Victoria Edwards is Kent Union’s Head of Representation and Democracy and has just finished her first year in post. It’s been an exciting and challenging year for Victoria as she is new to the student movement and had to pick up the role quickly due to a Union election campaign and a general election campaign both taking place within a few months of Victoria starting.
We asked Victoria to tell us more about her year at Kent Union and this is what she had to say.
What have you enjoyed the most?
“Not long after I started, I was asked to look at how we supported students on our overseas campuses in Paris and Brussels. I have enjoyed doing that work and it was a good way to introduce myself to the sector. I was empowered to trial new ideas and the brief was similar to my previous role with The Prince’s Trust where I worked internationally. As Paris had a smaller number of students (35), I focused on that first and we created some bespoke training for their student representatives, giving them resources, contacts and digital platforms, and looking at ways that we could address their local needs. We adapted our Buddy Scheme to ensure that students were able to support each other, and helped them to establish a student committee. We also wrote a guide to Paris. This was significant for those students as many students were new to Paris and often suffered from homesickness. Students at our Paris campus now know how to make change, and who to contact for support.
I am delighted with the impact we have made for those students and now we are taking the lessons we’ve learnt and trying them on a larger scale at our Brussels campus, which has 250 students.”
What are you most proud of this year?
“Typically, in Canterbury students have voted in fewer numbers in the General Election than other areas. They feel disillusioned, that their votes won’t change the outcome, as Canterbury has returned a Conservative MP without fail since 1910. Last year myself and Rory, the then SU President, led a campaign encouraging our students to vote. We were proud to see students lining up throughout the day at the polling station on campus and often voting for the first time in their lives. Within the general election campaign, Canterbury’s seat changed for the first time in over 100 years to return a Labour MP. Whilst I am sure there are many variables in place, I can’t help but feel that the higher turnout in students voting was in part responsible.”
Do you feel there were any particular challenges?
“There were some vacancies in my team when I joined, partly due to the nature of the specialist roles within representation in the SU sector. However, we now have a full complement of staff I am excited and looking forward to 2018.”
How did you find working with Officers for the first time?
“At first, I was a little unsure how to best support them. Shortly after starting we held our elections, and to go through the process with the incoming Officers and take part in their training, gave me a better understanding of how to support them. One of the things that has most impressed me about the sector, is the standard of Officers, and how through dedicated support and empowerment they are able to adapt so quickly to operate at the highest levels. In my last role I spent a significant amount of time encouraging others to give young people a chance to develop, but I did not get to see that in action in the same way that I do on a day to day basis at Kent Union, which I am really enjoying.
What would you say to someone coming from another sector?
“Since joining the student movement I have been impressed with the opportunities to have genuine impact and how fast moving the sector is. It’s also a very collaborative sector and I have certainly benefited from visiting other SU’s and sharing practice. I have recommended to many of my peers that they actively look at the SU sector, and indeed have put some of those in contact with Peridot so they can learn more about the sector and see what opportunities there are.”