You may be aware that quite a while ago I applied to be a student representative for the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences and I was offered the role a short while later. You may also know that I am in my final year of the PhD and I now have to make time to be able to collect the final parts of my data and then write the whole thing up! This has led me to decide that it is probably a good time for me to step down as a student representative for the SGSSS and allow someone new to take my place.
I have been in the SGSSS student rep role for nearly a year and a half and I have gained so much from doing so. I have been able to meet fellow social science students from a variety of disciplines, many of whom I did not know beforehand. These group of people have been a great support in terms of the PhD and discussing issues which we PhD students face. I think it’s really important to be able to know that other students do exist outside of your host university. For me, this role allowed me to travel far and wide across Scotland (well, Dundee, Glasgow…) and get to know others too.
I think this part of the student rep role was one of the most important as we have been able to gather views from students studying across Scotland, and bring them together in our quarterly student rep meetings. These meetings are around every 3 months but gave us a chance to catch up as a group and also discuss important issues in terms of student concerns, policy and practice (and how we could help). We also got a chance to say what we really thought, and did not hold back in our views. We were able to talk things through and ironed out any concerns we had which I think PhD student need time and space to do.
As part of the role, I have also been able to get involved in organising SGSSS events. The main student-led event was the Student-Led Symposium in April (and there is another one planned for May this year). This event was very useful for students to learn more about the PhD journey, the potential steps afterwards and help us ‘survive’ as PhD students. I got a lot form this event as I met over 60 other students in social sciences and also from universities that I had not been in contact with before. It was valuable to be there to welcome students and introduce myself as a student rep, and I even had others ask about how they could get involved. This event was not only a training session over two days but a social event too so we did get the opportunity to spend some time outside of the training sessions to get to know each other better. You can find out more about the event and its planning form my previous blog posts below. You’ll see that it does take a little while to plan and a lot of work behind the scenes (from the staff and other reps) but it is completely worth it in the end… especially when the event is a sell-out trip!
As part of the rep role, we are also invited to help organise other things too. These have included getting involved in organising sessions for the SGSSS Summer School (which I attended in both 2016 and 2017 but did not deliver a session myself). There are also things like getting involved in supervisory board and the SGSSS induction event and lots of other things too. Now we are expected to attend the 4 meetings each year and contribute to email/communication discussions on topics asked of us, but that is about it. The student rep role is not designed to interfere with your PhD at all and it is designed to be an enjoyable experience for all, so if there is something you are not keen on doing, and have a preference to help out with something else then that is usually okay too.
I think overall, the experience of being a student rep is something I feel I have learned a lot from – from how the SGSSS works to how students can influence what happens. The role itself is an excellent way to contribute to student views being heard and it is also a great experience for those who feel it is something they would like to do.
I’m very thankful that Dr Jo Ferrie (the staff member in charge of the reps when I applied!) who advertised some vacancies when new reps were needed and that the opportunity was there for me to apply. I’m also thankful to Dr Emmanuelle Tulle who (in around September/October time last year) took on the role of Associate Director with responsibility for the Student Experience at SGSSS and is now responsible for the student reps. They have both made the student rep role totally worth it!