­ci­a­tion I have received from my locals when I was end­ing my term in NWM Kraków.

GT: You are regard­ed indeed as a very suc­cess­ful Net­work Com­mis­sion­er. How do you char­ac­terise this peri­od of your life?
Mar­ta: That is a big ques­tion. It was def­i­nite­ly the most chal­leng­ing and reward­ing task at the same time peri­od of my life. I have nev­er viewed by job as a Net­Com­mie as just a set of tasks.  I felt incred­i­bil­i­ty priv­i­leged by hav­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take care of the locals that I do know very well and I can have very per­son­al and direct con­tact with. I was also very grate­ful that locals from Ukraine trust­ed me and chose me to be their Net­Com­mie. I had an extreme­ly skill­ful and ambi­tious team of sub­com­mies that were my team of experts and my best friends at the same time. With great priv­i­lege there comes also a great respon­si­bil­i­ty. We were very aware of the impor­tance and impact of our work. That’s why we did our best, even fight­ing for what we believed is right. Look­ing back I think we achieved a lot and man­aged to organ­ise two Net­work Meet­ings that raised up to the high­est stan­dards. I was the most hap­py to see how my locals dealt suc­cess­ful­ly with chal­lenges and over­came dif­fi­cul­ties, how they start­ed to flour­ish and how won­der­ful­ly they can coop­er­ate with each oth­er.

Marta Wnuk EAP
Mar­ta was Con­tent Man­ag­er of the East­ern Part­ner­ship Project II.

GT: What was your moti­va­tion to chair­per­son? Is it the pow­er of the ham­mer or the glo­ry of the chair table?
Mar­ta: Near the end of my term as a Net­Com­mie I had a very clear feel­ing that this is exact­ly what I want to do next in AEGEE. I was very ful­filled after four years in AEGEE, but the thought of Ago­ra still brought me a thrill of moti­va­tion. I was always fas­ci­nat­ed by the process­es that con­sti­tute our Gen­er­al Assem­bly and want­ed to become a part of them. The chair­per­son has a very spe­cial role in this regard. It is a great priv­i­lege and a great respon­si­bil­i­ty. I applied for this posi­tion as I believed that I can con­tribute to effi­cient and qual­i­ty Ago­ra and at the same time gain a valu­able expe­ri­ence for my future non-AEGEE life.

Marta Wnuk PC
What will go on behind the Chair table? Will Mar­ta also spend so much time on check­ing pho­tos?

GT: Does the rule “Work hard, play hard” also apply to the chair? Will we see a lot of you at the par­ties?
Mar­ta: Being a Chair means more “work hard” than “play hard” and I don’t think it is pos­si­ble to keep the bal­ance here. For sure I would like to appear for few moments to talk with peo­ple more infor­mal­ly over the beer but I also know that good rest will huge­ly improve my per­for­mance as Chair the next day.


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