NUS Lead and Change

Last week, your new Officer team attended the National Union of Students (NUS) Lead and Change Conference. Hear all about their experiences and how they're looking to put what they've learned into action to make positive changes for students this year!

The 2021/22 Officer team (Maia, Alice, Henn, and Alex) pose for a photo by the pillars in Founder's

Last week, your new Officer team; Henn Warwick (President), Maia Jarvis (Vice President Education), Alice Goode (Vice President Wellbeing & Diversity) and Alex Parry (Vice President Societies and Sport) attended the National Union of Students (NUS) Lead and Change Conference.

What is NUS? 

Led by seven full-time officers who contribute to discussions and deliver campaigns, NUS represents seven million students at a national level on a number of different matters relating to your education. NUS promotes, defends and extends student rights utilising their collective power and aims to combat injustices and campaign for better treatment of all students. They do this by bringing together a network of sabbatical officers across the UK and developing research that influences national policy. 

What’s Lead and Change about?

The purpose of the Lead and Change Conference is to develop key skills that sabbatical officers need to succeed during their time in office, to learn more about current and long-term issues that matter most to students, and to build networks that will help us thrive during our year in office. With our Officer team comprising three new officers (Maia, Alice and Alex) and one returning officer (Henn), we were able to split up to focus on different aspects of our roles.

Throughout the week, we attended various tutor group and networking sessions, as well as workshops focusing on key student issues.

Workshops

Student Minds

As the UK's student mental health charity, Student Minds empower students and members of the university community to look after their own mental health, support others and create change.

This workshop provided an introduction to the importance of self-care and setting clear boundaries so that we, as officers, can carry out our roles and create positive change for students whilst maintaining our own wellbeing. 

During the session, we learnt about key self-care tools and looked at some crucial mental health resources. This workshop was a safe space to discuss any concerns about student mental health as well as our own. 

SOS: Drugs & Alcohol

As Freshers’ Festival 2021 approaches, the Officers explored the practical steps we can take to reduce the harm students face from drinking alcohol and using drugs. We learnt that many experts believe we should be preparing for an increase in issues relating to student drug and alcohol use in the new academic year. A lot of students will be arriving or returning to campus with less experience and/or reduced tolerance due to the impact of lockdown on student life. Alongside this, some students understandably feel they have ‘missed out’ and want to make up for lost time. 

It was promising to hear how others are leading the conversation on alcohol and drugs on campus, moving the conversation on from the ineffective ‘zero-tolerance’ to advocating for an evidence-based harm reduction approach that prioritises student health and welfare.

Networking

One of our first sessions of the week gave us the opportunity to connect with fellow officers and discuss matters relevant to our roles such as student wellbeing, supporting liberation groups, education and societies. It was really rewarding to have a guided discussion with like-minded individuals; we shared our aspirations for the year, our main manifesto points and identified potential collaborations or points for further discussion. The conversations were very insightful and it was interesting to hear how other officers were tackling similar problems at their universities. Common topics included decolonising the curriculum, making education more accessible and spearheading strategies to increase engagement among students. We can't wait to build on the ideas shared in the session and potentially continue brainstorming with other officers throughout the year.

Final thoughts  

The week was a great opportunity to connect with other ‘sabbs’ across the country from a range of different SUs. We enjoyed sharing our manifesto ideas and seeing how they compared to other people’s aims for the year. It was really great to connect with people who had similar goals to us and have a space to discuss ideas together and build them further. It was really encouraging to see that other people had similar manifesto aims and super helpful to get each other’s opinions, support and advice. 

Being able to pick the workshops we attended meant that we got to concentrate on our specific areas of interest and cover a range of issues and topics from tackling alcohol and drug awareness, to supporting disabled students and empowering student liberation groups/collectives. We got to get stuck into what excites us, and then reflect back with each other at the end of each day to share what we had learnt from all the different workshops. 

NUS Lead and Change was a great week out of the office for all four of us to meet people in the exact same boat as us - even if it was only on Zoom. The week was filled with positive energy focused on change, progress and a commitment to equality in a post-covid world. We can’t wait to put what we have learned into action as we set out to achieve our manifesto aims and effectively represent all students at Royal Holloway during the coming year!