Guest blog: Rachel Holland Students' Union President

Posted by rmt22 at Oct 12, 2015 11:05 AM |
In this guest post, Rachel gives us an insight into the Students' Union's plans for this year.

Have you met the new Students’ Union exec yet? They have been in post since July, and from running Freshers’ Week to getting involved in campaigns across the University they have been really busy. We asked President Rachel Holland to write us a quick run-down of everything SU.

Without further ado, over to Rachel…

The Students’ Union serves a number of functions for students, from campaigning for students’ rights, to providing impartial academic advice, to acting as a social space to grab lunch in. Primarily, however, it acts as a representative body for the student voice to make change both within a University environment and in wider society. Every year students elect new officers to run the Union – we currently have five full-time officers and nine part-time officers, who sit on multiple university committees as a student representative, act as trustees of the Students’ Union, and run campaigns relevant to the student body. The beauty of being elected by students means that officers are fully accountable to the student population, which means that despite being the figureheads of the organisation, students are still in charge in almost every way! We act as more than a nightclub, and while this is sometimes difficult to articulate to a number of people, our work has a wider impact on the student experience here at Leicester.

It’s important to emphasise that the SU does not just provide five students with a full-time job for the year; in fact, when possible, we like to make sure everything we do is student-run or student-led. We employ over 300 student staff at every level of the organisation, from the people who serve your coffee in Starbucks right up to managerial level, and in our new Food Market, everyone who works there is either a current student or a recent graduate. We want students to have a voice at every level of the Union and University, and through our work coordinating student groups, sports clubs, Course Reps and other student leaders on every level, whether a student is in their first year, final year, doing a PhD or studying from a distance.

This year we’re placing a large emphasis on postgraduate students. Traditionally, we have struggled with representation of postgraduate students within the SU, and this year we want to play a part in increasing this and making sure that postgraduate students have the experience they deserve during their studies’. Once our part-time postgraduate officer is elected, we will be pushing for greater postgraduate engagement with Union activity and work with them to ensure that postgraduates are accurately represented and engaged with the Students’ Union.

Also from an academic perspective, Course Rep nominations and elections are taking place over the upcoming weeks. As a Union we really value our Course Reps as the link between University departments and the Union, allowing us to identify cross-departmental issues and support the student voice in departments as well as through other levels of the University. We really value the work Course Reps do, and in the past they’ve helped us identify things like the need for lecture capture, improved exam feedback, and more.

While naturally we do a lot of work for students, we are also working on campaigns like signing a Time To Change pledge, encouraging employers including the University to recognise mental health and come together to combat stigma. Of course, something like this will affect staff as well as students, and if you have any ideas about how to make this a celebrated event and continue forward successfully then get in touch with our Wellbeing Officer, Roisin Gallagher, on rg229@le.ac.uk.

Additionally, the Union is running a student-led volunteer fair on in Queen’s Hall on November 5th, giving students the chance to give back to their local community and get involved in various levels of volunteering! Staff are more than welcome to attend, as there will be plenty of interactive activities to get involved with that will take less time than a lunch break to complete.

We describe ourselves as ‘an innovative Union that empowers students to deliver change’ and we think we are achieving that goal. There is a whole world of opportunity for students outside their degrees which help with personal, professional and academic development; it is overwhelmingly beneficial for students to get involved in the Students’ Union at any level, and whatever opportunities students want to take, we want to facilitate them.

If you have any comments or questions about the operation of the SU, please feel free to get in touch at rh291@le.ac.uk.

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