SU Elections: VP Education

Thinking of running for VP Education? Current Officer Maia Jarvis 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 VP Education Maia Jarvis, 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 a normal day?

A large part of what I do is represent students’ academic interests on college committees. These are meetings where academics, University senior management, and myself work together to improve your educational experience. I’ve learned how crucial it is to have a voice representing students in these spaces as there have been several times where I’ve piped up in meetings to flag how a new policy may affect students and it’s something the University would never have thought of! Staff really value the insight Officers can provide as we actually know what it is like to have studied at Royal Holloway and we have access to a wide range of student opinions through our connection with academic reps, societies, and Collectives. I also meet regularly with the Senior Vice-Principal (Education) one-on-one to address any urgent/serious matters that students have raised with me.

Alongside College committees, I have internal SU meetings with the amazing permanent staff team who support me with my work. I have weekly catch-ups with the CEOs and the Student Voice Manager, who offer advice when I have to navigate tricky situations and ensure I’m prepared for the week ahead.

It may not sound glamorous, but quite a bit of my time is spent writing and answering emails. However, something I’ve learned is that emails are actually how things get done! Whether you’re providing detailed feedback on a College project, reminding senior management to put in a meeting to discuss an important issue, or responding to individual student queries, keeping on top of your inbox is crucial. The rest of my time is dedicated to project work. For example, last term I wrote a paper that contributed to the College’s personal tutoring review and at the moment, I’m planning LGBT+ History Month!

What have you done so far?

At the beginning of last term, I organised a focus group about this year’s assessments with all the school reps and the VP Quality & Standards. I was really happy with this piece of work as the school reps’ written feedback was sent to the College’s Assessment Panel and it was amazing to see current students’ thoughts being considered at such a high-level College meeting. I also ensured that all schools committed to delivering practice exams for students who have in-person exams this year; I was super chuffed with this as it was something I campaigned for before I was elected!

I also wrote a paper that contributed to the College’s personal tutoring project; it was based on discussions I had with students and all the Directors of Undergraduate Education. I’ll continue to sit on the project group this term and, thanks to my suggestion, they have agreed to present some of the work done by the group at the Student Voice Conference so students can feedback on proposed changes! I feel really passionately about this piece of work as it was on my manifesto and I’m looking forward to collaborating with the College and students to improve the system.

Another big win last term was successfully lobbying the College to restore 24/7 access to the library!

What have you gained?

Without a doubt, I would say confidence. Starting this role feels quite strange as people who’ve had five careers and are on meaty salaries care a lot about your opinion even though you’ve only just left university (in fact, they care precisely because you’ve just left university!). One hurdle to get over is that initial sense of imposter syndrome as you feel like you haven’t quite earned the respect that you’re given. However, once you realise how much the University needs and values students' voices, nerves slowly turn to conviction. You learn how to (diplomatically) fight your corner, handle conflict and be assertive all while maintaining good relationships with key stakeholders.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Accepting the fact that sometimes I’ve done everything in my power to lobby the College and effect change, but at the end of the day, the University has the final say, so not everything I fight for can come to fruition. However, even if an immediate solution can’t be reached, it’s never wasted energy as it puts the issue on the College’s radar and you may be able to secure further consultation into students’ opinions. This happened recently when I repeatedly lobbied academics and senior management to make the temporary online access policy more flexible, but this couldn’t happen for several reasons. As a result of my lobbying, however, I may be co-facilitating an RH100 session on this topic and following conversations with the Senior Vice-Principal; I think there is definitely going to be a change in the long-term with regards to remote access.

What do you love most about this job?

I truly love representing students’ academic interests in College spaces. Often, you come away from meetings and know that something you said has triggered something small (or sometimes big!), which will improve student experience. There is so much variety in the role and I love how busy I always am: one day I’ll have hours of College meetings and the next I’ll be working with the events team to plan a student showcase for LGBT+ History Month! I also love the education and policy side of things: it’s really interesting combing through College committee papers and seeing the behind-the-scenes of university governance. Another highlight of the role is working with and supporting enthusiastic students: it’s amazing to see how passionate you all are and support the amazing work our academic reps do.

Your election experience

Truthfully, I found elections extremely intense and all-consuming. You pour all your time and resources into your campaign and, as a result, it can be draining. However, it was also really fun and a very unique experience: somehow I got my first full-time job out of uni by photoshopping my face onto Vision from the MCU and recording a spoof of ‘UK, Hun?’. Canva becomes your best friend and you learn how to sell yourself and persuade people that you know your stuff. My tip for campaigning would be to not get too wrapped up in the social media numbers and take some purposeful time off. It’s key to remember that you don’t have to campaign 24/7 – people won’t forget about you if you don’t post for a few days! It’s a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime experience and you gain a lot of skills doing it – I wish all of you running this term the best of luck!

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 Phillip.Dowler@su.rhul.ac.uk.

Read the Job Description

Stand for election

Nominations close at 23:59 on Sunday 6 February.