Thinking of running for VP Societies & Sport? Current Officer Lucy Brown 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.
First up is VP Societies & Sport Lucy Brown, who will be sharing her experience in the role as she looks back to some of the most important moments.
I know you're probably still a little bit unsure over the combined roles, especially since it seems like this role is double the work of the previous Officers! But I can assure you, having done it myself, that is 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 previous roles were full of admin work but merging them has enabled the new Officer to become the representative voice they are meant to be; spending more time on their manifesto plans and lobbying for important changes. The role merge is honestly a really positive step forward in how student groups are supported!
I was really hoping to focus on working with the SSO and student groups during this first year of the new combined role, to start shaping it into something that students wanted. Unfortunately, a lot of this work has been hampered by Covid-19 and, while the conversations have begun, they are nowhere near where we wanted them to be. But this is great if you’re thinking of nominating yourself because you can have even more input into shaping this role going forward!
I think it is worth highlighting the obvious here. Firstly, this was a brand-new role. It needed shaping and developing into what students want, and that work is by no means finished! I can tell you what a day in the life looks like, but that will change depending on how the role continues to shape itself over the coming years.
Secondly, we’ve been in a global pandemic (I’m guessing you hadn’t missed that one!!). Sadly, the pandemic has hugely affected the running of student groups and, as a result, the responsibilities of the VP Societies & Sport completely changed before they even began.
But, the fundamentals are still the same, and that is to develop the support the Students’ Union offers to student groups on campus.
I have mainly endeavoured to help groups provide successful virtual activities and events for their members this year. Where groups are looking at improving their group, securing sponsorships, or coping with difficult situations, I also support all of this. I work closely with the University's Active Lifestyle & Sport department to build relationships that aid the development of sporting activity on campus, and a key part of my job is lobbying the College and supporting campaigns to constantly work for the benefit of student experience.
I convene and chair the regular meetings of the Societies, Sports, & Opportunities (SSO) Executive. This is the democratic panel to which I am held accountable, it is responsible for ratifying new student groups, as well as approving the process for the annual allocation of resources to student groups.
A lesser-known part of the role is sitting on the Union’s Board of Trustees where I, along with the other Sabbatical Officers, external and student trustees, am legally responsible for everything the SU does.
Since starting the role last summer, I have been involved in a whole range of discussions, projects, and changes. In the first few months of being VP Societies & Sport, I delivered both Student Group Training Part Two and Mental Health Awareness Training to our student group committees, helping to get them set up in preparation for the upcoming year. I also lobbied against the introduction of a Sports Pass by Active Lifestyle and Sport, and ran an effective online This Girl Can campaign week.
I worked with members of SU staff to update the new group ratification process for the virtual climate and successfully supported eight new groups through the process, resulting in seven new societies and one new sports club. I have chaired the SSO Executive, focussing on conversations about supporting student groups through the pandemic, as well as discussing the combined VP role and what students and committees need from the position.
In January, I was also excited to announce the launch of two of my manifesto projects. Firstly, the Committee Cafés – a space for committee members to support each other, peer to peer – and secondly #ShoutAboutIt – a weekly recognition announcement of a student group event in the SU newsletter.
I am amazed at how much I have experienced over the last six months, and how much it has helped continue to shape me as a person following my graduation last summer. From developing my public speaking skills in order to deliver training to over 100 committee members, to learning how to build a project from an initial idea into a fully-fledged thing, there is so much I have gained in both my professional career development and as an individual, but what is even better is that the list still grows each day.
For me, my confidence has been noticeably improved. I have been given the space to learn how to clearly articulate my thoughts, and then been trusted to do so in various meetings.
What I have loved most this year is watching student groups adapting so incredibly to some of the hardest conditions faced in a long time. Seeing students working collectively to overcome adversity and knowing that I have, hopefully, contributed toward this in some small way is so rewarding. But I have also loved working alongside the most incredible people; the staff at the SU are so supportive of the Sabbatical Officers and it definitely would not be the experience it is without them.
I’m going to try to steer away from the obvious here, since I am sure everyone can appreciate that the pandemic combined with constant changes to government regulations has probably been the biggest challenge!
Taking the pandemic out of the equation, I think my biggest challenge was my own expectations. I came in to the role wanting to support student groups, but that as a whole is a huge prospect and set up what is essentially an impossible task. There are so many groups and they all need varying levels of support at different times, combined with everything else the role entails as a representative, staff member and trustee. Learning to manage my own expectations, how to prioritise various commitments/projects, when to ask for help, and when to switch off was a huge challenge for me because I didn’t want to let anyone down.
Running in the election was one of the most stressful but rewarding experiences of my life and I would encourage anyone even slightly unsure to just go for it!
Was it demanding? Yes. Was it challenging? Again, yes.
But it didn’t matter. I had a few friends that stepped up and supported me beyond anything I could ever have hoped for; I met a huge variety of students and was lucky enough to talk to them about what they cared about. And, for those few weeks, I was able to project my passion and dedication for implementing change into the public eye.
It doesn’t matter what the outcome of the election is; winning or not, the chance to run a campaign that has the potential reach of around 10,000 students… It’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity that you can take as experience into future professional opportunities! And, if you are finding things difficult, there is always a staff member for you to talk to and help support you through the process.
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 email@example.com.
Read the Job Description
Stand for election
Nominations close at 4pm on Friday 12 February.
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