SU Elections: President

Thinking of running for RHSU President? Current Officer Kate Roberts shares her experience in the role as she looks back to some of the most important moments, her biggest challenges, what she has gained, and her election experience!

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 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.

Next up is President Kate Roberts, who will be sharing her experience in the role as she looks back to some of the most important moments. 

What do you do on an average day?

It is definitely not easy to summarise the range of things the President role has responsibility for into an average day, especially this year! However, my role, in a nutshell, is to represent your views to the University and lobby for changes to improve student life at Royal Holloway.

As President, you are representing over 10,000 students on a huge range of issues. I spend some of my day talking to students in order to pick up any daily issues that arise, alongside representing students on the bigger issues such as housing, sustainability and responding to the pandemic. Alongside this I also sit on a huge range of different College meetings, discussing access and participation at University for different student demographics, student bursaries and scholarships, and the Health Centre provision, among other things.

I am also the Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Students’ Union which comes with unique responsibilities and experience, through participation in the governance of the organisation. This aspect of the role takes into account much more than just the period you are an Officer for, it involves considering the long term interests of the organisation and its strategy, and is a part of the role I find extremely interesting.

In addition to these main responsibilities, the President also sits on College Council (so effectively being a Trustee of the University, as well as the Students’ Union), and is also a staff member at the Students’ Union – so contributing to the plans that, for example, the Student Voice team have for the year. I also spend some of my day leading on project work, in relation to my manifesto and needs that arise from the student body. The President also has the role of leading the Officer Group, which is a brilliant experience in terms of skill development and working with the other Officers, allowing me to have an impact in a vast range of areas.

What have you done so far?

As you can probably imagine, reacting to the Coronavirus pandemic has taken up the majority of my time for the last term and will likely continue to do so. I have sat on a Rapid Response meeting with the University in order to respond to any day to day issues that occur. Despite the challenges, it has been a fantastic opportunity to develop skills in crisis management and resilience, as well as get thrown right into leading an organisation during this difficult time. The University has engaged brilliantly with the Officers and student voice throughout this period, and it has been really positive to be involved in these high-level discussions.

Alongside this, I have also launched a policy inquiry into student housing, where we have engaged with various stakeholders and will be looking to get a more detailed understanding from students soon about your experiences. I have also won £250 of external funding to kick-start our Academic Societies project, which you will hopefully hear more about soon! I led our work on Black History Month, in collaboration with 9 other Students’ Unions across the country as well as led work on an Equality Impact with the University to identify areas where students are at most need due to changes relating to the pandemic and provide recommendations for change. In my role as Chair of Trustees, I have also been leading a recruitment process for a new External Trustee which has been really interesting and allowed me to develop new skills in recruitment. You essentially get to do a bit of everything!

What have you gained? 

I have gained so much from my year and a half as a Sabbatical Officer, namely confidence and an absolute ton of resilience in taking whatever the role has thrown at me in my stride. There is no other job quite like it, one where you are thrust into a leadership position at the age of 22 (or younger!) and it absolutely taught to think strategically. I am incredibly grateful that this role has allowed me to nurture my passions and projects, as well as guided me through aspects of the role where I was not as capable when I started.

It has been a real privilege to work alongside a fantastic team of like-minded individuals and I am so happy that I decided to wing it and run for election in my third year!

What has been your biggest challenge?

Honestly where to even start? Safe to say there have been a lot more challenges in my two roles than I was ever expecting when I ran; a snap general election, UCU strikes, the Coronavirus pandemic, and Brexit to name a few. It has been a real challenge to keep up with the external Higher Education environment whilst also maintaining a significant understanding of the unique experience felt by Royal Holloway students. We are part of a sector and a movement that is so much bigger than just us here in our little campuses in Egham and London, maintaining the right balance of understanding and insight into both is often difficult but can be incredibly rewarding.

This year has been difficult, there have been times where I have felt much less positive about the situation than I would have liked to. We have all struggled, and being in the President role doesn’t make you immune to that. If I take anything away from this year, it will be the resilience and willingness to pick myself up and carry on whatever the situation. I don’t feel there is much more a job can ever throw at me (famous last words) and I am hugely confident that I am ready for whatever comes next. Whoever takes on the role after me will have a fantastic opportunity to rebuild the University experience following the pandemic, impacting the future of Royal Holloway students for many years to come.

Your election experience

I had a fantastic time running for elections both times, it is such a brilliant atmosphere amongst similar individuals who all have a drive and a passion for change. Every student at Royal Holloway has a unique understanding of the experience and different solutions for improving it, running in an election test both your proposals and also tests yourself in adapting to new situations. The support you will receive from students and from other candidates is invaluable and if you are a little nervous, please don’t worry – everyone is!

Students are excited to hear your ideas and ready to rally behind you. Embrace it and just have fun, who knows what the outcome will be but you really will never know if you don’t try. It will all be over before you know it!

I am hugely excited to watch the next group of candidates bring innovation, diversity and new ideas into the Students’ Union, it is what makes us so fantastic!

If you have any questions or just want to chat to me about the President role, please drop me a message on my social media or email me at president@su.rhul.ac.uk.

Stand for election

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

Read the Job Description

Stand for election

Nominations close at 4pm on Friday 12 February.