A lasting legacy: Wellbeing Officer Beth reflects on a year of empowering students
With our 2021/22 Student Exec Officers due to hand over their roles, we’re celebrating some of their biggest wins for our student community during their time leading LUU. There have been some fantastic achievements from all of our officers who have continuously empowered students and brought new opportunities, such as the new for 2022 Fresh Start Festival.
Wellbeing officer Beth has rounded up some of the actions taken this year to improve the student experience at Leeds.
Empowering our talented students
This year it was important to me to give students a platform to showcase their talents. When I started the year, I helped to set up Terrace’s weekly Open Mic Night as well as hosting two ‘Life’s a Drag’ events – successfully giving students the opportunity to perform in a safe space and thrive. Ruby and Versarce were two young up and coming drag queens that amazed at our sold out drag events. We also had a fantastic committee of students that coordinated the Open Mic Nights and hosted the Battle of the Bands, giving those creative minds that don’t opt for the stage an opportunity to put their skills to use.
Fresh Start Festival
Fresh Start Festival was a response to the reduced sense of community amongst students as a result of COVID-19, but became a wider response to a lack of belonging after student consultation revealed many felt similar before the pandemic. During consultation, students stated that if they hadn’t found their place by January then they ‘weren’t doing university right’. We found that the community environment that surrounds Welcome Week fades as the year progresses, and people felt less encouraged to try new things. Fresh Start Festival aimed to directly alleviate those feelings.
The perception that Welcome Week is marketed at 1st year 18-20 year old students isolates many others from engaging in its activities, discouraging them from meeting new people and trying new things. Fresh Start Festival aimed to be marketed inclusively to capture all students, and encourage them to participate in the breadth of opportunities available to them here at the University of Leeds. The week-long festival hosted a diverse range of events to cater towards our broad student community.
Fresh Start Festival was student-led from the very beginning, ensuring that student needs were at the forefront of event planning. The aims of the festival were developed through consultation workshops with students, a student designer was hired to create the branding and a Student Education Service intern was hired to help with planning. To ensure that future Fresh Start Festivals remain student-led, our members should be consulted annually to ensure that the event meets our students’ needs.
Fresh Start Festival outcomes
79% of students said the festival met or exceeded expectation
98% of students that participated in The Edge Survey felt that Fresh Start Festival had a positive impact on their physical health and wellbeing
Students felt that the event was very inclusive and enjoyed the free events, providing opportunities to network and make friends
67% of students said Fresh Start Festival gave them a chance to try something new
66% of students said the event gave them a real sense of belonging
Throughout this year I have worked closely with Aysha – Union Affairs and Communications Officer – on sustainability projects. Together we chair the Student Sustainability Advisory Board, which holds LUU accountable for sustainability work and provides students with a platform to present ideas on how we can progress.
The most exciting project I have worked on this year was our first in-person Climate Week. A diverse programme of events was generated to inform and engage our community on our sustainability work. Events included a Sustainability Careers Fair, talks from industry professionals, a Food Waste Workshop, a Sustainability Grant Workshop and a Swap Shop.
Students first: drink spiking
In response to a rise in drink spiking in October 2021, LUU’s initial communications were not aligned with student needs, offering basic information and no reference to drink spiking as a criminal offence. We listened to student feedback, using it to re-evaluate our stance and our resulting actions. Searches were increased upon entry into our club venues and Wellbeing Reps were hired. As Wellbeing Officer, I worked and continue to work closely with the Council in their Violence Against Women and Girls thematic group. Improving our approach to drink spiking will continue with our future Student Exec.