Strengthening links with local communities
We talk to recent Spanish and Politics graduate, Georgie Harris, about her new full-time role as the Students' Association Vice President for Community.
In the final year of her Spanish and Politics MA Hons degree, Georgie Harris was Undergraduate School Representative (UG School Rep) for the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).
In March, she was elected Vice President (VP) Community in the Students' Association elections and, having graduated in July, has just completed her first month in the role.
In this interview, Georgie talks to Róisín MacFarlane (Web, Communications and Social Media Intern, and current LLC student) about her reasons for running for election and, following her win, some of her ambitions for the VP role.
She also discusses how her experiences as our UG School Rep influenced her understanding of students and their needs.
'Making a difference for students'
Vice President Community is one of the five annually-elected Sabbatical Officer posts in the Students' Association. The Officers work full-time and are paid to represent students. VP Community covers issues which affect the student and local communities in the city. These include student housing, community engagement, transport, and sustainability.
Discussing her objectives for the year ahead, Georgie says: "My aims for the role can be split into three main areas, starting with community engagement. As the University is expanding, we're growing over more of Edinburgh, which means that students are interacting more with the local communities. I think it's key that we strengthen that relationship between the two."
"Secondly, in terms of improving student housing, rent in Edinburgh is really expensive, and everyone knows how hard it is to try and find a flat. I think we should be pushing the University to provide more affordable housing, starting with cheaper beds in student halls. Also, it would be good to create a website on which students can rate their letting agents, additionally acting as a platform where students can share helpful tips and advice, especially for first year students who might not have any idea what to expect."
"Thirdly, with regards to promoting sustainability, I want to build on the progress which has already been made. The University has a lot of schemes which promote the use of more sustainable materials, and I think we should be building on that success to allow more students access to those measures, for example through the use of KeepCups and reusable water bottles. I also think that we should push for the University to benefit from a new bike hire scheme which is being proposed by the City of Edinburgh, which should be introduced within the next year or so."
Reflecting on what motivated her to run for the position, Georgie says:
"First of all, I wanted to stay in Edinburgh for another year and I thought this was a good opportunity! But on a more serious note, I really enjoyed my time at the University and thought that being a Sabbatical Officer would be a good platform to be able to create change and to try to make a difference for students; making the use of my own experience and putting back what I think other students would like to benefit from."
Georgie believes that her experiences in fourth year were a great source of help in preparing and encouraging her to stand in the Students' Association elections.
"This past year, I've been the School Rep for LLC. I would really encourage anyone to run for that role. It's great: you get to meet loads of different people who work in the University and also in the Students' Association, so I got a clearer idea about how things work, and it gave me more ideas of what I could personally do."
"Also, if you're a School Rep, you go to a forum every month, where you meet the Reps from all the different Schools. Through that you get to find out what other Schools are doing well, and what students from other areas of the University want, that you might not necessarily have thought of before. Hearing all of that information made me think that being a Sabbatical Officer - particularly Vice President Community - would provide me with that platform to enact change."
LLC and the Students' Association
In addition to the Sabbatical Officers, the Students' Association is run by a network of volunteer Officers and Representatives.
We are delighted that, for this incoming academic year (2018/19), two students in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) have been voted in as Students' Association Liberation Officers.
Isabella Neergaard-Petersen (Scandinavian Studies and Classics) and Natasha Ion (French and History), both of whom study in LLC and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, will be taking up the roles of Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) Officer and LGBT+ Officer respectively in September.
Our incoming Undergraduate School Representative is Leah Duncan-Karrim, a student of Chinese.
Watch our interview with Isabella
Visit Georgie's VP Community profile on the Students' Association website
Read more about the University of Edinburgh's involvement in the local community