Her Campus had a chat with this year’s Activities Officer candidate Rob Jennings, a 3rd year Ancient History student from Alderholt (apparently that’s just north of Bournemouth)! Whilst hearing about some of his great plans for the coming year, we also found out about his connections in high places (a certain infamous club owner in Nottingham) and his guilty pleasure…
What have you been doing to publicise your campaign so far?
There have been two sides to my approach: we have been campaigning on campus and via social media but what I have enjoyed most has been going out and speaking to different student groups. While putting together my manifesto I contacted every society president and various networks and a lot of them agreed to meet with me which has been great. It’s important to experience the diversity of students in the union and to gain their feedback on what they want. As a result, I feel my manifesto is very representative of the entire student community.
A bit more than loitering outside Hallward then!
Yeah! We’ve also done some fun stuff, like going to Grove farm on Wednesday. My campaign colour is orange (we like to celebrate Orange Wednesday!) and we gave out oranges at half time.
Can you explain the idea behind your tagline ‘Make Your Mark’?
It revolves around the idea of every student ‘making their mark’ during their time at university, whether this be through discovering and using a talent or getting involved in societies. This way when you look back on your university experience, you can think ‘yeah, I got the most out of my time there’. The idea was born from the fact that I have a lot of friends in third year who are looking to graduate and are starting to say ‘I wish I had joined this society, now I’ve missed the boat’. My manifesto is about trying to access those students to make sure they do get involved and realise their potential.
In your opinion, what is involved in the position of Students’ Union Activities Officer, and what made you apply for this particular role?
My particular role would be to look after societies – anything from NU Dance to Unicef – and SRSs such as Karnival. I would be making sure they are supported and have access to all the facilities they need as well as ensuring their funding is in line and they are operating well. For example, managing the stars points based rewards system; looking at whether societies are increasing their membership and how they are achieving this. We need to see whether the welcome package is doing enough to engage with students or whether we need to help societies have more outlets so they are accessible to students.
Since first year, I saw university as a huge opportunity to get involved: through the JCR committee, as a Karnival executive and I am a current NUS delegate. Most of these roles feed into the activities remit, particularly my work with societies and Karnival. It’s during my time with the latter that I became more aware of the Student’s Union and the big difference you can actually make as a student with our access to so many difference resources and the student support available. I hope with my passion and my experience I would be able to make a difference.
Talk us through some of the main ideas in your manifesto
I have been speaking to a lot of societies who have fed back to me that currently the facilities that are available to them aren’t catering to their needs, with a particular emphasis on having a performance space. At the moment, groups like NU Dance and Latin Ballroom are competing over one very cramped, poorly air-conditioned space on the ground floor of Portland which isn’t really suitable.
I’ve experienced it myself!
I’m sure! At the moment, the SU is struggling to properly accommodate any student group needing a space. I’ve visited Trent Students’ Union where they have a state of the art multi-functional performance venue, and with the current Portland review taking on student input, I would like to be able to create a space here which can be used by any student group.
My next point is something which is currently being done at Manchester and Birmingham University. In the summer, they run festivals called Valefest (Birmingham) and Pangea (Manchester), which I encourage students to look up! They are really impressive, the one in Manchester being the largest student-run festival in Europe I believe. Nottingham is a university which has great strength in its societies and SRSs, winning awards every year, so I feel being able to use that talent and channel it into a celebratory exhibition event like a festival would be something to fill the summer calendar very well, particularly the last two weeks of term when lectures have finished and people aren’t sure what they should be doing with their time. It is a great way to interest people in joining societies the next year.
I won’t go through all my points! The last I’ll focus on is developing the SU’s graphics software. I feel it’s very important being able to market and promote yourself via social media so an adequate understanding of graphic design is becoming very important in running societies. In collaboration with the Marketing and Communications department, I would like to create a union-esque Photoshop whereby any student can be trained to produce effective graphics for their events – whether it’s a profile picture, cover photo on Facebook or a banner, to really use the media channels that we have.
Do you think it will be difficult getting Alumni interested in your ‘Kickstarter’ alumni crowd funding scheme?
