Comment: University Union Education Officer, Carolina Hall-Rodriguez

Newly elected Education Officer, Carolina Hall-Rodriguez, writes about her introduction to life as a University Union executive officer and sets out some of her objectives in her SEB column.

It has been a whirlwind start to the new academic year, and it is hard to believe that it has already been three months since my induction in the summer.

Since then, I have been working closely with University and Leeds University Union (LUU)  staff and taking every opportunity to advocate for our students at each level of governance in the University.

‘Strengthen the Partnership’

This year poses many unique challenges for our students, and so student voice and our representation structures are absolutely critical in maintaining and improving the student experience.

One of the key components of this is our School Rep system, and this year I am lucky to be working with a wonderful group of Reps, who have all made a brilliant start in extraordinary circumstances.

Recently, I chaired my first Education Assembly of the year, which is usually attended by School Reps and the Academic Representation Team from LUU.

This time around, we were fortunate to welcome two guests; Professor Tom Ward, former DVC: Student Education, and Professor Neil Morris, interim DVC: Digital Transformation, who were both able to answer some really important questions posed by the Reps.

The Reps also had time to discuss what they perceive to be the biggest challenges and opportunities for students this year.

It is crucial that the Reps are able to ask questions and have these discussions in order to empower them to make changes in their School, so this Education Assembly was a really valuable opportunity to strengthen the Partnership.

Support

Since term began, an important area of focus has been the provision of online teaching and learning for our students and the changes that come with this.

I want to ensure that our students are empowered to be co-creators in their education, and one of the key ways to achieve this is through their reps, and through encouraging positive relationships between students and staff where feedback is constructive and reciprocal.

Ultimately, in a time of such constant change, it is really important the support we offer students, and my role in representing them, stays constant throughout.

Focus on underrepresented

Alongside my work supporting the Reps, I continue to develop and further my priorities and objectives for the year, one of these being improving the experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic students at the University.

One of the main areas of focus for this objective is to increase the number of Black and Minority Ethnic students who progress to Postgraduate Research, as currently, these groups are underrepresented in the PGR community.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak on the panel for an event ran by the Careers Service for Black History Month, where I spoke on this objective and my aims to encourage Black and Minority Ethnic students to pursue Postgraduate Research by demystifying it.

Another key area of focus for me is campaigning to close the ‘BAME’ Awarding Gaps, and the main strands of this work are bridging the gaps between students and staff by increasing communication and improving cross cultural understanding, and decolonising the curriculum.

I look forward to sitting on a newly formed Decolonising the Curriculum Working Group to further this important agenda.

Finally, I’d like to finish by highlighting the great work that is currently going on for Black History Month, and to commend our excellent student leaders in all they do.