Friday, 31 January 2014

Love your Library.... what you think matters

So, you may have seen one of these cheeky fellows floating around the library...
You may even have been one of those who posted a postcard into this post-box...
If you were, then I would like to say thank-you for taking the time to fill out the survey! Over the summer, the University made some fantastic changes to the second and fifth floors... but we don’t want it to stop there!

RUSU ran the library survey to find out what you want out of the library. Naturally, views and opinions differ across year and faculty, but here is what we found the overall student body wants:

  • Continued refurbishments to the third and fourth floors
  • An increase in the library temperature (believe it or not, one of the biggest student gripes was that you were too cold)
  • Improved toilet facilities
  • Improved catering facilities, with more space to eat in particular more group study spaces
  • Improved IT services, including more computers
  • More extensive and up-to-date collections
  • Of course, many other issues have been raised as a result of the survey, which we will also continue to work on – such as more safety bus provisions

By filling in our postcard, you have directed your Union.

ou have given us a wealth of data we can now use as evidence to lobby the University on all the above matters.................we'll keep you posted on our progress.J

Emma Jackson
Education Officer 2013/14
Follow @RUSU_Education  

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

So you want to be the RUSU Community and Development Officer?

It is strange to think that this time last year I was in my third year of English Language, wondering what to do when I graduated. Whether I would move home, go travelling, stay in Reading or continue my studies on a postgraduate course. Being a Student Officer never really figured as a possible option. I thought it was for super confident students, who were engaged with politics and understood democracy, all attributes that I thought I didn't really have. However, I really could not have been more wrong.

Being a Student Officer is about being passionate about students’ rights. It is about wanting the best for students, whether it be good feedback from assignments, more information regarding careers, or more opportunities to volunteer. It is about leading a multi-million pound organisation with 4 other Officers, being a Trustee of a charity and being part of something that can really make a difference to over 15,000 students.

If it wasn't for one of last year’s Student Officer’s giving me a gentle nudge, I would never have had the confidence to run and would have never had the great experiences and skills that I have acquired. So now it is my turn to encourage you to stand for elections and to have one of the best experiences you will ever have.

So why run to be the Community and Development Officer? There is no simple response to this question because the reality is there are a multitude of reasons why you should run for this position.

Firstly, the role is still very new, there is so much scope to tailor the role into what you think a Community and Development Officer should be. This is even more true now that the role has slightly changed. You would be the Officer responsible to take the lead on the issues and campaigns that relate to student housing and halls of residence. Something that every single student experiences and a chance for you to make a real difference to these students time at Reading.

Secondly, you are responsible for the direction and expansion of volunteering, a huge but very exciting task.
RUSU recognises the importance volunteering has for both personal and career development. Volunteering has grown so much in the last two years, but there are still so many opportunities for students to get involved with and it will be up to you how to regulate those opportunities and to decide how you best feel students will engage with volunteering.

Thirdly, and this is the best reason by far, every single day is different. One day you might be going to Lakeside Care Home to help out with a tea party, you might be helping another Officer with a campaign they are running, you might be speaking on Junction11 one day, the next you might be in a University board meeting representing students followed by meeting community members to tell them about the great things students’ do, and even end up having tea and cake with the Mayor. There are certainly tough days, but they are way outweighed by the great days, when something positive is achieved for students. Every day brings a new experience and a new skills set. It is great to put on the CV and it is possibly the best introduction to working life.

Being a Student Officer gives you a great experience that you will always look back on and could lead you into having an incredible job. Even if you are undecided about running, come and speak to one of the Officers now, our doors are always open, and we can support you in any way we can.

Katy Ashford
Community and Developemnt Officer 2013/14
Follow @RUSU_Community

Monday, 27 January 2014

So you want to be the RUSU Engagement Officer?

Your involvement with a Students' Union can be somewhat strange. Once immersed in the world of Students' Unions, NUS and University meetings, it is easy to fall into buzz-words and a rather assumed attitude that all students must experience your Students' Union the way you do.
The best thing about Students' Unions – and especially here at RUSU – is that everyone experiences it in their own way. We are all introduced to it through various avenues; usually initially through a prospectus listing societies and sport teams or at the Sports and Societies Fayres in Freshers' Week.

The best thing about being a part of the Students' Union is leaving an impact – you can do this by participating in any aspect of it. When I look back at my  University experience, it is RUSU that had a big impact on what made it fantastic. I didn't necessarily know it at the time. All the things that happen behind the scenes for events like the Summer Ball and Societies organising trips abroad, complete your university experience and I guarantee are the things you will remember the most.

Being able to lead and influence this organisation is therefore hugely fulfilling. It is tough, but so are many jobs and there are very few jobs for graduates that allow an undergrad to walk in and help lead and shape an organisation. The sense of accomplishment is huge and you have all the support and resources to help you achieve what you set out to achieve. The role in itself is hugely rewarding, but it is also a year (or potentially two) where you are experiencing university in a very different way. It won’t be like being a student again – however it has lots of benefits, and it is good working in an environment you are fairly used to and comfortable with.
Whether you have been involved in JCR’s, sports teams or just attended the Union on a Wednesday night, you will have fresh experiences and new ideas to bring to the role and help improve other students' time here at the University of Reading.

My own role encourages a lot of creativity. It can be demanding at times with a lot of different aspects to juggle, but that is what makes it exciting. The role will include the commercial side of the union, sports teams, campaigning, societies and student media – it therefore welcomes students from all walks of life.

