Eleven months later, I’m sat at my desk in The Students’ Union reflecting on what I have managed to achieve this year. The experience of the elections, individual projects, working alongside staff, the university directorate and the students has been an opportunity that I will never forget. My main aim this year was to address the collaboration and inclusivity of societies and provide support to those looking to develop their employability skills. I was passionate about getting students engaged with The Students’ Union and recognising everything that we offer.
The role of Vice President Societies & Communication gave me the opportunity to get involved in a wide variety of projects, including being an advocate for gender equality and against the injustice of sexual harassment. I was enthusiastic to collaborate with Bristol Students’ Union on their annual march; Reclaim the Night, which encouraged students to stand together against this oppression. The night was incredible to be involved with, being in amongst the students and campaigning for something that I really cared about. The march pushed me to explore training for our society and sports committee members, to develop their understanding and address the toxic masculinity embedded within University culture. Working with the Opportunities team, Serena (VP Sports & Health) and I implemented ‘Teaching Individuals Gender Equality and Respect’ into our compulsory committee training and ran sessions throughout our Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance Week. The engagement with these voluntary workshops encouraged me to address the levels of student participation in union-led activities.
Throughout the course of January, I lead the development of the Engagement Strategy alongside the other elected officers at The Students’ Union. The aim of the strategy was to create a solid, sustainable plan that would evaluate student participation in The Student Union events. We decided to launch the strategy in January, creating a timeline of engagement with two specific campaigns or activities each month to drive student awareness. The team was committed to this Engagement Strategy, trialling new ways to advertise and promote the work that the Union delivers. We found, on all of our campuses, that talking to students is the best method to develop student involvement and improve their understanding of The Students’ Union. We compiled our findings into a report and submitted it as a paper to the Board of Trustees, who endorsed the paper and praised the team for our awareness and proactive approach towards student engagement. The recognition for our hard work over the course of January was a positive moment during my sabbatical year as I felt that I was truly working towards changing the organisation into a committed and driving force that represented the student voice.
Enhancing student experience and collaboration was a fundamental part of my manifesto, so I worked in partnership with Jamie (VP Education) and team Representation to develop a sector-leading structure and bridge the gap between Student Reps and academic societies. Improving this collaboration was important to us as we felt that if societies were able to network with student reps, our students would have another opportunity to feedback about their course as well as developing relationships with other student groups. We created a proposal that we presented to the University directorate, to secure a minimum of £2,000 in funding to support the project. This investment in our societies was a massive win for me as it represented the University’s willingness to support our students in enhancing the academic experience overall. We selected four academic societies to trial this with, which my successor will launch in the next academic year.
Looking back, my biggest achievement this year was hosting the annual Societies Awards Ball. The awards were an unforgettable experience to organise; creating a detailed timeline, budget projection and predicting our sales, were all aspects of the role that I had never experienced previously. The components required to host a successful event helped put my time management and organisational skills to good use, understanding how significant little details are. By hosting the event and seeing all of our societies come together to celebrate their hard work, I felt truly honoured to be their elected representative. The Societies Awards Ball ran smoothly, with minor glitches, and gave me the opportunity to remember why I ran in the elections and reflect on my passion for the student groups that shaped my experience at university.
My year as a sabbatical officer has been full of achievements, and it is due to the dedication, creativity and commitment of the students and staff at The Students’ Union. I have been inspired by so many this year and witnessing your determination has pushed me to develop into the individual I am today. I am so grateful for the opportunity to represent such a diverse and loyal group of students and I hope that you continue to challenge The Students’ Union to be the best organisation it can possibly be. Thank you for everything.