This year we took to our screens for five days of virtual training with the NUS Lead and Change conference.
Five days of NUS Lead and Change training done and I dare ask if I feel any different? I can say a big YES to that!!! Having experienced physical training two years ago, I looked forward to the virtual training session and interacting with other sabbatical officers. Though meeting physically is much more preferred, I can certainly say that I gained the most out of my days on training. It was interesting having great discussions with other Presidents from across the country, identifying similar challenges, sharing experiences and examples of things that have worked well in their universities during this COVID phase.
Wondering why this training is so important? Students’ Union Leaders like myself get the opportunity to connect with other Officers from across the country, collaborate on projects and get equipped with the right skills and lots of exciting information that enable us to serve and lead our student communities better. The areas covered provided more insight on important things to consider going forward into the academic year and allowed each President to share advice and offer potential steps to solving problems.
I particularly enjoyed my tutor group due to the interactive activities and conversations - the Presidents and the Tutor were friendly and open about their experiences. We had discussions on how we could engage the student community and do things differently in light of COVID and how to connect with various student groups. Overall, the sessions were really beneficial and it felt like a safe space for Presidents to openly share their dilemma and how they manage expectations and manifesto commitments.
This year NUS took to the internet to host their very first virtual conference. This lasted for five days, during these five days, I had the privilege of meeting other sabbatical officers from all over the country. Some of which were familiar faces from a year ago, which made me realise just how quickly a year can come and go.
We were split into different tutor groups, which were also split into even smaller groups in order to make the discussion points more inclusive and personal. These workshops gave us as officers, more freedom to express and share our experiences of our first year and give advice to each other. As officers in roles such as ours, there is no doubt that we experience various difficulties.
However, these workshops served to encourage and remind us of our importance to students, who are the ones we are accountable to, the staff we work with and the entire educational experience. The sessions also served as a reminder that our mental health should also be one of our main priorities, you can’t help anyone if you’re burnt out.
This year’s conference also allowed us to forge relationships with the other officers in order to build a network which could help different students’ unions work, support and encourage each other. Personally, I found this year’s conference to be very helpful in refreshing my mental stability for my final term in office.
Lead and Change is a networking and training session for new and second-year officers in The Students’ Union. This is organised by the National Union of Students (NUS).
This program was indeed important, as it came with content that accommodates the different officers across the UK. I am excited that I participated in the training. The different tutor groups helped me understand more about the working principle of The Students’ Union. From this, I also got to meet presidents from different universities who represent societies like me. This allowed me to get contact information, for future purposes, as I intend to collaborate with other universities in my manifesto.
Most of the tutor groups covered discussions including an elevator pitch role-plays on leadership and being a follower, oppression (different ways of which we could be oppressed ranging from racism, antisemitism and islamophobia) and successful action learning. These groups were later broken out into subgroups called “Breakout Rooms”, which I feel aided more on networking and getting to share our experiences. It also allowed us to carry out role plays on being a host and how to work well in those settings. Furthermore, I got to hear other presidents manifesto plans and also got some insight into their freshers’ preparations.
In General, lead and change was a productive and a good networking platform. Although, I did wish we were physical instead of virtual.
It is always good to spend time and network with other officers from around the country. To share ideas, give advice and also learn from each other. Although I’d have preferred it being physical, having Lead and Change virtual worked really well too. You get to meet even more officers and I liked that the grouping was done according to roles.
One thing I picked up on was the piece about engagement. A number of universities are facing a similar issue with student engagement and for me, it falls back to moving away from the current one-way university system to a two-way system.
One thing this COVID period has highlighted is the question around accessibility. “How accessible is your university?”
We’re all working on constantly improving student experience, although it’s all different universities we do have similar concerns. That’s why it was beneficial networking and engaging in conversations with other officers on how we can achieve this common goal.
I’m feeling really inspired after a week at the National Union of Students' Conference Lead and Change! After several weeks of internal virtual training by staff at The Students’ Union and the University, Lead and Change was a good opportunity to connect with other sabbatical officers across the country. The training consisted of panel discussions, networking sessions, and sessions with our assigned tutor group for the week.
Being in a tutor group with other Officers undertaking the same role as myself was a great opportunity to network and discuss our individual aspirations and concerns for the upcoming academic year. The sessions gave us an opportunity to share success stories and lessons learnt in our first year, effective methods of engaging with students both physically and digitally, how we can leave a legacy in our universities and finally, inclusive leadership and how we can explore the ways in which we can all create a positive and productive balance between our work and personal lives.
Overall, despite not being able to meet other Officers in person, Lead and Change gave me the opportunity to develop new relationships and discuss ideas with other sabbatical officers across the country. It broadened my knowledge of key educational and social issues, which I and my team will be taking forward in the upcoming year.