Welcome to my final blog as The Open University Students Association President.
I have been having a look back over some of the things that I have done and been involved in over the last two years. It amounts to around 200 separate different activities, some of which have been undertaken multiple times!! When I sat down and looked back over my blogs, it was really quite an eye-opener!! I started my blog originally for Association staff and Student reps on the 4 September 2020, and then on The Hoot since the 23rd July 2021. Since starting, I have written 85 blogs!
So, to quote Dr Who – “People assume time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.” I could not have put it better myself!! Doing the role of President is a bit like this. You really have no idea where time goes, one minute you are just starting and know very little, and next thing you know, you are speaking like you really understand the complex world of Higher Education and the OU. It's mad!!
A lot of what you do as President is putting the complex view of ALL OU students over at the highest levels of the University and to members of the government. It really is a case of grabbing the experience by the horns, and using the platform you have been elected to and really raising the important issues so that progress can be made. Terry Pratchett is quoted as saying that “sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness”. I hope that I have done that in everything I have done. There are many things that I am proud of as President, and some of those are in the digital poverty area. I have championed work on digital inclusion as I know this is something that OU students really need. I am also proud of raising issues on Equality, Diversity Equality and Inclusion, I seem to have spoken so much about it that my husband’s (who has spent all this time working next to me) views on ‘EDI’ have changed as his understanding has grown. I have just asked him about this, and he has just explained it with great authority!! (My work here is done!!! ).
I am really proud of the Association staff and elected Reps who have worked with me. We have learned how to work together throughout a global pandemic and really support students. We have collectively been able to make sure Student Voice has been at the heart of everything the University has done. It’s been tough working the majority of our terms online due to Covid. When we were looking at our collective achievements, even without Covid, they are remarkable, but add Covid in and you realise how amazing this group of student leaders, and the staff team behind them, have been.
This term has seen us start to celebrate the Association's 50th birthday. I am incredibly proud of all the work that has gone into this, and this has been the hardest activity to hand over. We have celebrated lots of student stories, we have celebrated lots of different activities that the Association supports, and there is so much more coming. It was lovely to have the OU in Ireland put on our first face-toface celebration of our 50th year, when a few of us heading to Dublin to the graduation ceremony there. We are busy raising £50,000 for the OU Students Educational Trust throughout our 50th year, and raising the profile of it so that students who are in need know that it is there for them to access.
I have loved working with all the faculties, the different units and the nation offices. There are so many parts to the OU, and it has been really interesting finding out their different priorities but also seeing how closely they want to work with students.
Going along to graduations was just brilliant! Graduations have always been my favourite thing to do as a student volunteer; seeing students with huge smiles on their faces, and families and friends who have supported them through their studies being there to cheer them on is incredible! If you want to hear what it is like being an OU student, just ask their families! I loved cheering each and every one of them over the stage, and when it was my turn, in Wales, I loved every single moment!!
I have been a student rep for four years and it has flown by! It’s because of the amazing people I have worked with, and some of my many favourite moments of being President involve the people I have worked with. I have met some incredible people and loved working with them all. Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring says it really well: “Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits. I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
This leads me very nicely into talking about the amazing student-elected representatives that have volunteered over the last two years, and all the other volunteers who have supported in lots of other ways. It has been said that volunteers don’t get paid not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. That is so true. Students who volunteer do so much to represent Student Voice in the University and provide support to students – their impact cannot be underestimated.
Lastly, I would like to say a few thank yous. Thank you first to the Association staff, without whom I would not have been able to do my job. The work that they do in the background to support student reps and student volunteers is amazing. Next, to ALL the student volunteers I have worked with – thank you for all the time you have given up supporting the work that we do as an Association. And then finally to every one of the OU staff that I have worked with – thank you for your desire to work in partnership with us to increase Student Voice in the university, and to make the journey of OU students so much better.
I have one final thing to say before I go, that is to the new team; Good luck, make this journey your own, and enjoy every opportunity open to you. You are going to be amazing.
So, everyone, last piece of cake, and in the infamous words of Bill and Ted; Be excellent to each other and PARTY ON DUDES!!! Go well everyone and I will see you on the other side