Hayley Wong: Presidential impact and wanderlust

Current position: Imperial College Union President

Previous education: MEng Aeronautics with Spacecraft Engineering, Imperial College London

Life as President

What was your role in the College Union and what responsibilities did you have?

I was the Imperial College Union President – a role of major responsibility as I had to represent the students to the College at various committees, such as the College Council and the Senate. I was heavily involved in the running of the Union itself through working day to day with the staff team of the Union and attending meetings such as the Board of Trustees and Union Council. I also worked on projects that I was personally passionate about including reviewing the complaints and disciplinary procedures of both the Union and the College. This role also involves a lot of ad-hoc issues that needs to be dealt with day to day.

How do you feel as your term as President comes to an end?

Being Union President is an odd first job to have – being the ‘CEO’ of an organisation yet at the same time learning the most basic things about a workplace. This role gave me the opportunity to do things that people at my stage of life normally wouldn’t have a chance to do.

I have had many odd experiences in the role, including being invited by Antony Gormley to his party and having to explain Gen-Z internet slangs for a disciplinary case. There have been some challenging times, like being consistently attacked online or in-person about every aspect of the Union but these were balanced with amazing experiences like delivering a speech at my graduation. All in all, I have learnt a lot in this role, and I am very happy I was given the opportunity.

In your role what has been your proudest moment?

One of the proudest moments in my role is when we successfully passed the new College Student Disciplinary Procedure at Senate. It has been a project that so many people have put so much time into. To see a set of new policies, which is much fairer and more transparent for students, come into fruition during my term has been amazing.

Another moment that I am very proud of is when I gave the opening speech at my own graduation in the Royal Albert Hall. Seeing so many faces that I know sitting in the audience and reuniting with all those at Imperial that have had an impact on me just felt like the perfect way to end my time as a student here.

Can you share a memorable/funny moment that occurred during your time in office?

As a thank you to all those involved in the College disciplinary review, Nathalie (Deputy President (Welfare)) and I baked cookies in the shape of the ALERT artwork and gave it to staff. It was amazing seeing the expression on their faces go from the initial confusing to a shocked realisation.

ALERT Cookie

Another funny moment was during the preparation of a birthday party for Jason (Deputy President (Education)). Whenever a Sabbatical Officer had their birthday, we would always ambush them in the office with a surprise cake and birthday song. For Jason’s surprise, I was tasked with buying the cake. However, on the way to the Union Office with the cake, this happened:

Smashed cake

We ate it anyway!

Students’ Union

Why do you think the Union is important for university life?

I think the Union is important to students’ experience in several ways. Firstly, the main function of a Students’ Union is to represent its members to the College, making sure that students, including those from marginalised backgrounds, have a voice in any decision made by the College that affects them. Secondly, the Union is there to help students build communities and find their sense of belonging. The Union is also there to help students have fun. This is done by either enabling students to participate in extracurricular activities they are passionate about or providing services and events for students. Finally, I believe the Union also offers great opportunities for personal developments by providing many volunteering roles that allows student to gain leadership experiences and soft skills.

What hopes do you have for the future of the Union?

My hope for the Union is that it will become the trusted voice of the students. Even though a lot of improvements have been made and are being made, there is still a lot to do to ensure we are a credible and high-performing Students’ Union. Having been on the inside, I can see that it is definitely on an upward trajectory, and I have no doubt that Union will become an ever-better Students’ Union for Imperial students.


What would it surprise people to know about you?

I have flown a plane, but I cannot drive.

Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at Imperial?

One thing that I only recently discovered despite having been at Imperial for five years is the V&A Friday Lates. Every last Friday of the month, the V&A museum hosts ‘Lates,’ during which they have special themed exhibitions and activities, and a beautiful bar in the middle of the museum until 10pm. It’s a great place to go after lectures/work.


How did skills gained during your time in Aeronautics help you in office?

The analytical skills I gained from my Aeronautics degree have definitely been useful in my presidential role. For example, in analysing the data of the bursary survey for a College-level report that successfully raised the Bursary amount by £700k. Moreover, this role also requires you to analyse both qualitative and quantitative data in order to extract information to understand opinions of the the student body.

What’s next for you and how have opportunities at Imperial prepared you for this?

I have decided to take a gap year after this to travel to new places and try new things. I already have several things planned, including climbing Mount Fuji and skydiving!