Posted by: sarahwakefield | September 7, 2010

Week Eleven and Twelve: What turns me on about Student Unions

So it looks like two weeks in one blog. Within these two weeks I’ve been able to crunch through the hundreds of emails which built up over training and the holiday, enjoy my new shared office, have some fun talks with the University and take some time to catch up with some quality TV (such as the truly amazing Great British Bake Off which will be worked into a blog in the near future).

However, the inspiration for this blog has come from four events; talking to Kate and Amanda about our role in fighting HE cuts, attending a meeting of Russell Group Unions with Joe investigating the idea of internationalisation, speaking to the chair of the newly established film society and receiving a complaint about our minibus booking system.

The first two are going to be big topics over the coming months so I will leave those for now, apart from to encourage you to sign up to the NUS’s Demo 2010 website here…

The two latter, seemly smaller issues got me excited as they reminded me why this job was one which I was prepared to go through an election to get. Speaking about the new film society consisted of an impromptu brainstorming with some handy flipchart paper about the route student media has the potential to take in UMSU over the next few years. Greatly inspired by Sheffield’s Student Union’s acquisition of Mary Anne Hobbs it seem to me that student media can get big names excited about the talent Student Unions can offer. Indeed, having written for our student paper for three years and sub edited for two alongside various guest appearances on Fuse FM the value student media has added to my experience of Uni has been massive and I have worked alongside and learnt from some incredibly talented journalists. My experience of student media epitomises what I have been consistently telling people what I love about Student Unions; great peer-to-peer mentoring where students pass on their skills for free in an environment where it is safe to fail.

The second event was receiving an email complaint from a student who was trying to fathom the booking system for our minibuses. As I had a free fifteen minutes before lunch I decided to give this guy a call and chat through his problems to see if we could amend our booking system to fit some of his ideas. His problem was as a medic our General Officer opening hours made it difficult for him to get down and make the booking in person, furthermore we have a rule about not booking the minibuses more than four weeks in advance which was making it hard for him to plan his event. He has been used to the AU’s efficient and clear booking system which he can do over the phone. Being able to take the time to chat to him meant he had lots of great ideas to help us out which will assist Miles, I and our staff to build a more straight forward system which allows our societies to flourish without unnecessary admin.

A good friend said to me last Tuesday, “you do realise that you’re a quarter of the way through your term and you’ve not actually achieved anything”. Indeed, it would be easy to fill days without working on those key outcomes for students, however many of the achievements are going to come from students this year and my role will be to facilitate and push them forward. It does look like there are some priorities, which I will be able to help take the lead on, shaping up more clearly than they did in my manifesto; getting a strong statement on HE cuts through UMSU Council, setting the foundation for a strong three part student media venture, working on the internationalisation of UMSU and eventually the University.

But what will get me excited and turn me on more than anything else this year? Getting those individuals involved and making a difference to others experience, mentoring the next teams of sabbs and knowing we have built an environment where students can try, fail and succeed past what they might have hoped when they first enter our Union building to purchase their University hoodie.

PS I’m going to be posting my exec reports on this website so you will be able to read about my exciting themed exploits at work and the not quite so exciting daily break down of tasks (emails feature heavily here…)

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