After a challenging, exciting and very unusual year, your President, Vice President Education, and Vice President Societies and Sport reflect on the year they have had as they prepare to say goodbye to the Students’ Union.
It has been a year full of twists and turns as the Officer Group have navigated their way through the pandemic and multiple lockdowns. When the team were elected back in early March 2020, they were out celebrating in full force in the SU, but how times have changed! The SU is so much more than just a building, and the Officers have been able to achieve significant wins for students, and implemented their manifestos, despite not being able to swing by Meds on a Wednesday for a celebratory VK.
Some key highlights from the last year include; Kate’s campaign and work on sustainability, which will have a big impact on students next year with the launch of the University’s sustainability strategy; Alissa’s work on the Digital Education 2.0 Report and the Joint Honours Student Insight Report, getting a real understanding of the issues currently facing students when it comes to their academic experience; Lucy’s reimagining of Colours and Society Awards to fit our virtual environment, which gave student groups the recognition they deserved after such a challenging year; Kate’s piece of policy work on student housing and review into academic societies, both of which will have a significant impacts in the years to come; Alissa’s work with academic reps including Academic Rep Conference, where she has been lucky to work with fantastic students to achieve real impact and change; and Lucy’s manifesto projects on Committee Cafés and #ShoutAboutIt, recognising and supporting students all year round. To name but a few!
Catching up with the departing Officers, they tell us about the last year in their own words:
Kate – ‘Laughter. Getting to talk to students. Curly fries from Tommy’s Kitchen. The way the whole staff team at the SU pulls together to support the Officers when it gets challenging. Curly fries. The amazing individuals from the SU staff and University staff who I feel privileged to work with every day. The sheer resilience of students this year and the strength that they give me to continue fighting for them. Curly fries. My Sabbatical Officer team who make me laugh and inspire me every day. Oh and did I mention the curly fries?’
Alissa – ‘I will miss all the great people that I have worked with and built relationships with this year. They have been hugely helpful in supporting and contributing to key pieces of work and improving my knowledge of the wider education sector that allowed me to effectively carry out my role.’
Lucy – ‘There are so many things I will miss about this role, but I can honestly say that I will miss the people the most. Working with students and committees to support them during one of the most challenging years they have had to date has been incredible, and I am even more certain now that student groups are at the heart of the Royal Holloway community. Building such a close relationship with the SSO Executive has also been extremely rewarding and I want to extend my gratitude to those students who have supported me continuously this year. Equally, I really could not have survived this year without the amazing staff at the SU, particularly those I have worked alongside each and every day. It has been a real rollercoaster and I will forever be thankful to have had you there for every moment in this first step of my career - I know just how rare it is to work in a place with such incredibly friendly, dedicated, and hard-working individuals but the bar has well and truly been set.’
Alissa – ‘It would have to be the Joint Honours Student Insight Report that has recently been produced. Despite all of the reactive work, I am proud that this piece of proactive work has been produced as it was one of my key manifesto points when I first ran for the role and I believe it will make a positive long-lasting impact to Joint Honours students’ academic experience.’
Lucy – ‘Looking back, there have been a whole variety of amazing moments, but my favourite one has to be hosting Society and Colours Awards. Knowing how much effort students have put into creating online communities and running virtual activity, whilst navigating the continual government updates and changes to regulation, the virtual awards nights were hugely rewarding and allowed all of this work to be recognised. As a student, awards was the absolute highlight of my year every single year, and it will forever hold some of my best Uni memories, so to present it was honestly the biggest privilege and I could not feel more grateful to have been in this position this year.’
Kate – ‘The part of the year that I will remember most is the small interactions I have had with students, and the day to day laughter with the Sabbs. These small things make such a big difference to your day and make me realise how rewarding this job is. In terms of project work, I am extremely proud of the work I have done on sustainability and student housing, I am excited to see a lot of this come to fruition over the upcoming year. I have also loved seeing the campus return to some sort of normality this term and being able to enjoy an ice cream or a drink in the sun at Founders, as the community feeling is what Royal Holloway is all about.’
Lucy – ‘It will be the most rewarding experience ever! It may be demanding and stressful at the time but, on reflection, I can honestly say I don’t remember anything but positives. It encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and, for a few weeks, you get to express your passions, build incredible life skills, and have conversations with a whole variety of students and staff about what matters to them. It is kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity and, I know it can seem daunting, but I would encourage anyone to just go for it because I do not regret a thing!’
Kate – ‘It was the best decision I ever made, it’s crazy, wonderful, challenging, exciting, and an adventure and despite the strange year we have had, I wouldn’t change anything for the world. If you are even vaguely thinking about doing it, please please do! It will be the best decision you ever make. Being able to work so closely with student leaders and create real, meaningful impact makes for an extremely rewarding job.’
Alissa – ‘You learn so many skills and so much knowledge in such a small amount of time. As well as meeting and working with great people and giving students a voice, you build up such a unique skillset from being a trustee, on college council, as an activist and all the key organisational skills from a full time job.’
Kate – ‘It has been a brilliant two years at the SU, the world has changed immeasurably since I started but I have loved every single minute of being a Sabb. I have loved having the opportunity to represent you as students, and I hope you feel I have done the role justice. I am extremely thankful to all of the staff and students who have supported my work and contributed to what we have been able to achieve. I wish the team next year the best of luck. Always remember that you are never too small to make a difference, and your voice deserves to be heard.’
Alissa – ‘Despite all the twists and turns, I have thoroughly enjoyed my role as VP Education and believe that we have made meaningful change to improve students’ academic experience at Royal Holloway. Being a sabbatical officer is a very rewarding role and I would like to thank all the students and staff who have contributed to my work throughout the year. I look forward to shortly handing over my role to the incoming VP Education Maia Jarvis, who I am confident will do an amazing job and will continue to do great work for students to improve their academic experience at Royal Holloway.’
Lucy – ‘Wow... what a year that has been! It may have been nothing like what I expected when I first was elected in March 2020, but I could not be more grateful for the experience. A massive thank you to each and every one of you who has contributed to and shaped my experience as your first VP Societies and Sport. You have continually inspired and encouraged me, and I know I am leaving a stronger person because of it. Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey, and I am excited to see what the future brings!’
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