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The Presidential Voice

 

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The new President of the Students’ Union makes a heart-warming admission: “I’ve got a really nice relationship with the Trent President.” Jess Lendon (Economics and Econometrics*, 2018) is ensuring that her year in office will see a close working relationship with her colleagues across the city. “We can learn from each other and it’s really nice to have someone so close who is going through the same experience, as being SU President is unlike anything else.”

It is fair to say she had already become hugely popular on campus prior to her bid to become the SU President, which was reflected in her election to the role, winning with something of a landslide. Ensuring she lives up to the expectations of her electorate is uppermost in her thoughts. “Students don’t feel like they are represented, but as a student body we can be organised and drive change.”

Lendon’s main aspirations for her year in the role stem from her four manifesto pledges (channel your best Ewan McGregor impression); “choose voice”, “choose safety”, “choose respect”, “choose recognition”.

The voice of the student population

The initial focus of her work is to better support international students, with the viability of a full-time officer being evaluated (currently there is only capacity for a part-time role). “Nearly a third of our students are international and I think it’s really important we have someone in place to represent them who has been in their shoes. They pay different fees, arrive at different times and will have very specific needs which we want to cater for.”

The profile of the SU body is also something Jess is keen to build during her tenure: “Some students definitely make the most of what we have to offer but also I’m sure some don’t even know we’re here for the whole of their time on campus.”

It may come as a surprise to learn that the SU employs over 100 full-time staff, with seven full-time officers and seven part-time officers. The range of issues that the staff deal with was eye opening to this writer; student safety and welfare, sexual assault, hate crime, community liaison were just some of the topics covered: “Some days I won’t even stop for lunch, I might be having a one-to-one with the registrar or the VC, or reading papers for three hours! I’m also recruiting a new CEO for the SU. I’m 21 and I’m hiring a CEO for the next 10 years!”

Changing the perception of the university’s students within the local community is a hot topic, not just in Nottingham but across many UK campuses. “Sometimes I think there’s a negative perception of students within the local community because they will be highlighted in the wrong ways. There’s a lot of really positive activity happening too and our community officer is working to bridge gaps through volunteering projects.”

Making the most of campus life

Lendon is also a shining example of how a student can really make the most of their time on a campus. “I knew I was going to throw myself into everything at university, in the first year I was president of my hall and played hockey, football, futsal and even went to the International Student Summit,” which involved her presenting to the United Nations.

During her second and third years she carried on in a similar vein before realising that the possibility of kick-starting her graduate career on campus could become a reality. “A lot of people expected me to look for a job in banking or economics but I began thinking to myself that maybe I could do this. I’m a people-focused person and I wanted to do what I enjoy, which is helping students and making a difference.”

Jess is keen to build strong links with alumni too, and in particular reach out to alumni who have been SU Officers, who may have insights and memories to share, especially with the redevelopment of the Portland building and SU nearing completion.

And the message she has for the new intake of students is one which is resonant in all periods of life: “Don’t be afraid to get involved, push yourself. It’s what I did when I started university and I have made friends for life.”

Find out more about the SU and how you can get involved in its work.

*the branch of economics concerned with the use of mathematical methods (especially statistics) in describing economic systems. So now you know!

Posted on Friday 28th September 2018

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