I'm so excited for this coming month. Not only will we see passionate students standing for election, but we'll be voting on which of those candidates will be running the students union next year. I've put together a blog post for those of you who are interested in the role of VP Welfare, so read on and find out a little more about the role.
If I'm honest, when I was first thinking about running for a sabbatical position I had no idea why.
I was passionate about the university, about the student experience and about our amazingly friendly campus community, but I had no idea about the ins and outs of working for a Students Union.
From the outside the union can seem like a bit of a party. And for the most part, that is true, not only are there some incredible events going on in our venues (overseen by the full time commercial staff team) but we have one of the friendliest and most fun working environments I've ever seen. But on the inside there is so much more that goes on. I guess, to use a hyperbole, working at the Union is a bit like the Tardis.
After doing a little bit of thinking and talking to a few people I decided that running for VP Welfare was something I wanted to do. Don't ask me to explain the specifics, I just went for it. Something about the sound of the role resonated with me and I decided to stand as a candidate for election.
I was constantly thinking to myself "how would I know if I'm right for the role?" My main passion at university was running an arts society ("So why didn't you run for Societies??") but it wasn't running the society itself that was important to me; it was the way in which the community of that particular society contributed to the student experience of its members. There were also things I wanted to support at the university. During my second year I had my fair share of personal problems that started to affect my academic studies and the university support services were soon on my radar. It's important to remember that it's not the VP Welfare role to run these services, or in fact take on the role of centre for wellbeing when talking to students. But working alongside these services does form a large part of the day to day activities of the VP Welfare.
The VP Welfare role, I would argue, is possibly the most 'flexible' of all the sabbatical positions. Whilst there are always similar requirements for running sports clubs and societies and working with the university on educational issues, welfare issues are usually a lot broader, and can encompass many aspects of university life.
I would suggest that the role is actually divided into three main areas; being a trustee of the union, being a vice president of the union, and being the welfare officer.
Firstly the sabbatical officers (and the part time officer, union chair) are all trustees of the students union. Alongside the external trustees they are jointly responsible for the corporate governance of the organisation, overseeing everything that goes on and being ultimately responsible for all of the union's finances. This is not a widely known fact about the sabbatical positions and forms the biggest part of responsibility.
Secondly, the role of Vice President comes before the remit of 'welfare'. This means the sabbatical team, under the line management of the president are one team who will work on many projects together. There are so many areas of the union that do not come directly under the remit of welfare that I have been involved with this year and there are many areas in which the VP roles will overlap. Union pride has been a big part of our vision this year and, led by the president, we have worked together on promoting and celebrating the successes of the students union in many different areas. This is one example of how the VP's don't just work on our own projects, but we make sure that the wider vision of the union is worked out in every area of what we do.
Team work is a massive part of the job. Before I started I was a little worried that I would be thrust into a world of student politics and campaigning that I had no idea about! I was a music student and had never worked with anything to do with student welfare issues. But working as a team with the other sabbatical officers helped to refine what I really wanted to do with the role this year and focus on what we could achieve together. The full time staff are just as supportive, when I started I didn't know the difference between an AAFG and the SESC but I can truly say that even the staff working at the highest levels of the university love seeing a new sabb learning about their role. They love seeing us learning all the time about how the university actually works, and helping us to gain the knowledge and understanding of how to ensure that students' views are continually valued by those making the big decisions about student experience.
The most important thing about standing for VP Welfare is to know what you're passionate about. Don't get too bogged down in the reasons for why you're standing, just know that you want to. You may never again have the opportunity to become a trustee, company director, vice-president and a representative for 15,000 students, all at the same time. It is truly a life-changing job and one that you can really make your own. Now is your chance to do something exciting.
If you want to talk about any aspect of running for VP Welfare in the union election please do get in touch. I would love to chat more and answer any questions that you might have.