Every year, our Students’ Union hosts their annual elections named ‘Surrey Decides’. This is the largest democratic process happening at Surrey. Students nominate themselves as candidates to represent the Union as leaders, and are voted in by the student body.
Needless to say, this is a significant event which impacts all students, as the Students’ Union has a huge impact on all aspects of student life. For instance, the following are examples of activities managed by the Union: events at Rubix, volunteering opportunities, the course rep scheme, clubs and societies, and support services.
In this blog I will be explaining how students can get involved during Surrey Decides. I will also bring in testimonies from candidates in previous elections.
Getting involved: running in Surrey Decides
Running in Surrey Decides could be a life-changing experience. Not only for those who run, but also for the student body as a whole. As a previous Support Zone candidate puts it, “Running for this kind of thing is important; if you have ideas about what needs to change, you’re exactly the kind of person Surrey needs. And you being in that one meeting at the right time might lead to some lasting changes!”
Being a member of the Students’ Union, be it as a part-time or full time officer, will offer a chance to develop essential skills that you can bring to future jobs. As a student representative, this means you have to learn about good leadership, effective communication, active listening, public speaking and project management.
More generally, the workforce nowadays prioritises unique experiences that set you apart from other candidates. Volunteering is a significant factor in enhancing your CV, so choosing to volunteer as a part-time officer is an excellent way to do that. You can learn more about volunteering opportunities at Surrey here.
According to a previous Voice Zone candidate, “when I think back to the person I was before I started volunteering as a part-time officer, I can clearly see the difference as I feel a lot more confident now in public speaking and communicating with different types of people. I’m certain that my time working for the Union will have an impact in my life after Surrey and help me find a suitable job.”
Meanwhile, working as a VP or President can be the first step in launching your career, as you actively build upon those aforementioned skills and build a connection with the Union and the University which will only help you in the future.
For more information on how ‘Surrey Decides’ can make you more employable, have a look at this post on the Students’ Union Instagram page.
You will get to meet people from different courses and backgrounds, allowing you to make new unique friendships and expand your social circle.
Interacting with people you may have never met otherwise, you also get to explore different cultures and traditions which will help you become a more open-minded person.
From a previous Support Zone candidate: “Being a part of the Students’ Union is a true joy for me. I get to meet amazing individuals from all walks of life, and I am constantly inspired by the kindness and compassion of students and staff. It’s truly heartwarming to see the positive impact that we can make on the lives of our fellow students, and it’s my privilege to be a part of this team.”
While working for the Union, you will have interactions with staff, student representatives and the general student population which will help you develop communication, collaboration and teamwork. These skills are crucial in any job, and also for personal development.
Getting involved: voting in Surrey Decides
Understandably, not everyone will wish to put themselves forward as a candidate in ‘Surrey Decides’. However, just because you’re not directly involved in the elections doesn’t mean you cannot or should not take part.
Voting is your democratic right and an opportunity to influence the Union (and the University). Considering the huge impact that the Union has on student life, it’s amazing that you get to choose the people who will be leading it and make sure they are representing your interests.
As a previous Voice Zone candidate puts it: “I think it’s so amazing that Surrey Decides provides students with the opportunity to choose the people who will be representing them at the Union. Instead of the candidates being interviewed by staff like for most roles, it is the student voice that counts.”
Also, from a previous Activity Zone candidate: “The students get their own voice for who is going to represent their views and decisions for the next year. If students want to see changes in the way the university works or see changes around the university itself but don’t want to run then they still get their voice heard from the perspective of a student.”
5-Testimonies from Students
I’ve collected testimonies from students who ran in Surrey Decides in previous years and what they thought about their experiences.
From a previous Support Zone candidate:
As a passionate advocate for student wellbeing, I believe that the student union elections are a crucial opportunity for us to come together and make our voices heard. This is our chance to choose leaders who will represent us and make decisions that will positively impact our university experiences.
That’s why I decided to run for the position of part-time officer of the Support Zone. Throughout my time at university, I have seen firsthand the transformative power of support services, and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that every student has access to the resources they need.
I have had the privilege of working as lead publicity for Nightline, and it was there that I decided I wanted to help students on a larger scale. My experience with support services and my deep commitment to making a difference in the lives of others are what drive me to do this work.
From a previous Voice Zone candidate:
Running in ‘Surrey Decides’ has been such an amazing experience and I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking to get more involved or if you’re really passionate about Surrey and making improvements to student life.
I ran because I’m always looking for new opportunities to support fellow students and make sure that they’re having the same incredible Uni experience I am having. I was a Course Rep at the time, and wanted to represent students on a higher level.
I enjoy working with the Union so much; it’s incredible learning about all the hard work that goes behind different events and how student life is shaped by the different zones. I particularly love getting to do EGMS since that’s such fun and feels good to be helping our fantastic societies stay alive.
From a previous Activity Zone candidate:
I ran in Surrey Decides because I had ideas to bring to the table that I wanted to make sure got completed. I also felt it was important to support my VP as much as possible to make sure, as a PTO, all students were represented and not missed. As a PTO I was able to study alongside my role whilst still making a change and making other people feel heard.
I enjoy my role for all kinds of reasons. Firstly, I have made so many strong friendships and connections through doing this role. I also enjoy that it is a PTO role so I can focus on my studies mostly but also represent the union and the people to bring about change.
It doesn’t take up as much time as I originally thought it would, which has been a bonus with how expectedly busy I have become whilst working on placement. I also enjoy that all the zones work together. You don’t just have to stick to suggesting ideas for your zone or VP but can think up ideas or support other zones too if wanted throughout the year.
From a previous Community Zone candidate:
I believe it is important to have a democratic vote for student issues by students. I think it allows the university to know what students really want as well as allowing students to partake in the changes! Its important to have as much representation as possible so that students feel included and cared about.
I ran in ‘Surrey Decides’ because I wanted to look into fundraising more as part of my role in the Community Zone, I wanted to find new ways of fundraising as well as make it more accessible! I feel RAG is a very important part of the Uni and it needs more outreach!
I think its the rewarding factor of seeing charities having funds raised for them as well as having a certain level of individual responsibility. I like to work in a group and independently so this role is the perfect mix for me. I think having the creative freedom of social media also allows me to showcase my ideas.
Overall, this is the most important information regarding the Students’ Union annual elections that students should be aware of. I hope you understand now why it’s so important to get involved, be it through running for a position or voting.
If you want to learn more about ‘Surrey Decides’, have a look at the Students’ Union website.