A Year As VP Societies and Media

It's been a rollercoaster year for VP Societies & Media Sophia Bolton. She reflects on her time as a sabbatical officer working with so many amazing student groups.

It’s been quite a year! From the crazy rollercoaster that was Term One, to the high that was Society Awards, to adapting to supporting groups whilst working from home, it’s been tough and for the most part unexpected. The best part of this year, and the part which will stay with me forever, is working with so many amazing groups. Having the opportunity to support so many of you and see you all achieve so many wonderful things has truly been an honour.

Wins for students!

  • Committee admin: I know Dom will have also mentioned this in his blog, however the implementation of Freshdesk, the guidance on completing risk assessments, and the updated forms are quite truly life-changing both for staff and students.
  • Diversity training: Kate Gardner, who is a training and development consultant, has been creating three amazing training sessions for us to use with student groups. Diversity training, which was a key part of my manifesto will be one of these sessions next year which is super exciting!
  • Lobbying for environmental sustainability: This has been an incredibly interesting part of my year. The University agreeing to work environmental sustainability into their strategic plan meant that I had the opportunity to input on policy both for the SU and for the University itself, ensuring students had input on the plans. The strategic plan consultation is currently on hold, however I do urge you all to offer feedback when the opportunity arises once again.
  • Eight new student groups: One of the best parts of my year has been supporting the creation of eight new student societies. All of whom are already achieving fantastic things and I know will go on to flourish next year.
  • Access Fund: another key manifesto point of mine was a fund for students to apply for if they were struggling with the costs of student groups. The process is still being finalised, however it should be up and running for September, allowing easy access to our activities for those with financial difficulties.
  • Student group recognition: we also got student group recognition up and running this year! A group is chosen monthly from applications by our student executive and showcased via a blog. Despite the fact that this has been trickier to achieve under the current circumstances, hopefully this will continue next year.
  • Functional spaces – unfortunately due to corona, projects which were working on creating more functional space on campus have been suspended. We do however have a full plan in place for the work to be done on Studio 3 which can hopefully be picked up in a year or so. We’ve also gained use of the Handa Noh Theatre once it is completed, although work on that project has also been put on hold for the time being.

What has my experience as a Sabb been like?

Stressful! But incredibly rewarding at the same time. You absolutely get out what you put in with a job like this. Even though Term One was filled by circumstances outside of our control which kept arising and Term Two has been dominated by Covid-19, I wouldn’t change anything about the experience. The variety of opportunities and projects we get to be involved with is unmatched in any other job role, it’s quite unique to students’ unions and I know I am lucky to have experienced it. The best part of my entire year was Society Awards. Being able to celebrate people who have put so much time, effort, and love into their groups was so fulfilling.

What will I miss the most?

I’ll miss working with students the most out of all the responsibilities this job role has. Being able to solve problems and help people out has by far been one of the most rewarding parts of the job. I’ll also miss sitting on the Board of Trustees; being able to understand the inner workings of registered charities has been a fantastic learning experience for me and something I won’t get to experience again until much later in my career. I’ll also miss the lobbying aspect. Sitting in meetings to ensure that our student groups have the space they need was incredibly satisfying. Ultimately the reason I am in this role today is because I hated dancing on carpeted floors and joined the Dance Society committee to try and do something about it. So it felt really good to be fulfilling my first year dream!

I’ll also miss the amazing SU staff team in particular Dan, Laura, and the other Sabbatical Officers. I just don’t know how I’ll live without Dom continually poking fun at my life choices, Lucy’s never-ending support, Kate’s cuddles, or Jack’s sarcastic comments!

Where am I going?

I’m really excited to be working as a presenter and co-ordinating digital campaigns for a not-for-profit organisation which educates children in ocean literacy. I’ll also be doing some liaison work in charities tackling homelessness and some communications and marketing work in a trade union.

Why should you stand in the SU Elections?

You’ve got the ability to make real change on campus. Whatever change you want to make, whether it be support for trans students, decolonising the curriculum, or improving your society or sports club, get involved in all the opportunities the SU has to offer. Learn and grow and when the opportunity to run for Sabb comes along you’ll be able to cultivate your expertise even further. It’s a fantastic, diverse opportunity and I can’t recommend it enough.