Megan Downing


02 June 2015 17:34

That’s all folks! My year as Vice President Democracy and Creative Industries

10469284_10152877646274013_5160668797252806395_oMy time as Vice President Democracy and Creative Industries is almost up! It’s been a fantastic year, and I’m writing this blog to reflect on the year that has passed and to inform you all that I will be leaving slightly earlier than the rest of the team. I have been offered a job (literally the job of my dreams) that begins in mid June, therefore my last day in office will be Thursday 11th June.

With forward planning and time management I have been able to complete the entirety of my Sabbatical plan in plenty of time. As you will see in my last sabb report that will go to council on 8th June, I have 100% completed my plan, which I feel incredibly proud of doing. As well as completing all the work I had planned, I have been able to start my handover with my successor, Kerry Sclater, and this is going really well. I am very lucky to have such an amazing person taking up the VP D&CI role, and I wish her all the luck in the world for the year ahead.

This year has been hard work, and I have given this role my all. Below I have highlighted some of my main achievements (and for those of you that like knowing how I’ve split my time between the zones, blue is creative industries and pink is democracy):

Creative Industries Induction – I hosted an incredibly successful Creative Industries Induction allowing for all the student volunteers within the creative industries to come together, network and collaborate, as well as learn some key skills that they have used throughout the year. We were even invited to present our success at the inaugural ILIAD conference (the University of Southampton’s Institute for Learning, Innovation and Development).

Elections re-brand – One of the first things I achieved in my role was implementing our new elections brand. This has been used throughout the year in every one of our elections. It’s something I’m really proud of and hope will be used within the union for the next few years at least.

University Arts Strategy and Engagement Working Group – Last year the University started up their Arts Strategy to focus on the arts offering we have here in Southampton and in particular on Highfield Campus. The union have been a key player in this project, with an Engagement Working Group being lead by the union. 

Wessex Scene re-design and launch party – The Wessex Scene have gone through a lot this past year with a re-design of virtually everything they do! This began with the magazine redesign, a new size and new look which has gone down extremely well this year. To celebrate this they held a launch party in The Bridge that was well attended and a night to celebrate a new beginning for the magazine. Later on in the year they had a complete website redesign to accompany the magazine’s stylish new look. 

Autumn Elections – The biggest set of elections to date were held in Autumn 2014, a huge success for democracy at the union. This was the first time that the new branding was put into action.

Student Publication Association Regional Conference – In November 2014 we hosted the first SPA Regional Conference here at University of Southampton. With talks from the Daily Echo and news training sessions it was great to see some of the journalists of the future on our doorstep and learning some key skills to help them in their student journalist careers and beyond.

Creative Industries Careers Season – The second of it’s kind, and bigger and better than last year. The Creative Industries Careers Season hosted just under twenty sessions, most of which were fully booked. The sessions range from a Keynote from CEO of the Ministry of Sound, Lohan Presencer, to one of our student leaders hosting a session on PR. The breadth of the sessions is something I am incredibly proud of and I hope Kerry and the team can make next year’s Careers Season bigger and better than ever before.

Student Leader Review – I’ve been banging on about this all year so you’re probably sick of hearing about it by now! In November last year I completed the student leader review and have now implemented the changes with the newly elected student leader team. The review was a great example of a student led project with the high level of student consultation really paying off. It was passed at council and I’ve been working since then to implement the changes and start new projects based on the recommendations. 

Red Carpet Gala Screening – We worked with the charity Damaris Trust to host a collaborative event in the form of a fancy gala screening of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The event truly bought some glitz and glam to the union building and it was truly great to see collaboration between so many stakeholders, including the University, Rotary and 20th Century Fox. 

Spring Elections – This year’s Spring Elections in February/March 2015 were like none seen before. We revolutionised our approach to the whole campaign through our marketing, communications and strategy. With candidate welfare at the heart of the elections we provided levels of support that haven’t been done before, and made the elections night live a night to remember. 

Started work on the Students in the Performing Arts Association (SIPAA) – Alongside the Performing Arts Officer we have began building the foundations for a national body representing students in the performing arts. This is very much in the baby stages, but watch this space! Another example of when here at Southampton we’ve spotted a gap in the market and aimed to fill it. 

Hosted the Student Publication Association National Conference – Having founded the SPA back in 2012, it was great to bring it back to our union. In April we saw roughly 100 student journalists from across the country descend on the union for a weekend of training and networking. As well as learning loads of useful things from industry professionals we also hosted a swanky awards night to celebrate the hard work of student journalists from the last twelve months. 

Change One Thing – the Annual General Meeting – This year we thought we would try something a little different to increase engagement with the AGM. ‘Change One Thing’ was a project that invited students to tell us just one thing they would change about the union. We got a huge response from the student body which was followed by more engagement when ideas were voted on. I really think this is a great example of where to go with engaging students, and we can put this one down as a step in the right direction.

Starting the Democracy Review – Speaking of the AGM, a policy passed meaning the democracy team will start on a project to review the democratic processes within the union. This is something that has been in my sabb plan and a timeline has been passed by democracy zone meaning work can begin! It’s great to acknowledge that union council hasn’t worked to the best of it’s abilities this year so making change and addressing the problem will be a good place to start. 

Student Groups Funding – streamlining the process – Throughout the year I have been working on streamlining the processes of student groups funding and we now have a draft procedure to help iron out some of the issues zones have faced this year.

Student Leader Conference – On 2nd June we hosted the Student Leader Conference. It was a great day packed with informative sessions to help the student leaders of 2015/2016 with their year ahead.

What’s still to come…

Culture Cafe and Creative Industries Showcase – At the time of writing this blog, this event hasn’t happened yet! However, I’m sure that the Culture Cafe and the Creative Industries Showcase will be a great success showing off all the great creative industries stuff we do here at Southampton.

You Make Change – This is another project that hasn’t been officially launched yet, but I can tell you to watch this space on 8th June! We will be launching a brand new communication platform for the union, and it’s awesome. 

Hopefully I haven’t bored you too much with my looooonnng list of achievements (#humblebrag). I’ve had a great time here at the union, for the whole four years that I’ve been here working in one capacity or another, I have loved it. Some days have been tough, but working with students and making real change are what drove me to succeed in this role and I hope that the new generation of student leaders and sabbatical officers will cherish this unique opportunity and make a difference to students lives.

Bye for now! x

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