"I was quite shy in first year and now I'm President'
How does it feel being the President of our 25,000 strong student community?
It’s slightly overwhelming. I was quite shy in first year, so if you’d have told me I’d go on to be President, I wouldn’t have believed it. I share so many experiences with the students I now serve and I really want to help everyone to have the best experience at university. I really believe both the Student Union and the university are here to give our students the best time they can possibly have.
What are the objectives for your Presidential year?
My manifesto was drawn up in lockdown and centres on the student experience as we return to campus. A lot of people have missed out, so let’s give them a really great year, let’s pull out all the stops to support them academically, socially and in terms of their physical and mental wellbeing.
You talk a lot about building a sense of community. What is your vision for students?
I think it’s fair to say that the Student Union has had challenges in terms of its physical presence and its visibility. Moving from the basement in John Foster to the new Student Life Building will help massively but our vision as an Executive Team is for the SU to be more engaged in our relationships. How many students even knew that sports teams were run by the SU? Now we have Team LJMU and are building a sense of community through activities and better communication.
Creating community starts with an enjoyable, friendly campus – whether that is the first point of contact at the Student Union, or in student services or academically when students seek support in schools and departments.
I know the people at the top level of the university, they care so much and I would like that to filter to all every single staff member.
Not all students get involved with the Student Union – when did you get involved and why?
Through sport and societies. I studied Sport Science and was vice-captain of the Trampolining Team in second year having been a keen trampolinist since I was six and taken part in national championships throughout my teens. After I graduated was voted in as Vice-President (Activities) with a portfolio to work with sports and societies.
To achieve your goals you need close collaboration from the university. What would you like to see the university do differently?
I think the university could be slightly more flexible. Students are not the same every year, they literally change every single year. We need to acknowledge this. Secondly, I want us to work closely with different parts of the university to ensure that communications with students are relevant, timely and student-friendly; so that we engage in as many meaningful ways as possible.
Do you get the sense that the university has been missing a trick in its contact with students?
Yes, although I appreciate it’s hard to know how to engage some students. Some don’t read their emails, some just go to their lectures and home again. Some just want to do their work, some are here for fun so we really need to understanding that everyone is different.
This is your fifth year in Liverpool now, is it somewhere you would stay long-term?
Definitely, I really like living in the city – I really enjoy that you can walk everywhere and when my friends come to visit they say ‘everyone is so friendly here’.
How has COVID been for you?
I finished my degree in summer 2020 so for the last few months was at home. I was a strange finish to my time as a student but I had the role as VP Activities so I moved back to Liverpool into an adult flat, so in that sense, I was happy I was able to get a job and move out of the family home in a COVID year.
As VP Activities, I really had to adapt as because there were no sports and societies nights and working at home, I didn’t actually meet any students until June! One of my manifesto points last year was around communication between societies and the SU, which had been quite fractured. I know that has improved and I’m proud of that. One big success was the 10-week challenge which saw a lot of competitions between societies in all sorts of activities you could do at home. We even set up a leaderboard, which is a good way of creating community.
Where do you see yourself in 2 or 3 years?
I cannot stay as an officer beyond next June when I’ll have done two terms so it’s hello to the big wide world. I’ve worked closely with the British Universities and Colleges Sport governing body (Bucs) where I’ve been the competition and student performance officer – so maybe I can give myself an opportunity to work in the university sport sector.
What is your message to staff at the university?
I would like staff to think the Student Union is a place to bring people together, the place to find your community. Everyone can feel at home here, we have every type of society and group, so you can find things in common with people here. It is also the fun part of uni I like to say; we host a massive Freshers Fair, big events like Varsity, and International Day.
I’d like staff to tell the students that the Student Union is full of opportunities. Whether it’s sports, personal interests, volunteering and that all these things can add to your academic studies. There are opportunities to be course reps, student leaders, sustainability champions; it all adds to your experience and sense of contributing.
So you’re happy in your new home at the Student Life Building?
Yes, visibility is so important, and with this big banner on the first floor you can’t miss us. It also allows us to collaborate – we have Student Advice and Wellbeing here, the Employability/Careers teams, and we’ve already started working together on different events.