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At the union, we're all about you, but we also hope you're all about us too. So we asked some of the students involved with the Union to share their success stories with us.

  Support     

COSMIC are the team of Staffs Uni students behind COSMIC BOWIE, an art exhibition held in Shelton to celebrate the life of the late David Bowie, as well as to raise some money for mental health charity Mind. The event was envisioned and planned by Cosmic team members Fraser Allsopp and Theo Zoumides, so, after sending over some questions, Fraser got back to us with answers explaining their motivations…

We wanted to somehow pay tribute to such a fantastic artist, an inspiration to all who are experimenting in art or hesitant to express themselves, as well as celebrate his life. Bowie was so passionate to embrace his creative and ‘different’ side, as we see it, all upcoming artists should be in the same mind set. This is the message we initially wanted to convey.

We knew that set up would be tight in regards to time, as previous exhibitions in the same space took a while to build and plan, this is where we believe the SU were so helpful. They provided prints for all the printed artworks, funding and advice for the majority of elements that would have been time consuming, so a huge thank you to them!

As explained briefly we have had other, smaller exhibitions in the past. We saw these as practice for our bigger events such as 'Cosmic Bowie' and we will definitely be planning frequent events to celebrate art in the future. Because of the fantastic reception to the Bowie exhibition we can't wait to start raising money again and get the next venture underway.

We would hope the SU and other helpful organisations can continue to support these exhibitions as Stoke is in need of more ways to express the art of students and any upcoming artists. I would say the more exhibitions we run the better we become at planning and organising.

Stoke is in need of artist showcases or small 'hubs' of creative excellence. Stoke should thrive a creative city and I have never met as many creative people as I have in Stoke-on-Trent.

As Cosmic, we are working towards more projects on a higher scale for creative students to be a part of. We would like to get bigger, better and more well known for the exciting events we hold and, more importantly, inspire our students.

  Opportunity     

Lisa-Marie is Volunteer Team Leader of the Students’ Union’s FoodHub: a donation service that provides students who’re struggling financially with free food supplies. A lot of hard work went into the creation of her role and its capacity within volunteering for students, but she has repaid it with her own. We asked Lisa-Marie just what the position means to her…

“I am really enjoying being a part of the Students’ Union, no two days are the same and the other staff members have been very friendly and inclusive. It has opened my eyes to just how much the S.U can do, as, prior to this, I had a very limited knowledge of what went on there: I really thought it was just the clubs and the advice centre.

“The degree I am doing, Social Welfare Law, Policy and Advice, sits alongside my role in the S.U – as I undertake the effective running of Foodhub – a big welfare issue. I also ‘manage’ a team of three volunteers to help me promote the Foodhub and with fundraising events.

“I think that it is very important that students can see just what goes on behind the face of the S.U – especially for those with an interest in some of the things that the S.U does (marketing/advice/organising events to name a few). For some students this is the first time they will have an opportunity to have work-based experience in an area they may want to go into; a taste of what they might be doing after University is always a good thing.

“I never in a million years thought that as a mature student I would be organising music events and seeing it come together – I will take this with me should I ever move out of the advice sector and into fundraising. I am hoping to stay at the S.U and be one of the fully fledged advisors in the future as I really think it’s my ideal job.

“Being a mature student makes it different for me, and this is my own opinion, in that I don’t have the world at my feet like younger students. I want to find my happy and stick with it – I feel I have done that in the S.U.”

  Representation     

This student story comes from Adam Dickinson, one of our students who requires a wheelchair to get around campus, to and from lectures. He told us about his early struggles…

As a wheelchair user, due to the layout of both The Ashley Building and The Science Centre lecture theatres, I have to sit at the front. During my first week when I attended my first lectures in these two buildings I also realised that there were no tables in the lecture theatres for me to use.

As a student, a table is a fundamental requirement for writing notes during lectures and it is especially so for me as I have a spinal problem and a full-leg amputation so cannot lean forward for long periods of time and have no lap to lean books on even if I could.

To try and help me with this problem one of my fellow students had to take a table from the lecturers’ plinth in The Ashley Building and a table from outside the lecture theatre in The Science Building and put them in front of me before every lecture.

Having approached members of staff and seeing nothing happen, I spoke to my course Student Representative, who agreed to bring the issue up in course meetings. After the first meeting, they reported back to me that there was some confusion over who had to supply the tables, and in subsequent meetings were told that I was not able to get a table as it was a health and safety issue.

Not content with this answer my Student Representative approached Jaime-Lee, our president, who agreed to help and very quickly organised a meeting with members of the Estates Management team.

Finally, in January, I was contacted by a member of the team who organised a meeting to discuss my requirements and agreed to supply tables for both lecture theatres.


I think other students just need to be aware of disabled students and give help where needed. Two examples of where this would help since I have started at Staffordshire are making sure that if you smash glass onto a pathway you report it straight away as it can damage wheelchair tyres and inner tubes. Holding doors and lifts for disabled students is also important.

The main thing that other students can really do though is to treat those with a disability the same as they would someone without.

The big issue I have had recently is in finding accommodation which is suitable for a wheelchair user.

The phrase I keep hearing is that “I am part of the minority” and so there is not a system in place to help. I feel that if the university is intent on attracting disabled students then they should have systems in place to deal with “the minority” which can also benefit the majority if there are no disabled students in need at that moment in time. Links with local councils may help in getting suitable accommodation but these do not appear to exist.

The other issue that the university is lacking in is disability sports opportunities. I know that there are probably not enough disabled students attending Staffordshire who are interested in sport to make it worthwhile investing in weekly sessions, but I know other disabled people who attend different universities around the country which put on monthly taster sessions for sports such as wheelchair basketball and open them up to all students. This would be a good way of both giving disabled students a chance to participate in sport and in helping able-bodied students get to experience life from a disabled point of view.

 

  Employability     

As part of our ‘Student Stories’, we spoke to Ed Fox, who works with us as a Web Designer. Unlike many other Union’s we hire Student Staff for these kind of roles, helping them to develop their skills ready for post-graduation employment. See what Ed had to say about his time here and how it has set him up for the future…

“The people you work with during shifts are friendly, and the Union’s work hours have been incredibly flexible for my studies. I came back to work for the Union in my final year, not just because it was a job relevant to my studies, but also because I really enjoy getting to work on something for other students.

“The biggest change has been in my confidence. Being of a nerdy disposition, I was always quiet and unsure in putting across my ideas when I started out. Now, two and a half years down the line, I think I can tackle most situations in a straightforward and comprehensible manner. I didn’t realise how important this would be until I started doing freelance web development work, from then I began to recognise everything this role has given me from a non-technical point of view.

“Working on a live website, like the Union’s, is different from working on your own projects, but it can influence them. For example, you always have to remember people will be working for the union in the future, so you have to keep your styling and scripts clean and readable for other people to pick up. This has ended up bleeding into my personal projects, and I would like to think all my programming is a lot cleaner and readable now.

“One of the most important things out there in the big wide world of web is analytics. Working as the Web Designer at the Union has given me a great opportunity to look into the analytics of the Union website, and then come to design and layout decisions based on it. This is invaluable real world experience, which you won’t get by doing your own little projects. Now I can demonstrate putting analytics data into use on a live system to future employers.”