Year out with Student Union Exec gives Emily the experience she needed

Emily Connor is Hallam Union’s Education Officer and Deputy President. Here’s her story, and why taking a year out from her studies to take up the role has paid off.

I am now two-thirds of the way through my year as the Education Officer and Deputy President on the Student Union Executive. This annually elected role is open to all students regardless of degree or level, offering a chance of responsibility, valued experience and the opportunity to influence University decisions and direction at a very high level. It can be taken the year following any student’s studies, or taken as a sabbatical year between levels – I chose to take up the opportunity following my second year of studies at Sheffield Hallam.

Taking time out of my studies was a huge decision for me. Not only was I worried about taking time out of education before my crucial final year, but leaving my friends and housemates was a concern for my return. I thought I’d be living and studying on my own, practically restarting the awkward ‘meet and greet’ I thought was over after my first year.

This aside, I knew running for Education Officer would be an opportunity like no other. The whole election process really forced me to think about the role and what I would want to get out of it for students. A bit like a week-long interview, my campaign was designed to convince a panel of 35,000 students why I was the right person for the job. I’d always been keen to get involved in Student Union activity and my role as a Course Rep had already helped define my passion for positive educational change in the University. I saw this role as an opportunity to do just that on a larger, University-wide scale. Though scary, my excitement at the possibility of actually achieving this position completely outweighed my fears.

Eight months into the role and the experience I have gained can only be described as exciting and invaluable. Having studied for an English degree, my work experience lay little outside takeaway service and warehouses, so this contribution to my employability will undoubtedly make my CV all the more appealing. Few graduates (especially as young as I!) can say that they have been a Trustee of a charity, or are frequently sat in rooms talking to members of staff who have been in the industry for 10, 20, 30+ years but may still look to me for my opinion. I am in the extremely fortunate position of being able to make positive change for students in an area I am passionate about.

My role essentially calls for me to represent students in decision making processes in the University and to express the ‘Student Voice’ in any discussions I take part in, acting as the bridge between students and the University. I also work with our own Student Voice team helping to train and empower 1,500 Course Reps in their own educational pursuits. I speak to students on a daily basis through focus groups, surveys or even just by catching them in cafes about their concerns and the issues they care about, so I can help the University understand what student priorities are at this point in time.

This job has placed me out of my comfort zone every day for the past few months which has forced me to develop the skills and knowledge I know I will find to my benefit when I finally graduate and seek employment. My time management and organisation skills have been tested beyond what I would ever be exposed to in a full time education setting and after liaising on a regular basis with members of staff in ‘high places’ I am able to conduct myself in a way which helps me to negotiate and convince staff and students to believe in my ideas and campaigns. That and my ability to plan events, train students and deliver speeches are all useful tools which will continue to strengthen, if not give me an indication of where or how I would like to work in the future.

I think I would have been employable if I’d not taken this risk in my second year. But as a 20 year old English student, I think what I can effectively refer to as my ‘placement year’ will set me in an even better position to use and apply my experience in the ‘real world’.


Sheffield Hallam Business Student sets his sights on Kenya

Daniel Garlick, a Sheffield Hallam University Business Studies student, was chosen to join the 2013 Balloon Kenya programme and has travelled to Kenya for 6 weeks over the summer to help local people set up sustainable businesses and “empower local people to defeat poverty through business”.

Balloon Kenya is a social enterprise programme where 48 students from all over the world work with locals to start businesses in the most sustainable and effective way. £15,000 will be invested in at least 75 start-up businesses in communities where there is 65% unemployment.

Daniel has been an active member of his home community within the Air Cadets where he was awarded Best Cadet of the County in 2010 due to his “distinguished service” to them and his hard work in fundraising and volunteering. He has also achieved the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and met the Duke himself. With this next challenge in Kenya he is hoping it will “give (him) a chance to do something worthwhile and gain experience which will make (him) stand out”.

Daniel has been supported by Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union with his funding to join this project as it was clear that it was a fantastic opportunity in so many ways; Vanessa Marshall, Student Development Manager at Hallam Union, explained that “this exciting project will benefit the community in which Daniel is working, he will gain many skills and knowledge in social enterprise, finance, and project management whilst improving his employability and experiencing life and enterprise in a different culture. On his return, he will share his experiences with other Hallam students, perhaps inspiring them to follow in his footsteps to Kenya or even into local social enterprises here in Sheffield”

Daniel is keeping everyone up to date and sharing his experiences on his blog at

RBS ESSA- Sheffield Hallam University has fifth most enterprising students in the UK

This year Sheffield Hallam Student’s Union has been working hard to encourage its societies to become more enterprising. Using the RBS Enterprising Student Society Accreditation as a benchmark, 10 Hallam Union societies have become accredited by the scheme since October 2012 and we have encouraged and supported them to achieve the accreditation via building their membership, increasing their enterprising abilities and raising their regional profile.

Find Invest Grow and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group think that enterprising student societies should be recognised for their efforts. As such, the RBS ESSA is a national scheme which proactively rewards and recognises student societies and the teams of students behind them. The RBS ESSA certification is the official stamp of achievement.

With the launch of the RBS Enterprising Students Ranking table, Sheffield Hallam University has been ranked fifth in the country. A university amasses ranking points based on the number of societies receiving RBS ESSA accreditation, as well as entries to the Bronze, Silver and Gold categories of the RBS ESSA Awards. Circus Hallam, our circus skills society are currently working on their entry for a Gold award and we look forward to hearing the result later this year.

See our list of Societies on the Hallam Union pages.

Find out more about RBS ESSA here.

Social Enterprise Unleashed

Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) was recently named as a HE social entrepreneurship partner by UnLtd and HEFCE as part of their HE Support initiative. During the last few months SHU and its Student’s Union have been working on establishing a social entrepreneurship culture which will allow their staff and students to start up social ventures and create social change.

So far the awards have gained a great deal of attention in Sheffield and have sparked new conversation around social innovation. Sheffield Hallam University are being looked at as one of the leading HEIs involved in the programme and have already awarded 13 projects with grant funding, with more to be issued in the summer.

With support from academics working in Social Enterprise, SHU and the Students Union have been able to run specialist workshop days enabling applicants to gain one to one advice on writing bids and starting their own social ventures.

Sheila Quairney, Business and Enterprise Manager at the Research and Innovation Office commented, “We’ve been delighted with the dramatic increase in interest in social enterprise across the University since we launched the UnLtd programe.  The partnership between the University and the Student’s Union has been key to achieving this and has worked extremely well. The programme has also attracted the attention of senior staff who value the impact that it is having on the student experience”.

The collaboration between SHU and it’s Student’s Union has led to a great start to the HE Support initiative. With over 50 applications already, the SHU & Students Union partnership expects to create further developments in the ever growing student led social enterprise landscape.

You can follow the Union, the Research and Innovation Office and Sheffield Hallam University on Twitter 

To find out more look on the Hallam Union website.