Thinking of running for VP Wellbeing & Diversity? Current Officer Henn Warwick 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 Wellbeing & Diversity Henn Warwick, sharing her experience in the role as she looks back to some of the most important moments.
Being a Sabbatical Officer is a fulfilling role that carries a vast array of responsibilities, notably as VP Wellbeing & Diversity the responsibilities are extremely broad. The role is a representative student leader, you are expected to work closely with other organisations such as the College and ensure that decision making processes uphold all students best interest. This means you must be adaptable, you have to think on your feet and assess how every decision that you and others around you make may affect the diverse student body. I would recommend keeping up to date on issues faced by students, and especially students from underrepresented groups.
As well as supporting students and maintaining positive working relationships with College staff, as a VP you will be expected to be an Officer Trustee. Being a Trustee, again, demonstrates the depth of this role. Board of Trustee meetings are detailed and usually after working hours. You will be expected to consider long term governance issues commonly relating to finance. I personally really enjoy the Trustee element of my role, as a Law graduate, I really enjoyed the training relating to the Charites Act 2011 and ensuring that the Student's Union as an organisation acts within the bounds of its constitution as well as complying with relevant legislation such as the Education Act 1994.
The VP Wellbeing & Diversity is also the Convenor and Chair of the Wellbeing, Community and Diversity Executive. This Executive can almost be described as a cabinet for the VP. It is a committee of elected students from the eight Collectives, who hold Sabbatical Officers to account and support where possible on manifesto aims. As VP Wellbeing & Diversity you are expected to create an agenda for the Executive and check in with the Collective Convenors to support their aims, thus fostering intersectional collaboration between the Collectives and the Officer Group.
In addition to this, as VP Wellbeing & Diversity you are responsible for developing work on liberation, equality and diversity. The key focuses for campaigns under your remit relate to housing, money, health, safety and general wellbeing. Whilst managing your independent work on these key areas, you are also expected to attend appropriate Committees within the College. These meetings can be quite daunting at first, I always remind myself I am here to represent 10k+ students' interests - nothing can interfere with that.
The work of this role is incredibly varied, which means that my days are generally full of meetings with teams across the Union and the University. I meet regularly with the leaders of the Student Advisory & Wellbeing Teams to provide updates on our work and identify ways in which we can work together. In any given day, I could be attending meetings about Access and Participation, catering, and residential services! Afterwards, there’s time for me to work on my manifesto aims and follow up any actions from meetings. On a less busy day with fewer meetings, I block out my diary to ensure I have enough time for project and manifesto planning. I also try to keep up to date with students and if and where necessary, I will have 121 student meetings (which are my fav of course).
In terms of work regarding the response to Covid-19, the College have been absolutely extraordinary in their adaptation to the pandemic and it has been a pleasure to work with such a dedicated and brilliant team. Where to begin, right at the start of my role I assisted with the quarantine procedure for International students arriving in the UK. Throughout all of my work with Wellbeing, we improved the support offered to students during periods of self-isolation. I have worked closely with Senior members of the University to ensure student safety is of paramount importance and rethinking the way we communicate and signpost students to get mental health support.
Over the last term, I have completed many of my manifesto aims. I successfully lobbied the Health Centre to provide sexual health services on campus as opposed to signposting students to The Garden Clinic, and I am currently working closely with the Wellbeing Team to produce a structured and clear Webpage hub that provides students with a full breakdown of sexual health services and how to access them.
I took the lead on an all-Officer presentation called Becoming Anti-Racist, which was taken to the Senior Leaders of the College. In this presentation, I highlighted the desperate need to restore faith amongst the student body when tackling racism and the need to develop the universities culture. I articulated the need to review the misconduct policy as there is a clear lack of transparency and noted that if this policy is reviewed - student involvement in the process will be very valuable. I also used this opportunity to lobby the University to introduce compulsory training modules on Moodle for the next academic year. I will keep you all updated on this work as soon as it develops. A point that I want to highlight here, is the devotion and care that the Senior Leaders of the University have when it comes to racism. I know that this isn't always effectively translated to students and there is a clear lack of faith, but the University does take this very seriously and want to make changes to support students of colour.
