As part of the Students’ Union Elections Nomination period, Impact’s Laura Scaife interviews current Activities Officer Phoebe Willis. Phoebe reflected on her year as Activities Officer and offered some top tips to encourage you to apply.
candidates are going to have a lot more support
What happens when you apply for a SU officer role?
When I applied I sent in my manifesto and the campaign resources I was going to use. Then, I was contacted to say these are the rules, this is what you need to do and we’re going to have some meetings about it. This year I know candidates are going to have a lot more support, so they’ll be coached more beforehand to ensure they all understand the rules and understand how it’s going to work, so that they have a better idea of what is going on. There’s also going to be a wellbeing room where candidates can come in and I think play Mario Kart, have snacks and chat to staff.
How did you come up with ideas for your manifesto?
I looked around and thought about what I would have liked when I first joined the uni. Then I asked about what needed changing with people I knew. You can’t precampaign, so I couldn’t say “I’m running for Activities Officer what should I do?” But I could say “what’s a bit rubbish about the student union (SU), what do you think?” and I got some really good ideas from friends and people around me.
Do you have any tips for the election process?
You’ve only got a week and you’ve got to encourage people to vote in that week, so just be as engaging as possible. But make sure you take time for yourself and take breaks because it’s going to be a really full on week. I was all over Instagram and TikTok etc. although when I campaigned it was only allowed to be online and not in person. If I was going to do in person stuff, I’d probably do everything I did on social media as well as campaigning in person. This would have been incredibly hectic, so I really hope everyone’s going to be okay this year and I’m glad they’re going to get extra support.
Do something a bit different. I dressed up in a pumpkin costume and did a photoshoot around campus. I made friends with other people running and invited them to have a chat with me about their manifesto. That was really useful because we could bounce off each other and the two people I invited to have a bit of a chat with me, ended up winning their roles as well. So it was really nice that we could work together beforehand.
Be grateful for your friends that are helping you out. I didn’t have much of a campaign team which a lot of people did have. You go in as the candidate and the candidate has a campaign team behind them. I kind of did it on my own with the support of some friends. I had two really good friends; one who was helping me make content and one who was filming for my pre-content. Just be grateful towards everyone helping you out.
Why should people apply for your role?
It’s so student-facing and collaborative – that’s what I like most. A lot of these roles have a lot of power and influence, and they work a lot with the university higher-ups and non-students. I prefer that I get to work with the students group team who run all the societies, other student groups and sports clubs (not part of my role). I just thought it would be so much fun. I get to run events and look at employability and see what 400 groups are doing. It’s always really different and positive because it’s students and everyone’s really excited to be there. It’s a lot of fun.
Could you describe the other officer roles?
George – Union Development Officer: George has a number of overarching roles. He is chair of the trustee board; all officers are trustees of the student union as a registered charity. He is also our group lead and representative, he leads the Friday weekly meetings and is in charge of the day to day running of things, as well as being a student representative and working with the National Union of Students.
Chris – Education Officer: He runs the Education Network and is the education representation in university board meetings.
Brad – Postgraduate Officer: Brad is in charge of educational representation for postgrads as well as activities, wellbeing, etc. All of it really.
AJ – Sports Officer: AJ’s role is similar to my role. She’s in charge of everything related to sports.
Muhammad – Community Officer: He is in charge of the associated bodies we have; so the guild at Sutton Bonington campus, Medsoc etc. He also does what students need in the community, champions volunteering and works with the council.
Alice – Welfare and Wellbeing Officer: Alice helped Brad recently with Postgrad wellbeing week. She does lots of campaigns and projects for student wellbeing. For example, Project Period, which supplied completely free period products for anyone who wanted them. I think they’re going to bring that back in so that’s really cool.
Sultan – Liberations Officer: Sultan leads on diversity and is the main contact for our networks. The leads of the networks are our part time officers (Women’s, Disabled Students’, BME Students’, International Students’, LGBT+, Environment and Social Justice, Mature Students’).
How much do you collaborate with the other officers?
I work collaboratively with the student group and activity group teams. I don’t often work collaboratively with the other officers, but I did collaborate with AJ (our Sports Officer) on the code of conduct revamp. We rewrote the code of conduct to apply to all student members of any student group.
What does your role involve?
A bit of everything! I sit in on meetings as a student representative, sit on the Student Experience Committee, as well as other university boards. I am a trustee, bring through big decisions and tasks I need to delegate out. I am the chair of the Student Engagement Sub Committee of trustees for the union. I work really closely with the students groups team to facilitate opportunities. I support events that are happening: the Christmas fair, Activities Ball and Activities Awards. I run our social media. I have my own social media and I run our TikTok Account, which is super fun. Shoutout to our TikTok account, it’s UoNSU_Officers. The account only had a couple of followers when I inherited it and now has more than 150. I picked the university challenge team, and they are going to be on TV next year, which is really exciting. I also respond to little things that pop up to do with student activities and student experience.
What was your biggest achievement during your time as Activities Officer?
I have to take in all the funding applications when activities groups want their grant funding for their year ahead and I managed to get 20 grand extra to give to student activity groups this year. Which was a really hard slog because it took a couple of weeks to persuade the SU that we needed the money to give to student groups, so I’m really proud of that. I’m also really proud of the change to the code of conduct which means a lot more students can be held accountable if they do misbehave.
What was your favourite part of your role?
Talking to students, coming in everyday and just talking to members of student groups, it’s nice to be around young people and help them, collaborating with everyone is fun.
What’s something that surprised you about your role?
The fact that I’m no longer scared to send an email. I know it’s really silly, but you know when you’re writing an email and you’re worried it’s going to come across wrong? Now I just fire them all out and send a bunch of emails every day. It’s great, I love it.
Even if you don’t think you’re good enough to apply, apply anyway
What are the most important skills if someone is thinking about applying for one of these roles?
Just a willingness to adapt, and good communication skills or a willingness to work on your communication skills.
Is there anything else I haven’t covered that you would like to say?
Good luck to everyone who applies. Even if you don’t think you’re good enough to apply, apply anyway!
I wish I’d applied the first time round. I only applied in bi-elections because I saw the first round of elections go out and I thought “Oh I wouldn’t be good enough for that I was just a treasurer, but it looks like a fun job for somebody”. Then I saw no one applied for it and I thought, “why did no one apply for it, it looks fun, maybe I could do that.” So I applied and I won and now here I am, and I’m doing great and it’s so much fun. I hope people know that they don’t have to have all the experience in the world to do this job they just have to have a want and a passion.
You can learn when you get here. You just have to know what you want to change and be realistic. Apply if you think you can do it and good luck!
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