By Naomi Walker, 2017-18 VP for Research Degrees
If you had asked anyone – including former me – if I was likely to end up in ‘student politics’, I am sure they would have responded with a resounding “no”. Yet here I am, and it has been quite an experience! Let’s start with the basics about what the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) is and what it means to be involved.
What is the SRC?
Essentially, we are five individuals, elected by fellow students, who meet up regularly and have jointly experienced a whole range of emotions (excitement, frustration, achievement… you name it!). Our work falls into two main categories – representation and activities:
LSHTM has an incredibly diverse student body, with individuals from a whole range of different cultures and backgrounds, who arrive at the School with different beliefs and attitudes. Representing this diversity can be quite a challenge! Yet there are some things we all have in common: we came to learn, we want a good student experience and we want to make an impact. Representation comes at many levels, including:
- Committee representation: each of us has a number of committees to attend, specific to our roles. As an example, I attended Senate when they were discussing LSHTM’s new strategy. I was able to give my input on this, ensuring student satisfaction was one of the key priorities for the upcoming years. This is just one example from one committee I attended, but if you multiply this by the five SRC members and the committees we attend, we can have quite a large impact!
- Link between LSHTM’s senior management and the wider student body: as LSHTM is continuously changing, there are many discussions that arise on which student opinion can be very valuable. It is the SRC’s role to provide this opinion, whether through organising surveys to the wider student body or through talking to specific groups. This can be especially important when major issues occur, and we have provided an important voice for students during more trying periods, as well as during day-to-day running of LSHTM.
This side of our role could be considered more fun and is often what we get the most positive feedback for. Some highlights for me include:
- Spring ball: if I’m being honest, I had little to do with this, yet it was definitely one of my favourite events of the year. We asked some students to volunteer to help organise, and together with our Comms VP they put on a great event, with music, food & drink,a photobooth, a popcorn machine… it was amazing!
- Research Degree T@3: this is my personal pet project, where research degree students can meet up weekly, with free snacks, to spend some time out of the office/lab, get to know new people and develop a community feeling. I really enjoying meeting other research degree students and free snacks always go down well….
Obviously, I do not do all of this on my own. Let me briefly introduce you to the rest of the team:
President: the face of the SRC, working with us to ensure representation at the highest levels, including attending both LSHTM’s Council and Senate meetings. They make us visible to students, attending graduation and putting together an excellent yearbook.
VP, Finance & Operations: as we all know, you can’t do anything without money! The Finance VP navigates the finance systems, keeps track of our budget and ensures that funds are available for the activities we are running. They are also our IT guru, set up surveys, help with our website and generally any technical issues!
VP, Communications & Activities: creates our regular newsletters and is one of the key players in organising events and communicating with students both for their input and to feed back on our work. In addition, they keep us all organised by being the main controller of our joint inbox and our general meetings.
VP, Taught Courses: there are many taught programmes at LSHTM and this VP coordinates with the course reps for each of these, ensuring their voice is heard at committees and the courses are run well. This involves attending meetings such as the Student Experience Committee and the Taught Course Committee.
VP, Research Degrees: similar to the VP for Taught Courses, the VP for Research Degrees coordinates with all the department reps for research degree students, organises specifically targeted events and works with the Head of the Doctoral College and others to ensure student issues are heard and acted upon.
I realise the above makes it sounds like we all stick to our distinct roles, but in reality, they are much more blurred. We work very much as a team, standing in for and supporting each other. I think it is this team spirit that has led us to a successful year and made the experience a positive one!
Is it worth being on the SRC?
Absolutely! While there have been some challenging moments, on the whole I am very glad I took on the role. Not only do you learn a great deal about LSHTM and the people who run it, but it’s great to get your voice heard and see real changes brought about because of it. On top of that, working with and getting to know the other SRC members has been a joy and I have picked up many transferable skills that I’m sure will come in use in the future!
Photo: SRC 2017-18 (L-R) Katherine Lowe, Naomi Walker, Sameera Hassan, Berenike Obermeyer, Agnes Bangali