If you’re even considering running for Student Engagement Officer, or indeed any of the roles coming up in the elections, I recommend it. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask and drop by my office. Any of the Student Officers will happily help you. If you are considering running in the elections, then do. You won’t regret it. Elections week is a great learning experience and hugely fulfilling.

Josh Cave
Student Engagement Officer 2013/14
Follow @RUSU_Engagement

Thursday, 16 January 2014

So you want to be the RUSU Education Officer?

February is fast approaching, which can only mean one thing in RUSU language: Election time and guess what... I think you should consider running for one of the best placement roles/graduate jobs that you could ever have.

There are so many layers to being a sabbatical officer, but my gosh if I had a penny for every time I was accused of running because I wanted to ‘live as a student for an extra year’ I wouldn't need my salary! However, this is most definitely not the case. The truth is, this job is not what I expected. It’s so much more...  From day one you are at the helm of a multi-million pound turnover charity which, along with the other sabbatical officers, you direct.

But why become an Education Officer in particular? Easy – because it’s the one commonality that all students at the University of Reading share. It’s why every single person has embarked on their journey in Reading, and makes working for students feel all the more worthwhile.

From the minute you step into office, you have to open your mind up from your course and take into account the needs of all students which vary wildly. Some students spend their days locked away in a lab, whilst others have next-to-no contact hours. The needs of every student are different and it’s the job of an Education Officer to look at what the student body needs as a whole, as well as those in individual faculties.
As an Education Officer, you will need to balance the demands of University Committee meetings, with the student facing role. Admittedly, sometimes this is a challenge – but your time commitments even out; one week you could be in and out of meetings, influencing some of the biggest educational decisions made by key players in the University, and the next week you could be helping a fellow Student Officer run a full-scale campaign. This is something I love about the role as Education Officer – my activities differ day-by-day, and no two days are ever the same.

Looking back on the time I have spent as a Student Officer, I am in awe at the support and training I have
received not only from RUSU, but from the NUS as well. It felt quite daunting coming into office on my first day. Yet, I was comforted by the fact NUS place you into a network of other Student Officers from all over the country which you can easily communicate with if you want to compare stats, figures, or even just how to deal with particular issues. The best thing is that you’re never on your own; there is always someone there to help.

This job has allowed me to represent thousands of students, and make a real change when it comes to their educational experience. But on a more personal level, this job has given me so much more. It has taught me valuable skills that would be impossible to get elsewhere in just one year. The opportunities that have been afforded to me as a result of this job are also incomprehensible – I've been able to apply for national funding schemes for RUSU, as well as apply for jobs at the end of it that I couldn't have even comprehended applying for before. Not only that, it has allowed me to make valuable connections across not only Reading, but the country. Such skills and connections I will most definitely be using in the future.

It is an absolute pleasure being an activist for student’s rights. I urge every single one of you to consider running in the elections!

Emma Jackson
Education Officer 2013/14

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

So you want to be the RUSU President?

If you told me this time last year that in twelve months time I would be leading a multi-million pound charity that employs eighty staff and has over seventeen thousand beneficiaries, I would have told you to dream on.

I know first-hand that the thought of standing in an election is very daunting, however truth be told it’s not that bad, I’d even go as far to say that I found the election campaign to be enjoyable, so the elections process really is nothing to worry about!

The purpose of this article is to tell you what you will be doing if you were to be elected as next year’s RUSU President. I could try to provide a summary of the role of the in a few hundred words but I am not going to - I really wouldn't be able to do the job justice in such a short piece of text. Instead, I'm going to pick of just a few examples of what will sneak its way into your diary if you're elected as RUSU President 2014/15.

Trustee Board is a major part of the role of the RUSU President. RUSU is a registered charity (and from this Summer it will be an Incorporated Company also) and like all charities, RUSU is governed by a Board of Trustees. It is the role of the President to chair the Board (which consists of all of the Student Officers, a number of Student Trustees, and also some External Trustees from the community). Chairing meetings is an art and being chair of the RUSU Board for a year will give you lifelong skills that you can take with you when you leave.

It is the job of the President to maintain a good relationship between RUSU and the senior management of the University, especially the Vice-Chancellor. The RUSU President and the V-C have monthly one-to-ones where the key issues that students at the University of Reading are currently facing are discussed. You also liaise with other key University staff in University meetings and believe me there are lots of committee meetings! Committee meetings are how Student Officers feed into the decision making right at the top of the University. There are Committees to talk about basically every issue affecting students and they make decisions on some really important and interesting topics; this is how you will be able to affect the lives of Reading students for years to come.

The RUSU President is also responsible for managing RUSU’s relationship with the press. I work closely with the University’s press office to mitigate any potential risks to RUSU’s reputation or the reputation of the
University. I really feel that this aspect of the job has allowed me to build my confidence, hopefully something that will be noticed when I go for job interviews. There are many transferable skills that you will pick up during your year as a Student Officer.

I suppose the best part of being the RUSU President 2013/14 for me, has been the opportunity to make University-wide decisions that will impact the lives of so many present and future students at the University of Reading. I have met many interesting people and have picked up loads of new skills along the way. I can honestly say that doing this job for a year is one of the best opportunities I have ever been given and I would highly recommend that you give it a shot! Obviously there is so much more that I find myself doing on a daily basis but I’m sure you’re all busy writing dissertations, so I’ll save you from having to read yet another lengthy text. However, if you do want to find out more, I’ll be having a drop-in session for potential candidates on the afternoon of Friday 31st January in RUSU’s Student Activities Centre. Feel free to pop along for an informal chat or email me. Good luck!

Mark Kelleher
RUSU President 2013/14
Follow @RUSU_President