A Year As President

"As much as my receding hairline illustrates the stresses of the past two years, they have been absolutely wonderful and lobbying hard to help improve your university experience has been the perfect way to end my Royal Holloway journey." Over and out from SU President Jack O'Neill.

Another year has flown by, and I (metaphorically) am flying away. After two years as your elected representative, firstly as VP Education and then as President, it is time to hang up my boots and pass the baton to the next generation of student leaders.

As much as my receding hairline illustrates the stresses of the past two years, they have been absolutely wonderful and lobbying hard to help improve your university experience has been the perfect way to end my Royal Holloway journey.

Getting things done

It is difficult to imagine that this year started back in ‘precedented’ circumstances, and looking back, it is quite phenomenal how much we were able to achieve together before a pandemic turned everything upside down. One of my proudest achievements has been the revolution of our policy development, I believe that the way we have researched, engaged and lobbied on high-quality insight will have a huge impact for Royal Holloway for years to come, and I look forward to seeing that from afar.

PGR Student Voice Report

In my undergraduate days (wind that clock back!), I had postgraduate friends who didn’t engage with what the Students’ Union had on offer and I always wondered why. The why is simple, there wasn’t any reason to, and there wasn’t much on offer for them. This year has seen us engage with hundreds of PGR students, enabling us to fully understand the challenges and how we, as representatives for all students, can improve the PGR experience. The full report sets out an ambitious plan that I truly believe will greatly improve our efforts for PGR students.

Careers Support Student Voice Report

As someone who is now seeking a job, I have never resonated with the importance of this agenda so much as right now. Leaving university and entering the job market can be challenging: it requires us all to turn our dreams and ambitions into reality. The support for students needs to be modern, tailored and innovative – the report is the culmination of many research hours and deliberative input from you all, and I hope it sets the path for our lobbying agenda for years to come.

Wellbeing Strategy

This has been a piece of work ongoing all year and, again, involving input from lots of you! I am incredibly excited by this piece of work – watch this space for further announcements in the summer! Student wellbeing should be more than the direct support services, it should be a constant thought and focus in everything that we do, I firmly believe this strategy will enable this.

Student Engagement

As well as engaging with thousands of you developing policy (some number crunching tells me that one in every three students engaged in some form with the policy work above!), Term One hosted some lively discussions on campus! Firstly, we had the debate on a no platform for hate speech on campus – we didn’t shy away from the controversial topic, and seeing students engage in this was fantastic. And then the General Election happened – hands down, one of my favourite days in the job was making mulled wine and hot chocolate for you all. My slogan of ‘stop mulling over it, go and vote’ somehow got the green light, and for the whole day, everyone on campus wanted to talk about how important their vote was and you can’t top that.

The last two years have been challenging but immensely rewarding. I have learned a great deal, and I hope that I have been able to leave a positive impact in return. I have learned that every student has come to Royal Holloway for different reasons – discovering these over the past two years has been fascinating, and finding ways to help people achieve what they want to achieve has been uplifting and joyous. We don’t often celebrate everyday leadership and inspirations, being President allowed me to meet an array of leaders and inspirations and I will always be thankful for that.

What will I miss the most?

Every day when I walk up Egham Hill (something I haven’t been missing) from the train station, I never know what random, bizarre request or task could land at my desk a couple of hours later. I could have everything meticulously planned out and then something flips the table, and I am going to really miss that fast-paced environment.

Working for an organisation that has such a defined and positive purpose, within a sector that is immense in its contribution to society, and being able to witness first-hand the impact your work is making – now that is a rarity that I will miss every day.

Where am I going next?

HA, the current job market makes queuing for a VK on a Friday night seem easy! It certainly seems odd leaving at such a time as this, but hopefully I won’t be the only blonde haired mop leaving Presidency this year. There are a few opportunities in the pipeline that I am incredibly excited about. I have always been one that likes to have the oar and control where I am going, but for once I think I am going to have to let the current take me somewhere – watch this space!

Why should you stand in the SU Elections?

Why not?

Final, departing words

One of my idols, Bobby Kennedy, said that “few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events.” I would add to that that each of us can make positive impact on others, as well as moments.

Stay safe and well, and good luck with whatever the future holds!