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Where are They Now: SU Presidents

Results are in for the new SU Exec, who will begin their term of office in September, marking the start of the new SU calendar.

Our incumbent president, Alex Corck-Adelman (‘Corky’), told Impact that he plans to “volunteer at the Olympics and Paralympic Games. I’m then hoping to do a ski season, and then coach football in the States next summer, “I didn’t travel before Uni, so it will be nice to have a bit of a gap year that is totally different to this year — outdoors, no pressure, no responsibility. In terms of my career, I’m eventually hoping to either go into Corporate Social Responsibility, or the charity sector directly, possibly working in international development.” In light of these exciting plans, we decided to take a trip back in time, to see what presidents from the past have achieved since leaving office.

A significant number of former SU presidents have made their mark on services to the British government and society. Having left the role of SU president in 1931, Denis Follows pursued a career in the football industry, exercising the skills in diplomacy and efficient decision-making that had served him well as SU president. Despite being head of the intensely political structure of the SU, throughout his life, Follows defended sport against the encroachment of politics. As chair of the British Olympic Association, he defied the government’s move to boycott the Moscow Olympics, believing that sport should build bridges, rather than destroy them. An MBE in 1950 was the first of a long line of awards Follows received in light of his contribution to the industry, culminating in a knighthood in 1978.

Although Follows turned his back on his political experiences, Jeremy Browne, SU president 1992-1993, continued his political career. He is now MP for Taunton Deane, as well as being an “unsung hero of the coalition” as Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Although not partisan as president, he was an active member of the Liberal Democrats on campus. Browne told Impact that he hopes to return to Nottingham soon to see how we’re getting on.

A more traditional type of hero, 1951 president Francis Panton was a bomb disposal expert during the Second World War. This was the beginning of what would prove to be a lengthy and successful career within the Ministry of Defence. His time as president led him into the National Union of Students, where he was Vice-President upon graduating from Nottingham. His PhD in Chemistry from Nottingham qualified him in his role as nuclear weapons consultant during the Cold War. However, he also has a keen interest in archaeology, which he pursued in 1999 with a second PhD in History from the University of Kent.

Not all SU presidents left Nottingham behind, however, with 1954 president Daphne Franks devoting her time to setting up the Franks Scholarship. This award is given to graduate entry medicine Students showing interest in extra-curricular activities during their time at the University. In 1996, she was awarded an OBE for her work with the Thames Valley Police Authority, and continues to work with the Police Rehabilitation Trust.

There are also several former presidents who continued on to work in the media, despite their varying degrees at Nottingham. Joseph Harker, president from 1986-7, graduated from Nottingham with a degree in Chemical Engineering, and now works as the assistant comment editor for The Guardian. “I started my first job in journalism at The Voice newspaper, and I went there because campaigning was one of the things I had picked up during my year as student president. It gave me that drive to carry on, and I continued as a campaigning journalist at The Voice.” He praised his time as president and said how both the skills he developed in the role, and his work for Impact helped him break into the industry.  “Certainly getting into a lot of debates, public speaking and campaigning gave me a focus for when I left, and the fact that I wrote a column for Impact gave me my first taste of writing, and made it easier for me to get into journalism”. Harker was also one of the first ethnic minority presidents at Nottingham, and his campaigns for race equality continued on from his year as president into his first job. “I was also the first black president, and the two previous presidents were both women; Liz Jennett and Louise Wilson, so we felt that we were making progress and that times were changing.”

Student Union president from 1991-2, Daniel Korn, also works in the media, and is now the Senior Vice President and Head of Programming for the Discovery Channel in the UK and Western Europe. He described the president’s job as “challenging at times” but also “huge fun”, and added, “it exceeded all expectations and made it clear just what an important part of student life the Students’ Union (and the facilities it provided) was.”

Julian Waters is a third notable former president in the media. On leaving Nottingham after his year as president in 1980-1, Waters took a post as a sports reporter at the Trent FM radio station. He later moved to Capital Radio where he covered the 1992 European Championships, the 1992 Olympic Games and the 1994 World Cup. He then joined Sky Sports in 1994, and currently works as a reporter on Sky Soccer News and Soccer Weekend.

One of our most recent SU Presidents, Will Vickers, who was in office from 2010-2011, is starting his career in Operations Consulting with Deloitte this September. But how does the role set our Presidents up for their careers? In an interview with Impact, Vickers described how the “roles in themselves mean nothing; it’s what you do with them”. He believes that being SU President gives any job candidate fantastic experience to talk about in any interview situation, as it is “an overwhelming amount of responsibility for someone that age. The amount of experience you get is unparalleled.”

It seems then that the role of President can open many doors for future careers rather than sending one down a specific route. However, anyone running from a completely CV-building point of view is heading for a fall. Vickers added, “it’s not about what role you did, it’s about what you achieved in that role. The role itself is not enough. Running from a completely careerist point of view, it’s not going to get you a job. I never did it out of any desire to get a job; I did it out of a desire to be the SU President.”

The lifetime achievements of our previous SU Presidents are evidently numerous, but during that single year in office, it can be difficult to implement all the changes promised during elections. Our new President-elect Amos Teshuva has claimed that “a lot more can be done with the AU” with regards to inclusion, and is against the cutting of any sports teams; he also has strong views on student bus routes in Lenton.

However, previous SU President Harker reminded Impact that “in one year, there’s only so much you can do. I certainly made movements in everything that I’d hoped to do, but obviously there are some battles you can’t win just within one year. Essentially, there are only three meetings in that one year that you’ve got to make a major change, so there’s a limited amount you can actually do.”

Vickers agreed on this point, describing how “you don’t really know what the issues are until you get to see all the information behind the scenes, both from a Union and University perspective. A lot of the pledges that we all make are very practical things, but when you actually start you realise there’s not a lot of that which you can actually do, especially within a year. The real job itself turns out to be completely different. There are lots of other things that could be achieved, and were achieved.” So how realistic is it that Amos will be able to implement all of his pledges? The later lives of SU Presidents are as varied as their years in office, so we can only wait to see how Amos and our new SU Executive Committee fare in the next academic year.

Antonia Paget, Emily Tripp and Lorna Stone

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