Aptly named Sarah Pickup, a final year Psychology student from Preston near Mansfield, believes her dedication to transparency, awareness and inclusivity within the Student Union will place her at the head of the pack in the running to become the next Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer.
What was it that made you want to go for this role?
In all honesty, when people used to ask if I’d ever run for SU, I just used to laugh it off. I wasn’t into politics, it had just never crossed my mind as something I would ever want to do. But I was a Week One rep and me and my old Week One co-ordinator were having a chat outside Ocean (where else?!) just before Christmas and he was really pushing for it. He said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t into politics; I was passionate, I had a heart for the students. So over Christmas I did some research into the SU: what it was and what all the different roles were. And I spoke to friends who had been in SU positions before. I tried to not put any pressure on myself and decided I would just decide after Christmas if it was something I wanted to do but I could not stop thinking about it, I couldn’t switch it off. I got more and more excited about the possibilities of what I could do and all the changes I could make. I doubted myself quite a lot and I found it quite intimidating but I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity. Welfare naturally stood out to me over the other roles; I’d say I’m a very compassionate person and I’m very concerned with putting other people before myself and making sure people have the best time they can at university.
What previous experience do you have that makes you right for the role?
I’m a Peer Mentor as part of my course, and I have my own tutor group that I’m responsible for. We meet regularly and I try to help them with all their stresses and it has been so nice to be able to build a relationship with them and I’ve managed to gain skills from that, being able to listen to other people’s problems. I’m also a part of Club Outreach, a team which stand outside Ocean on Friday nights; you probably would have seen us with sweets or water or toast, that sort of thing. We’re basically there to make sure students get home safely. A lot of them are on their own, too drunk to get into a taxi, but a lot of people just come out for a chat and we help look after them if they’ve lost their friends. I was also a Week One rep last year and I loved being part of a team, taking people out to events, making sure they have a good time, making sure they’re settled in. It wasn’t just about the nights out; we had to be organised during the days, helping people set up their modules, health registrations, all the ins and out of university life, dealing with homesickness and settling in and helping them get involved in the university experience.
Which parts of your manifesto are you most excited about and why?
I think the most important part of my manifesto (and it’s an issue that has been raised by a lot of the other candidates which shows how important it is) is the transparency of the SU and the support services that are on offer. Even little things such as when you’re looking for a house there is a service within the uni that will check over the contract for you. I’ve signed for two houses, I never had it checked, I didn’t know it was there. It’s such a helpful service and not many people know about it.
I want to highlight the counselling structure service, who to go to when you have a problem and training Welfare reps within halls about these services so they can direct members of their halls to them. It is important that this does not just run on University Park either- on the Jubilee campus they do not have an SU hub and I think that’s a really prominent issue. Those kind of services need to be accessible to all students no matter what campus they’re on. Also it’s important to provide support to different networks such as the disability network, LGBT, BME, and making sure they are able to represent their students efficiently and in a way that will benefit the students and give them the support that they need.
Mental Health Awareness also really comes under the role that I want to fulfil, so at the moment the Welfare reps are working on a ‘Welfare in Sport’ initiative which is being piloted at Nottingham and if it works it’s going to be sent out to the other universities. I want to look at the barriers people face getting into sport particularly if you suffer from depression or anxiety, where things such as initiations and the intimidating factor of trials can be very challenging. Sports teams need some kind of welfare structure in place. It’s so important to have the transparency of knowing who to go to and where to find the support if you need it.
Which of your rivals are you most threatened by and why?
I think all of them for different reasons. I hate the competition side, but I think it is so easy to get stressed out by that and at the end of the day we’re all going for the same role because we’re passionate about it. You’ve got to focus on the motivations for why you as an individual are doing it. You run your race and let them run their race. Hopefully there won’t be too much hostility!
Which parts of your manifesto do you think are going to be difficult to implement and why?
Radical change doesn’t happen instantly. People have to understand that these are ideas to implement long-term improvements. A lot of the Welfare and Equal Opportunities role is centred around attitudes, social stigma and reputation and that won’t change overnight. I want to use transparency, awareness and inclusivity to put these things into action but social stigmas do not always change immediately. But it’s really exciting to be a part of that change and I hope what I implement will be part of a long-term process to better the university.
You’ve been at Nottingham for 3 years now. What have you loved about your Nottingham experience that has made you want to stay on for another year?
I love how vibrant the city is, there is so much to do. I love being able to be around such a variety of students who can help you get involved with new things. I think I’ve been really lucky with the friends that I’ve met so far and I love the fact I have the opportunity to meet even more.
You’ve got a big campaign team backing you. What do you love about them and how will they help you in your campaign?
I love them because they’re so keen! They all come from various different groups, whether they’re on my course, they were in my hall, all the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve got people that will be ready to be at Ocean at 9.30pm with the campaign t-shirts on ready to just go inside and live the dream but also there are the people who are willing to give up their time to go and chat to people in halls. I literally cannot thank people enough – I’ve been completely overwhelmed.
Which Nottingham club are we most likely to find you in? Stealth… Okay no probably Ocean.
Which of your rivals would you snog-marry-avoid?
Snog- Rob Clewlow (He’s one of the only boys). Marry- Aqeelah (She’s so sweet!). Avoid- Alison (She’s on my course and I see her every day!)
Which cartoon character are you most like? Gretchen (from Recess)- she looks like me, she has the big glasses.
Marmite: yes or no? No
Any party tricks? I can roll my stomach?
Describe your dance style in 3 words? Creative, confident, experienced
You can check out the rest of Sarah’s manifesto here
Photographs provided by Sarah Pickup
Edited by Sam Carey