Thinking of running in GSU Elections? Neve, our Staff Member from Student Voice and Representation team shares her journey of being a Students' Union Officer.
I’m now a member of the GSU Voice and Representation Team, but I spent the last academic year as a Student Officer at a different Students’ Union! I was an Access, Education and Participation Officer, which means that I was focused on widening access and participation in Higher Education for underrepresented students, but also on making sure that educational policies and provision were working for current students at the university. I campaigned to increase provision of recorded lectures and to introduce a reading week, and worked on restoring in-person access provision following the pandemic.
Being part of a Student Officer team is the most unique job I’ll ever have. At 21, I was part of the leadership team of a charity, sitting on committees with academics with years of experience, and was being trusted to represent all undergraduate students at my university.
It was a huge responsibility, and one that I took very seriously, but was also a lot of fun! I met and worked with a team of people who had the same values as me, and our shared aim was always to make students’ time at university better, whether that was through hosting the best events we could, writing proposals to improve teaching and learning conditions, or giving students advice when they’re facing a difficult time.
As an Officer, you get to be involved in all of this work, as well as creating your own priorities that will shape the mission of the Union. It’s a wild job to have, and I doubt that I’ll ever have another one like it.
My biggest achievement in the role
One of the best things I did as an Officer was getting involved in reintroducing in-person access work to the SU following COVID. It was super rewarding to run a residential scheme, welcoming nearly 100 sixth form students to the university and city. They got to see the university through the eyes of a current student and were encouraged to make a more informed decision about whether Higher Education was for them.
I found it so exciting to be able to see the impact of our work on people in real time, which is often quite difficult when you spend a lot of time in committee meetings or working on policies that won’t take effect until you’ve left your post!
What I learned working as an Officer
Obviously, I liked being an Officer enough to keep working in SUs! My time as an Officer had a massive impact on my life by introducing me to a whole new career path. But it also taught me a lot about making my voice heard and asserting myself; I was part of a team of entirely women and non-binary Student Officers, which was so much fun, but also meant that we were deeply aware of how we might be perceived, perhaps taken less seriously because of this.
This was never something that we thought was fair, and we made sure to stay true to our values, experiences and priorities whilst navigating a complex landscape of university politics. It was difficult, and there were times when being a Student Officer really was not the most fun, but we made it! I remain incredibly proud to have been a part of that team, and working with my fellow Officers had a major impact on how I understand myself and the world around me.