This month we’re saying a fond farewell to the 21/22 Student Exec team ahead of their successors taking up their positions in July. We sat down with the team to record a podcast discussing their next chapter, things students wouldn’t know about the work the Exec do, big wins throughout the year and favourite moments from their time as officers.
Today we’re sharing some of the highlights of the podcast episode to mark the end of this Student Exec team’s time in office. Manish Joshi, Strath Union CEO, helped lead the conversation:
How does it feel finishing up in your roles?
Savvina (VP Education) – In some sense it’s the end of our journey at Strathclyde. It’s the right time, we’ve done what we could throughout this year, started some things that other people [incoming exec] can finish next year.
Benn (President) – I’m leaving with good feelings. We’ve done so much this year it’s been great and now we [Benn and Ru] need to go back and be students or need to find new jobs. It’s been a lot of fun and the team has been absolutely amazing. It will be weird going back to being a student next year but, in a way, I’m looking forward to coming through the [Union] doors with no weight on my shoulders anymore.
What is something students don't know about the work the Exec do?
Ru (VP Community) – The number of committees we sit on, it’s an important part of what we do making student voice heard. None of the people in these committees, or certainly a lot of them, are not the people who are going to be making these decisions, they are reporting on decisions that have been made. They can work with us, we can suggest things and work together on things like reviews of housing, audits before new students arrive and that sort of thing is where the committees are useful.
Benn – University Court is probably the most interesting part of my job that’s not talked about. It's where we have 5 meetings all about the same big meeting with the same papers and pretty much the same people. We got 2 nice dinners this year in exchange for that.
Manish – It's important people realised that you are elected officers, employees of the Student Union, trustees of the Student Union and two of you, both the President and one other, become trustees of the university. You’re wearing multiple hats. You’re there both with your student voice and student expertise, but also independently as a trustee of a massive organisation that deals with all kinds of stuff.
What were some of the biggest win this year?
Nesha (VP Inclusion) – The black canvas mural which came about during Black History Month. Me and Nathan, the outgoing BAME Rep, wanted to do something more than talking about race issues in October. We wanted to make it a yearlong commitment to caring about those issues. One of the ideas we came up with was doing a piece of art and we came up with a mural. Manish pointed out a big blank wall on a building otherwise covered in murals. We ended up upping the scale so it would be on the wall facing the Students Union and Rottenrow Gardens. We secured the funding and artist for that, so we are now just finalising the design.
Savvina – We’ll have a permanent no detriment policy which was worked on this year. That will include not just the pandemic but any type of disruption, also things like the strikes that happened this year. It will cover any type of disruption that could affect students learning and their learning journey at Strathclyde. That’s a huge step in helping students with their education and if they face any difficulties.
Lewis (VP Welfare) – Rent freezes in halls for the fourth year running. Strathclyde Halls need modernisation and could be a lot better, but they are some of the most affordable Halls in Glasgow hands down, and in Scotland for where they are based on local prices of other accommodation. I'm really happy we were able to provide that for students because students need to be on campus, it’s a huge part of the student experience.
Pictured (L-R): Benn Rapson, Savvina Kritharidou, Kirsty Bannatyne, Nesha Malone, Lewis McDermott and Ru Wallace. Honorary mention for Bailey, the official unofficial Union dog this year.
What were some of your own personal wins?
Lewis – There’s a lot of things, the big wins for me are when a student comes to me and says, ‘Hey, I need a hand with something, can you help me out?’. I can point them in right places and get them the help they need and get that wee message of thanks that’s what make this role worth it. I’m honoured to have been re-elected and if I can do anything to actually make a tangible difference to students lives, I’m more than happy, that’s what it’s all about for me.
Savvina – I didn’t share a lot of what I was working but now finishing the year we did managed to finish a lot of stuff, a lot of the projects that we started and even more than the ones we initially thought we would start doing this year.
Benn – A lot of the wins that the Union gets are micro wins that stack up over time. Not necessarily things that merit speaking about in the moment, quite often it’ll be stopping something that could have happened that would have been terrible for students. Two things that are coming but aren’t quite here yet, but you’ll see them soon are ‘Change It' which is the democratic system we work through and passed this year which will make democracy at the union more accessible. Students will be able to propose ideas online and vote for them online. The other one I’m determined will be done is a Strath Union app for Freshers 22. This will be great for societies primarily, and news as well as segmented information for the bits of the Union that you really care about. I hope to have a final surprise before I leave office too.
What has been your top highlight from this year?
Kirsty – I think Taxis cup day was one of them. Being at that netball game where there was nothing in it, it was just nuts being on the side-line. We thought we’d won and then we didn’t, and it had to go to extra time it was just crazy. I’d say it was probably one of the standout moments.
Ru – STAR Awards for me after 2 years of online awards and having never been to one in person myself for various reasons. Hosting the awards, celebrating the volunteers, having a good curry. It went well and had a ceilidh at the end of the night which was also great. It's quite a scary thing knowing that you’re going up there to present stuff but once you’re up there and there are all these amazing people in front of you who’ve put hundreds if not thousands of hours into volunteering for their societies. It was a really good, fun night celebrating all that.
Lewis – My highlight from the year definitely is Election night and the Women in Leadership awards. Being able to first celebrate with everyone that was successfully elected, share commiserations for those that didn’t and celebrating the culmination of a whole year’s worth of work, then quickly scooting down to the Grand Central to celebrate the fantastic women that we have at Strathclyde and in the Strathclyde family. Seeing everyone being really happy and excited sharing that joy and excellence that we have was great.
If you could give the incoming officers one piece of advice what would it be?
Benn – Be kind to yourself. It’s very easy in this job to get into a self-criticism mode and go ‘I should have done more; I could have done more’ because you put so much emotional investment and emotional labour into it. You come into the job genuinely wanting to make a difference. It's very easy to set yourself internal expectations that are unachievable and then when you don’t hit those your hard on yourself. You’re a human being and a student first and foremost.
Kirsty – You’re going to want to do everything, but you’ve only got so many hours in a day. Look after yourselves and prioritise stuff you want to actually to do.
Nesha – Know your voice, especially for any women going into a role. Know you’re there because you have been elected on something. You have the right to speak on it.
Lewis – Be yourself and true to yourself whenever possible. You can very easily get lost in the role, but it is exhausting trying to a person that is an exaggerated version of yourself. Make sure you’re taking your time to get silly and be fun with it. People will see that, and it will reflect in your work too.
Our thanks to the Strathclyde Alumni Fund for the funds that helped allow this podcast to happen. Listen to this full episode and more on the Strath Union Podcast now!