As it stands there are huge amounts of money being donated to the university so the engagement is already there. Firstly student groups need to be made aware of these funds and their access to them. At the moment, they can apply for grants for a development fund but really the idea came from imagining myself having graduated and looking back on my time at university and thinking if I was to donate where would I want my money to go. I would want to help the societies and SRSs I was involved with so if there was a way for me to directly support them whether it’s with my expertise or financially there needs to be the communication to be able to do that. The ‘Kickstarter’ idea is something that is looking to be introduced next year so hopefully this should all happen. Basically, if I’m a graduate and I want to donate, putting a large sum into a society fund isn’t the best way to utilise its potential as they may not be sure what to do with it. Instead, if the society has a specific idea of what they would need the money for, whether it be an event or new equipment, they could apply through the alumni network and put together an application for funding. As a graduate you could then donate to that specific request.
How do you hope to achieve a more tailored, interactive and representational welcome package for new students?
The entire Week One programme is being restructured at the moment and with the building of the sports centre, Freshers’ Fair won’t be taking place in the tent. As it stands, from people I have been speaking to, it looks like it may be held in Portland building. From getting feedback on the Welcome Fair, it is clear that people enjoy it, but not for the right reasons. They say ‘yeah, it’s great, we get free Domino’s pizza!’ ‘It was crazy, so busy, a great buzz!’ If you look at the aims of the Welcome Fair, it’s to get people signed up to societies and to make new students aware of what’s going on at the university. A very cramped, very overwhelming environment isn’t the best place to achieve these objectives. If it’s moved to Portland, creating a more tiered welcome package would make it more interactive. For example, there is currently a try-it scheme whereby throughout first and second term you can go to a society and have a go. I feel like that needs to be held much sooner, being integrated in the Week One programme. If a fresher was to walk along and see the doors of NSTV open, they could have a go with the equipment, try presenting a show and might realise that this is something they quite enjoy and therefore sign up to the SRS. Students will be more encouraged by this active approach which isn’t achievable in a static crowded tent.
I was hoping you could explain in more detail this idea of a catalogue system which will enable societies to reach student groups…
From my experiences on JCR and Karnival, I have organised a lot of events such as formal dinners and club nights where I would love to get societies in to perform. For example, at a formal, hiring the Magic Society to perform in between courses. It would really enhance the event and I don’t see any real difficulty in getting the societies interested. I imagine a system where a society can offer their services via the SU website or by notifying people like Rob Henderson who is in charge of JCRs and they would formally make themselves available for bookings. The idea involves collaboration across different networks.
What have you liked about the policies implemented by the current Activities Officer Joe Caunce?
In preparing my manifesto, I asked him about his successes over the year and where he found he had been too ambitious. During the elections period you hear everyone shouting about their manifestos and then everything seems to go quiet, but that’s not to say nothing is happening. With Joe’s ideas, his society credit scheme should be introduced at the start of next year which is a system allowing first years a pre-loaded amount of money on their student cards to sign up to societies essentially for free! That’s something at the time I remember thinking was a really good idea. He also wanted to introduce a Moodle-esque forum for societies which should be around this term or next. This allows societies to communicate with each other, sharing information about events and allowing for collaboration. At the moment, other than Societies Council, there are very few opportunities where society heads get to meet. It’s another idea I really respect.
What makes you stand out from the other candidates?
I’ve tried to get involved in as much as possible at university but above everything – and I imagine the other candidates have been saying this – my passion. From anyone who has worked with me, they have seen how my passion for a cause has driven me. I am very hard-working and determined. I probably shouldn’t say this but I actually slept in Portland in the Karnival office during 7 legged because I was working such long hours and that’s because I believed in what I was doing!
Quick fire round
Ocean or Crisis? Ocean!
What is your personal miracle hangover cure? Very weak orange squash. Just a drop to get the colour but not the taste, I don’t really know why! And ‘Come Dine with Me’.
Dream job? At the moment to be Activities Officer! Long term, I would love to work in events management on things like organising festivals.
Do you have a fun fact about yourself, a claim to fame or a special talent? The other week in Ocean it was my girlfriend’s 21st birthday and I called in a favour with Andy Hoe and had her picture put up on the big screen.
Snog, marry, avoid – Vicky from Geordie Shore, Miranda Hart or Liza Minnelli? Marry Miranda, she’s great fun. Snog Liza Minnelli and avoid Vicky!
What has been your most embarrassing moment at uni so far? It was quite recent and probably not the most embarrassing but it was during an NSTV interview. They asked me about my slogan and it was on the back of my t-shirt so I turned around to point at it just as they were doing a close up on my face. The shot was just the back of my head and made no sense at all. I hope they’ve edited that out!
Do you have a guilty pleasure? I really like Take That!
Edited by Sam Carey