This year has seen the implementation of the RH BeHeard. I cannot and will not take sole credit for this as it has been lobbied for by my predecessors and was long overdue. Regardless, I am proud to be the Officer who oversaw its far from perfect soft launch. Currently, RH BeHeard is an anonymous reporting platform, but I am continuing to work closely with the team to implement Phase Two where the support side for those who report will be established.
In terms of my SU Reward card, this aim has taken a back burner position simply because of, you guessed it, Covid-19. As there are no SU events to earn you those fabulous SU points I let other aims take priority. Never fear, the SU Reward system can easily be implemented once SU events are up and running.
Lastly, I have planned and prepared for two campaigns. Firstly, my Let's Talk About Sex week is coming up soon. I am so excited to share all of my content as well as student material throughout the week. The aim of this campaign is to break down barriers, namely the social stigma surrounding sexual health. Also, one month later I have prepared an Anti-racism campaign. During this campaign week, I will be releasing content on areas I can educate on such as White Privilege. Student materials will be shared to celebrate the diverse community we have here at RHUL and lastly, external development consultants will be providing educational workshops throughout the week.
Honestly, the experience of being a Vice President is more than I could have ever imagined. It goes beyond a basic 9-5 job; it becomes your whole life (in a very good way!). This role plunges you into being someone who can make massive and tangible changes to not only the University but also to an NHS run GP Surgery. More importantly though, the changes you effectively lobby for impact 10k+ students' lives! The role has provided me with an extremely developed understanding of how the University runs and the higher education sector as a whole.
In terms of personal development, I feel my confidence has grown massively. Prior to being a VP I had never Convened or Chaired a meeting before, however, now I have learnt how to hold the attention of the room when in meetings and I can effectively convey my point to individuals who may not have had the same perspective as myself. Of course, this role also allows you to develop the art of respectfully disagreeing with someone in a much higher position than yourself, which is always useful!
The support of SU staff around me has developed my planning skills. For each manifesto aim you run with, you are expected to create a project plan. I had never even heard of a project plan before, so this task seemed scary to me. Project planning is such a valuable skill as you use SMART objectives and create tables to structure your aims.
Lastly, I personally have developed my identity through this role, I see myself now as an activist and will continue to be once my time at RHSU is over.
My biggest personal challenge has been the separation between myself and the other Officers. I am clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 and this meant I had to shield and work from home. I missed being able to laugh with the other girls as well as keep up to date on everything that they were doing. I, unfortunately, was hospitalised for a period of time during the first term, which as you can imagine was stressful, but I was extremely scared of falling behind. But my fellow Officers were absolutely amazing at supporting me and picking up the tasks that I was unable to complete. I don't think I would have made it through the first term without them!
In terms of my biggest challenge within the role, I would say is time management. I am constantly in meetings which generate a lot of actions and subtasks, meaning there is little time to actually complete my independent work. Striking an effective work-life balance has been challenging as working from home means my office is constantly around me and I do find it hard to switch off sometimes. There are so many things I wish I could cram into this year but being realistic with your expectations is important, the role is only for a year and this means prioritising is key.
My election experience was a whirlwind. As this was my second time running, due to an unforeseen interruption in my third year, the pressure was on. As I had interrupted mt studies, all of my close friends had graduated, so I was more or less a one-woman army.
During the election period, you are putting yourself out there in a way that I had never done before, you are completely exposed to the student body, but you are standing up for what you believe in. The changes you want to make are incredibly important and deserve recognition. The one key requirement to be a Sabbatical Officer is having experience as a Royal Holloway student - it appears you tick that box, so go for it! You never know unless you put yourself out there and try!
To be frank, I was absolutely terrified most of the time, as were most of the candidates! But nerves are entirely justified during such a high-pressure time. Regardless of my nerves, I personally found the election period rewarding as all of the candidates for my roles were so inspirational. If you are worried at all about the elections and want to have a chat about it, please just drop me a message! It is an extraordinary experience that cannot be matched!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Stand for election
Nominations close at 4pm on Friday 12 February.
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