Wessex Scene Interview Ella Foxhall, who is running for the role of VP Activities in the 2021 SUSU Leadership Elections.
Why have you decided to run for the role of VP Activities?
I have seen at first-hand how hard this year has been on societies and we have had to adapt and change everything that we do. I know as VP Activities I can guide societies into a hopefully brighter future and make their ideas a reality. Societies are an essential part of university life, especially for new students to make friends. I would therefore like to make them as accessible as I can. I am a sociable, enthusiastic, and committed person and I know I can make the coming year, no matter how restricted, as fun as it can be. I also feel that through the past three years – and at this point in my life – I have experienced and grown through most of the highs and lows that university life can provide. There is scope to bring additional kinds of energy to the Activities portfolio (more on that below).
What experience do you have that would make you an excellent fit for the role?
My background sits within the volunteer and performing arts categories. Having served as your RAG President, I have close up experience with societies and with how committees actually work. Over the past year I have proved that I can adapt to the flux of government guidance, non-guidance and u-turns – and still make events happen, even in a lockdown. For example, I created the new RAG event Speed Mating to encourage social contact and to combat loneliness. I headed up Morale Week – an initiative in the same vein – and also worked hard adapt our usual events from in-person to online, I know I will be able to guide societies through anything the government and society has to throw at us – and make it as fun as possible!
My experience here confirms the truism that 95% of success simply involves showing up – and that resilience, determination, and teamwork are the primary factors in achieving great things.
Back to performing for a second: composer, jazz musician and band leader Miles Davis said that great music involved just two things – good ideas and their projection. In this way I want to encourage all of our team to help produce our very best ideas – and to project them and make them all that they can be.
What are the main problems you identify with the current role of VP Activities and how would you fix that?
Corin has been absolutely amazing for RAG this year. Corin is someone who genuinely cares about their job, and if elected I will be the same. However, if I could change one thing on the technical side I would organise the forms and links into one team – an entity that the Presidents of all the various societies can easily access with one simple click – rather than scrolling through Facebook to find the relevant link.
For media societies, editorial independence is important, especially when it comes to holding SUSU to account. Do you agree? Given that there’s been renewed concerns about censorship in recent years, how will you work with media heads to ensure that the principle of freedom of the press is upheld?
Let’s be honest this is a really hot potato and an issue that taxes the best minds for good answers. In an ideal world we would all deal with each other with decency and respect. Sad to say, however, that just isn’t so on too many occasions. However, I do think that the freedom to criticise should be welcomed, otherwise how will SUSU know where they’re going wrong? After all, good ideas come from anywhere – and good ideas don’t really care who owns them. I am a first and foremost a people person. I know at first hand that with courteous and respectful treatment of people amazing things become possible.
The role of VP Activities involves a LOT of responsibilities – least of all 214+ societies! How will you balance the different elements of this role to ensure nothing is neglected?
Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I love a colour-coded spreadsheet and pride myself on my organisation – perhaps a little too much! In other words, I believe that I am conscientious to a fault. I will therefore use all of my organisational skills to pledge that no society falls off the radar. I also have a wide variety of passions and am open minded to try anything. I will always find a way to relate to every society. I will also have regular office hours and an open-door policy for anyone who has questions. I will also carry on Corin’s out-of-hours dedication to the role by attending as many society-run events as I can.
How will you support and develop employability for students?:
Here there is actually great opportunity to be had. I have come to see that we are so much more than we happen to think we are. A year or so ago, for example, I joined a few friends in a programme of thinking outside the box in terms of work and my own transferable skill sets, value and employability. Since that time I have gotten work paid in a vast number roles, including waitress, hotel worker, child minder, dog sitter and walker, singing teacher, PR, photographer and social media manager, as well as performing music on a variety of stages, large and small.
What goes for all the small stuff also applies to the big career moves. Activities can certainly bring all of this element to light! I also think that sessions on how to utilise the skills students may have not even realised they gained from societies and how to translate them into employable strengths could be very useful. Furthermore, advice on CV’s, interviews, and networking online would be essential to today’s job market. A local Job Board would also help those looking for part time work during their degree. I would also like to advocate for the development of student staff skills, such as Hygiene Certificates and First Aid training.
This year most societies have faced huge budget cuts, how do you intend to tackle this issue in the following year?
This year has obviously been very different with budgets with the lack of activities due to COVID 19 meaning the need for a budget immediately diminishes. However, moving forward to a hopefully less restricted year, means that knowing how societies spend and what they spend it on is very important when calculating budgets and advocating for an increase in funding. I would also like to be more transparent with the whole process and to speak to individuals from committees to discuss why they may have not got what they wanted and how we can help them achieve what they want to. Again – we can and will think outside the box.
If you were elected, what would be your top three areas of focus?
Firstly, to see the safe return of in-person activities and to make that process as easy as possible, especially for committees with younger members who may not know how to run an in-person event. Secondly, as indicated above, to encourage creativity and best ideas in all things. Thirdly, to be as inclusive and as kind to all students as we can possibly be.
In your manifesto you mention that as VP Activities you’d want consistent promotion of societies throughout the year, how do you intend to do this?
I think that Corin and the marketing team have done a great job with promoting societies this year. For example, the promotional videos at the start of the year, spotlights, and take overs which is something I want to continue, with the hopes of on campus promotion too. However, I would like to stress the beginning of Semester 2 is an underrated time for recruitment, and I want to bring back the importance of refreshers. Consistent promoting is not only imperative to the survival of societies, but to the students’ welfare as societies combat loneliness, which has been at the forefront recently.
Additionally, I would like to expand on the existing buddy scheme where older students can act as mentors by advising younger students with things they may feel uncomfortable talking to friends and family. I want to make the Freshers experience open to everyone by keeping the Welcome Week title, bring back the Welcome Ball (open to everyone), hosting non-drinking events, and hold regular speed mating events. I believe that societies are an essential apart of university life and finding the right society can be near impossible in the usual chaos of Bunfight. Therefore, I will spread Bunfight over several days with each day highlighting a specific category of societies, making it easier to navigate, and gives an organised first impression of SUSU.
How would your proposed ‘Events fund’ work?
The main purpose of the events fund is to give societies who don’t receive as much funding the opportunity to do something extraordinary.
Societies can apply for a small, medium, or large grant depending on the size event. I would then ask societies to propose their ideas at the beginning of every semester. This would not affect the budgets of other societies drastically, as it allows any society no matter the size to then host an incredible event that not only boosts SUSU’s image, but also improves the student experience. The result? Incredible events to make up for the lack thereof this year.