Find out more from Matthew, this years Vice President Communities re-named this year to Vice President Liberation, International and Postgraduates, about being a Full-Time Officer
My name is Matthew Beach, I am currently Vice President Communities (re-named this year to Vice President Liberation, International and Postgraduates). I am a part-time student and interrupted my Geography PhD to take up this role! As Vice President Communities, I am responsible for leading on facilitation of our Liberation campaigns (e.g. Black History Month, Jewish Heritage Fortnight, Asian Heritage Month, etc.). I also represent students in various university meetings related to equality, diversity, and inclusion. Additionally, under this role’s remit falls representing international, postgraduate taught, and postgraduate research students across education and welfare. I think it is arguably the most diverse role and one can mould it to various student groups’ needs across the year.
What led you to campaign for your position?
I was previously a Part-Time Officer (Postgraduate Research Representative for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) and before that a Postgraduate Research Subject Representative (Human Geography). I had been working on increasing the representational infrastructure for postgraduate research students within the Students’ Union for about two and a half years. Then, last academic year I worked with the previous Vice President Communities, Postgraduate Board (subcommittee of Student Council), and Postgraduate Engagement Assistant to put together a business case to run what is now called the Postgraduate Consultation Group. I wanted the chance to lead on taking this project forward, as well as increase my representational remit due to having also been a postgraduate taught student at Queen Mary; as well as being an international student and a member of Liberation groups. Coupled with the fact that my predecessor had completed their maximum two-year term, I decided that it was the time to campaign.
What are some highlights you've experienced as Exec so far?
Generally, it’s incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to be able to make a difference in students’ lives related to their university experience. One example is working with Part-Time Officers and our student-led Liberation Campaign Organising Committees to bring their ideas for projects and events into reality. It has also been very insightful to work with various members of academic and professional service staff across departments to get a sense of how universities function, come to define their long-term visions and strategies, and contribute to ongoing projects (e.g. new building plans, curriculum updates, and civic engagement). Similarly, it’s been great to meet and collaborate with the Students’ Union’s permanent staff who keep everything running behind the scenes!
What is something unexpected/surprising you've experienced about being an Exec?
I don’t think most students are aware of just how expansive the Students’ Union is and what goes on beyond the (likely) one or two areas they might engage in. For example, I was heavily involved in democracy and representation, but not in societies, volunteering, sport, or commercial services, just to name a few! There are so many aspects of the union and student experience that you can get involved in and help shape based on your own interests and wider student feedback.
What's a piece of advice you'd give to someone applying for an Exec position?
Run for the right reasons! Ultimately this is an amazing opportunity for work experience in both the charity and higher education sectors, but diverse and intersectional student experience and feedback is the necessary driving force to make the differences these positions exist for and are empowered to deliver. No two days are the same, it is super fun, but also a lot of work! You’re given extensive training and all the necessary tools to enact change, but ultimately, it’s down to you to ensure that you’re being true to the student body who elects you!
Summarise your Exec experience in 1 sentence
Hands down the most interesting experience I’ve participated in during my life thus far—my thirtieth lap around the sun isn’t what I expected, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!