Kerry Sclater

Kerry

vpdci@unionsouthampton.org.old

27 June 2016 14:38


Farewells, Thank you’s, and Things we’ve Gone and Done

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A purrfect president- SUSU the cat

Just one year ago our team started our time as Full Time Officers, and it’s fair to say I started as a naïve and pretty nervous person: I started the year with trepidation pinning my pug pictures to my notice board, and jumping a mile every time my phone rang – but I thought to myself somewhat smugly: there’s no way I would do anything silly enough to ruffle any feathers amongst the student body. Oh, sweet young Kerry.

And I look back now a person who has come on such a steep learning curve; feeling proud of the changes we have all achieved, and a little more wise from constantly learning about how we could/still can be better (but still generally pretty lacking in the wisdom department). There is certainly no other job like this in the world, where a 20 year old can walk in to a job and immediately become responsible for thousands of people and pounds – no pressure then. But this job does give you the fun and the freedom to choose what you want to focus on, and lead your peers to make positive changes for the student body.

Coming to the end of my Full Time Officer journey feels pretty bittersweet at this point. On the one hand we walk away from an incredibly fun job where you work with friends and passionate people to reach amazing achievements – and of course are surrounded by great events and the odd puppy visit –  but on the other hand I’m liberated from the sometimes overwhelming sense of responsibility to a scrutinous and critical student body – a challenging prospect for someone who is a chronic people pleaser. One thing I can certainly take away from this job is that there is factually no way of pleasing everyone, even though I still can’t quite accept that.

One of the highlights of this year has definitely been working with the hundreds of volunteers and staff members who make our Union great; especially my student leaders. Not to gush too much, but it genuinely fills me with a sense of pride that there are such talented and driven people that are willing to give up so much of their time to do bewilderingly impressive things: like running a cinema; a media department with thousands and thousands of hits; or supporting the most Performing Arts groups in the country. So thank you to everyone I’ve worked with this year- there’s far too many to name!  And of course working with the other Full Time Officers (although sometimes we bicker like brothers and sisters) has been another part of the job I will miss: say what you want about them, you’ll find it hard to meet a more friendly (if not slightly odd) group of people who are willing to step up and commit a year of their lives to improving the Union.

 

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A … Surge… of fun on the radio

What have we actually done?

Together, we have made some brave and big decisions this year, which mean we will move massively away from the old SUSU; in both internal functions and external reputation. So, if I may slightly pat my own back a little, I feel like we should recognise just some of the biggest changes volunteers have achieved this year in the Creative Industries and Democracy:

Democracy reform, which has completely rewritten how students will make change and decisions here, and moved away from the old internally focused, confusing, and bureaucratic system.

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The democracy reform papers

Massive boost in students getting involved in everyday democracy: this has included ‘Tap Choose Change’ and ‘Free Food for your Thoughts’ stalls, more ideas than ever before submitted via You Make Change on the website, as well as getting a record smashing turnout for the Hartley Library referendum, and a 46% increase at the AGM

-Launch of the much awaited Money Management scheme, which will massively help student groups manage their finances with the Union. This has also been accompanied by improvements to the groups hub

Student Media review, which will introduce a more united and strategic way forward for the student media departments, including a new media umbrella brand and a media committee

Performing Arts review, which will spark us looking into how we can offer better support with funding and space

-Leaps and bounds with the Arts Strategy: getting the Union and our student groups prioritised as an important player in the Arts offer from the University, which will lead to collaboration with the British Arts Show, and hopefully stronger working relationships with the Arts venues on campus

Learning from elections. We had a successful elections with more student leader candidates than ever, but not an impressive number of FTO candidates. But, this has kicked us into gear to start a big review of how we communicate about elections and encourage people to run. We’ve already started speaking to students about this (with free pizza :p)

 

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I hope that some of the changes we’ve started this year will be built on and embraced by students to spark long lasting, real change. I know I’m walking away from this job with what feels like a lifetimes worth of life lessons and experiences, but please consider my two take away messages to all of you lovely people:

Run to become a Full Time Officer yourself!

You get paid £20k for  a year’s full time work with serious employment benefits such as managing staff and a budget at company director level, but more importantly you have complete freedom to work on the projects you want to. Plus, I can’t even begin to talk about how fun the job is: from Freshers events, to Grad Ball (there are many balls), to the guide dog puppies visiting, to getting involved in student groups, to working with your friends every day in a relaxed environment. Plus, if there’s something you’re not happy with at the Union- this is the way you can change it! If you are interested, make sure you get in touch with my successor Cameron (vpdci@unionsouthampton.org about how to get involved).

 

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Get behind your Union!

We’ve certainly met some very deep rooted and complicated challenges this year that go to the very core of who we are, what we do, and how we do things as a Union, and whilst I now feel brave enough to say we’ve left an impressive mark in changing things, there is still a way to go. But, we are never going to grow into the Union every student want us to be until students get behind the Union and row together. By all means offer up your criticism in Facebook – it isn’t ignored- but go beyond that: be brave and commit yourself to getting involved with the Union in whatever way you want: support our wins, give constructive criticism to our mistakes, and offer your own ideas and times to change the things you don’t like. We are stronger together, and we need student backing to be bigger, better, and more representative- so ask yourself, what could you do to improve things?

 

Well, that’s all from me I guess (thank goodness, some of you may cry), so I’ll leave with a Thank You and a sense of pride after a unique year of so many different things – I can’t wait to see where we are in 5 years’ time!

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