NUS Lead & Change Conference 2020

It’s been just over a month since the new Sabbatical Officer team took over and we have absolutely loved throwing ourselves into learning more about our roles, the team, and how we can provide fantastic wins for students over the next year.

After some internal training delivered virtually by SU staff, we spent last week connecting with other Officers from across the country at Lead and Change - a virtual training conference run by the National Union of Students (NUS).

NUS is an organisation that represents 7 million students nationally on a number of different matters relating to your education. It is led by a group of full-time Officers who contribute to discussions and deliver campaigns to support students on a national scale. NUS also works very closely with SUs up and down the country to support development and create a network of Sabbatical Officers.

The training consisted of plenary sessions, panel discussions, networking sessions, and sessions with our assigned tutor group for the week.

Tutor group sessions

During the course of the week, we were divided into tutor groups with other Officers undertaking the same role as ourselves. This provided a great opportunity to network and discuss our success stories, aspirations, and challenges for the upcoming academic year. Throughout these sessions, we also received guidance on how to utilise the support and expertise in our communities, build relationships, and effectively self-reflect to ensure that our goals maintain on target to be achieved.

We explored the privileges and obstacles that different groups of people face both in an academic and public setting, and how we can use our voices as student representatives to tackle these issues.

Academically and socially, we received training around the most effective methods of engaging with students on both physical and digital platforms, so that people are able to actively participate in their communities despite individual circumstances. Finally, with mental and physical welfare being more important than ever before, we explored multiple ways in which we can all create a positive and productive balance between our work, study, and personal lives.

During our sessions, we were able to learn and develop ideas surrounding inclusive leadership. We discussed what the NUS named the six C’s: Commitment, Courage, Cognisance of bias, Curiosity, Cultural intelligence, and Collaboration. Following this, we were given the opportunity to present our manifestos as a 90-second ‘elevator pitch’ - a brief but persuasive synopsis of our plans for the next year. This exercise was incredibly valuable as it forced us to be concise and only discuss our most relevant topics.

Overall, the tutor group sessions allowed us to create new constructive relationships with other officers which shall be maintained throughout the year, thereby creating new and exciting ways to make your university life better, as well as broadening our knowledge on key educational and social issues, which we will take forward in the upcoming year.

Networking sessions

Across the week we participated in two different networking sessions, one to connect us with local Sabbatical Officers in and around London, and another to connect us with Sabbatical Officers who are working on similar issues, such as Decolonising the Curriculum, Sustainability, and Mental Health.

It was fantastic to be able to connect with other Officers whose SUs are geographically close to Royal Holloway. We are especially hoping that we may be able to connect further in person later in the academic year.

Our issue-led networking sessions provided a really useful insight into how other Sabbatical Officers are planning on addressing a number of issues that are common across many different universities. Being able to pick up ideas and identify where we can collaborate was extremely helpful, and led to a number of thought-provoking moments which we will now take away and develop into fully-fledged plans.

Final thoughts

Despite not being able to meet up with other Officers in person, we found Lead and Change to be a brilliant opportunity to network and discuss ideas with other Sabbatical Officers across the country.

It has allowed us to delve into our manifesto areas even further and has kick-started our planning for a number of areas of work to take forward this academic year. We are now even more excited to get to work making student life better at Royal Holloway!