Last year, when I first applied for the position of the Year Wellbeing Representative (‘rep’ for short), I only had a vague idea of what it involves, and there was a lot that I had to learn in the process. Yet here I am, having decided to stand and been elected for the second time as a Wellbeing Rep. If running for the Academic or Wellbeing Student Rep is something that has crossed your mind, read on to learn more about my experience as a rep, what kind of skills you can gain, and what you actually do in this role.
Although in the title of this blog I’m suggesting that you should become a rep, there is a caveat to this. Being a rep is no rocket science, but you won’t go far without a genuine interest in representing your peers and looking for solutions to the raised problems. That said, I think most students would like to make a positive change in the university environment and community, and becoming a member of the student representation network is a great way to do exactly that. For me personally, the driving force was the ability to advocate the importance of wellbeing and mental health at the departmental level.
What you will do as a rep
Student representation is overseen by ICU (Imperial College Union – Imperial’s student union) and consists of the Academic and Wellbeing Representation Networks. You can dive into the details here, but the main difference between the two roles is that the academic reps are focused on learning experience and assessment issues, while the wellbeing reps concentrate on health, equality, financial, and other wellbeing concerns.
The main responsibility as a rep is to gather feedback from students about what they are concerned about, so you might want to talk to your peers or send out surveys to understand the nature and scale of the issue at hand. As a rep, I attend student-staff committee meetings within my department, where I can raise student concerns and work out solutions with the departmental staff. Such meetings usually take place quarterly, so for any urgent issues arising between the meetings I usually talk to either The Education Office, the Year Organisers, or the lecturers directly.
What you will learn
Student representatives are volunteers, but there are plenty of transferrable skills to gain during such an experience. You’re bound to develop the ability to collect feedback and communicate it to staff, which doesn’t only come in useful at university, but it’s an extremely important skill at a professional level too. As a student rep, I have made new connections as I could meet various staff members and students from across all year groups. Developing such a network is great, as you’ll probably come across some of these people in other contexts, so seeing a familiar face can be helpful. I’ve also learned a great deal about the internal processes at the department, and found out about many student services – it was very empowering as I understand my rights as a student better, and I know where to go to solve any issues I encounter.
How to apply
Hopefully, now you have a better idea of what a student rep does, and perhaps you’d like to become one yourself! Nominations for Year Reps normally open in October, whereas the Departmental Reps submit their manifestos towards the end of the year. Look out for emails and news on departmental & ICU websites/social media, but it’s difficult to miss the elections – student representation is a big thing at Imperial!