Alice has had an absolute blast as your VP Wellbeing & Diversity this year! From celebrating the disabled community during Disability Week to working with the Collectives to lobbying the University on important student issues - it's been a busy one!
VP Wellbeing and Diversity 2021/22
My year as VP Wellbeing and Diversity has come to an end so I thought I’d write a blog to let you know what I have been up to and what I’ve managed to achieve!
Last summer, I met with a student who mentioned that their student group struggled to retain members as their training space was off the main campus, so people didn’t know how to get there. This sparked an idea – filming a set of walking tours to help new students figure out where things are on campus and in the local community.
I also spent time over the summer pulling together an Accessibility Guide - I’m incredibly proud of this project because it was the very first thing I did as VP Wellbeing and Diversity!
Over this past year, I have been working in collaboration with the College to raise matters of diversity and wellbeing that have been a concern to students. It has been great to develop channels of dialogue with the Director of Student & Academic Services, Jon Howden-Evans. Through these conversations, we have committed to developing a more holistic approach to wellbeing issues. I am looking forward to seeing how my legacy as VP Wellbeing and Diversity will materialise in the next academic year!
I successfully lobbied for the VP Wellbeing and Diversity to have 1-2-1s with Tracy Bhamra, Senior Vice-Principal for Student and Staff Experience. This was such an important catch-up because it helped me to progress my manifesto points, was another way to lobby the College for change and allowed me to bring up issues that have been raised to me in a more timely and effective manner.
I also lobbied to become a member of the Student Experience Committee. I think it's important that the VP Wellbeing and Diversity has a seat at that table to represent students. The wellbeing of students and their sense of belonging are integral to a student’s experience at uni.
From 8-12 November, I ran my Disability Week campaign. We organised a range of different events and it was a great opportunity to bring a community together and spotlight disability issues. The main theme of the week was Disability Looks Like Me, which put the spotlight on the diversity within the disabled community. We wanted to show that disability isn’t always a sad thing to be pitied and that disabled people live full, happy lives just like everyone else – it just looks slightly different for us. This campaign was definitely the highlight of my year. It was an absolute pleasure to raise awareness of disability issues and to celebrate the incredible, talented, and joyous disabled people both on campus and in the wider world.
We ran two amazing events – the first was a panel discussion hosted by our Women’s Collective that saw academics from Geography and Politics and International Relations talk about their experiences as women in academia. The other event was the Fill-A-Bag Thrift Sale held in the SU Main Hall. We wanted our Women’s History Month to be as inclusive and diverse as possible. So, as well as our in-person events we also ran two blog series on the SU website throughout the month. We spotlighted women throughout history who often go overlooked, and members of SU staff who wanted to share their journeys and experiences.
Throughout Term 2, I worked with Give It A Go, Royal Holloway Sport, the Collectives, and some of our sports groups and societies to put on a range of different activities during the off timetable Wednesday afternoons which are usually used for sports training. The aim was to provide a more accessible and diverse range of fun opportunities that everyone could get involved with. We managed to host a range of activities from a scavenger hunt, to a fitness session, to pin badge making and banner making - we delivered it all! I also filmed a few short interviews with services such as the counselling service, student services and the Advice Centre for my Alice Asks series. I'm really proud of what we managed to offer to students and the feedback was really positive!
As you may have noticed the College has recently launched Ally, a Moodle add-in which helps academic staff to make their content more accessible to you. It was a pleasure to provide input and feedback to this committee and it was great to see the College working towards greater accessibility and inclusion in higher education.
I’ve also been working with the Careers Service over the past couple of months on their Professional Skills and Insights Programme designed for students registered with the Disability and Neurodiversity Service (DNS). It’s a module that sits on Moodle and will hopefully support students’ transition into the world of work. I wrote a piece for them on my experience with LinkedIn and have recorded two podcasts with the Careers service talking about disclosing disability to employers; what it’s like being disabled in a place of work, and the types of skills I have developed since campaigning for and taking up the position of VP Wellbeing and Diversity. It was also lovely to hear that the podcasts were nominated for a Teaching Excellence Award!
The work didn’t stop there! I also did some filming with the Library team to point out the different services they have, their accessibility measures and the support available for DNS students.
After a couple of students came to see me and Phill Dowler (our Student Voice Manager) back in March to talk about the support available to student parents, I have been in conversation with Tracy Bhamra about our partner nursery and the current offer available. We want to increase flexibility for student parents so that the nursery timetable works for them. I have written an insight report proposal which will hopefully be carried out by our Student Voice team next year, consisting of focus groups and surveys so we can create a plan of action on how to support parents and carers in more effective ways moving forwards.
One of the working groups that has come out of the new Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) Committee will focus on the training offered to staff. I was part of the working group and got to contribute to the initial proposal. Alongside this, a small group has been working on an EDI calendar for the College to adopt. One thing that I am super excited about is the introduction of Diversity Awards which would recognise all the brilliant work done by staff and students throughout the year! The calendar proposal went to the EDI Committee a few weeks ago and will hopefully be implemented in time for the start of the new academic year.
I have been doing a lot of work this year on building up and supporting the Collectives. The LGBT+ Collective ran a policy workshop during Speak Week and a banner-making session during LGBT+ History Month. The Women’s Collective hosted a panel entitled ‘Breaking the Bias: Women in Research’ as part of our Women’s History Month celebrations, and our Commuting Collective collaborated on events in conjunction with some of our other student groups. The student body elected new Collective convenors, who are now ready to hit the ground running in September!
Did you know, we have a Good Night Out Crew as part of our work around student safety? If you're on a night out at the Union Venue or Medicine, you’ll see them wearing pink hi-vis jackets, ensuring students have the support they need when attending evening events. I ran a Good Night Out Crew spotlight which saw me interview a few members of the team for an informative article about what the Crew do.
The College is reviewing the new Extensions policy and is currently working on updating the Extenuating Circumstances policy. I have worked with the College to highlight the need to work with DNS to ensure that they get a holistic view of the academic support offered to students.
It's been an absolute blast! I’ve loved working for you this year and am super sad to be leaving. Thank you for making this year the best ever and I wish you all the best for 2022/23!
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