Running for VP Societies & Sport

Thinking of running for one of the four full-time Sabbatical Officer roles in this year's SU Elections?
To give you a flavour of what being a Sabb entails, we've enlisted the help of our five current Officers who took time to answer questions including what their roles entail, what they've achieved so far, what they've gained from the role, and what their experience of running in an election was like.

First up, we've got VP Societies & Media Sophia Bolton and VP Sport Dom Brown. It's important to note that from the 2020/21 academic year, these two roles will be merging into a single position - Vice President Societies & Sport - to represent all student groups.

Why have the roles merged?

We know what you're thinking (s**t, I'll have to do double the work!) but don't worry, that's not the case!

Students voted for the merging of these roles, among other big changes to our constitution, in the Democracy Review referendum we held back in May 2019.

The existing roles are currently packed with admin work; merging them has enabled the Students' Union to hire an additional professional staff member to increase our capacity for key administrative tasks (i.e. room bookings and financial payments), as well as bigger projects like event support and group development. This will free up both Officers to spend more time working on their manifesto plans and lobbying for changes - a really positive step forward in how student groups are supported!

What do we do?

Sport

Dom: The majority of my time is taken up by working with and supporting the student clubs at Royal Holloway. When they are looking to develop their group, put on events or a variety of other aspects, I am there to support them with these endeavours.

I also work very closely with the sports department at the University, running events and other projects. The other part of my job is being politically active with the other Sabbatical Officers, this includes lobbying the College on issues, running campaigns and reacting to student needs. The lesser-known element is Sabbatical Officers are trustees of the Students’ Union, which is a non-profit organisation. This means we have overall responsibility for the Union’s long-term strategy and finances.

Societies & Media

Phia: I spend roughly half of my time supporting our societies, with a decent amount of that being taken up by new groups and ratifications. A certain amount of time is also taken up by the three media groups (Insanity Radio 103.2FM, rhubarbTV and Orbital magazine) who require a different form of support to other societies.

This year it’s been a pleasure to work on larger projects to create more functional space for groups on campus. Being able to input on larger campus events including Festival of Volunteering, Festive Market, Society Awards, Freshers’ Festival and Refreshers has been incredibly rewarding.

What have we done so far?

Sport

Dom: Since I started the role last summer I've been lucky enough to have been involved in a number of different events, campaigns, and changes.

Last year I created a Disability Sports Day to promote awareness of disabled student access, supported the delivery of Colours Ball and an away Varsity, and updated the Union’s socials policy, which affects all student groups.

This year I am the co-project lead on Varsity, have supported student groups in introducing six new welfare committee positions to support their members, have completed a review of the Student Opportunities membership and supported other Sabbatical Officers with the UCU strikes, the No Platforming policy and the UK General Election voting drive.

Societies & Media

Phia: This year I’ve been able to be involved in projects such as the refurbishment of Studio 3 and Medicine Room 2, as well as inputting on the University’s Handa Noh rebuild.

I’ve also worked with groups in the local area to find suitable space for groups that we struggle to accommodate on campus. I created a scheme to ensure our groups get the recognition they deserve and I also helped to revamp our annual Society Awards. I’ve attended University meetings to lobby for a new sustainable agenda, which has student voice at the very heart, as well as inputted on wider lobbying work of the other Sabbatical Officers.

What have we gained?

Sport

Dom: I've changed so much in the last year and a half. The experience you get from speaking at large events such as Colours Ball, working with senior members of the College, being on the panel for recruitment interviews, speaking to students every day and being a trustee of a charity has helped me come on leaps and bounds.

I have seen this with other Sabbatical Officers as there is so much variety and support in this job that ensures we are able to develop and flourish.

Personally, my work ethic, confidence and career prospects are the things I have taken the most from being VP Sport.

Societies & Media

Phia: The most interesting and steepest learning curve of this job has always been my role as a trustee. Understanding how charity finances work, how risk is mitigated, and being able to make decisions that will positively affect the Union for years to come is a huge responsibility, but it does provide you with a fantastic wider world experience.

I’ve gained the confidence to effectively chair a meeting as well as the ability to resolve conflict between individuals in a compassionate way. I’ve also learned my strengths and weaknesses as an individual and how I can do both improve these and use them to my advantage.

What do we love the most?

Sport

Dom: The best thing about the job for me is seeing students succeed and make a difference. There’s nothing quite like seeing a group raise thousands of pounds for charity or put on a massive event, or go unbeaten in their league. We see it on a weekly basis and we do what we can to help groups achieve these things.

Societies & Media

Phia: Watching our groups succeed and put on amazing, new and innovative events is amazing and by far one of the best parts of this job. It is also so rewarding to support committee members 1-2-1.

Through helping resolve disputes and supporting when issues occur, it feels good to know that I’ve made a difference. I also personally really love looking at and planning the longevity of the organisation. Whether that be student groups, or the SU as a whole, I enjoy ensuring we are sustainable for future generations.

What has been our biggest challenge? 

Sport

Dom: Students naturally always have expectations and needs, and when you don’t quite have the answer they’re looking for it can be tough dealing with the negative feedback. Having been a student, I can empathise with their frustrations but it can sometimes be tough channeling the negative feedback.

Societies & Media

Phia: My biggest challenge is around group support. It’s not possible to support every group to the extent I’d like to, there just isn’t time! Sometimes I have to make myself take a step back and leave issues to be resolved on their own, which is very challenging for me.

Our election experiences

Sport

Dom: There are far more positives than drawbacks and I would always encourage anyone thinking about the role to not be put off by the election run-up.

Campaigning is a great way to meet students and develop your personal skills. You spend a month putting yourself in the student eye to show your passion and ideas for change.

This is a sort of once in a lifetime opportunity and regardless of the end result, you will come away with a new-found set of skills and confidence you didn’t have before. If you do struggle, there are always staff members there to talk to you and support you through the process.

Societies & Media

Phia: Running in elections was one of the most stressful but rewarding experiences I’ve ever been through. There is so much to consider and everything moves very fast!

Promoting yourself in such a public way was scary, however, the support of friends, staff and other candidates is invaluable. Meeting new students and getting to talk about something I’m so passionate about was by far the best part of the process, and I would recommend anyone thinking about running to go for it.

Stand for Election

Like the sound of what you've read? Nominations in the SU Elections are now open – get more info here and nominate yourself below, or drop an email to natalie.bates@su.rhul.ac.uk.

Nominations close at 4pm on Friday 7 February.

Read the Job Description

Stand for election

Sophia Bolton // Vice President Societies & Media

Dom Brown // Vice President Sport