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Outgoing Sabbatical Officers reflect on “intense experience”

As a new set of Sabbatical Officers prepares to take on leadership roles in Edinburgh University Students’ Association, the 2021/22 team are reflecting on their time in office.

Over the course of two terms as President, Ellen MacRae has seen the Covid-19 pandemic dominate student life.

“It’s been an intense experience navigating that alongside students and seeing the huge impacts on Higher Education as a sector. I am so grateful that I was re-elected in March 2021 and got to continue working on our pandemic recovery, ensuring that the University focused on the student experience. Some of my proudest achievements, such as securing £2 million in Covid-19 discretionary funding and ensuring students could break their leases when they had no in-person teaching, reflect that work.”

Of course, students face a range of issues outside of the ongoing pandemic, and Beth Simpson, Vice President Community, has been inspired by the drive and motivation shown by students to pursue positive change.

“I’m honoured to have represented and advocated for our students on issues such as housing, transport and sustainability. One of my highlights from this past year was attending COP26 alongside students and staff from the University of Edinburgh delegation – even more so, marching at the youth climate strike in Glasgow alongside many of our students. Organising the housing rally outside the Scottish Parliament with the NUS was another highlight.” 

As Vice President Activities and Services, Réka Siró was delighted to see the return of in-person events as the academic year progressed, and picked out Welcome Week and graduations as particular highlights.

“I think these two milestones in a student’s journey at Edinburgh are some of the most memorable and joyful ones, and getting to be there this year, in person, to help make it special for our students was really an amazing experience. Similarly, managing to make Welcome Week an in-person experience after an entire year of online social activity is probably the biggest thing me and my team have achieved this year. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to put on something brilliant for our students!”

Looking back over the last year, Vice President Education Tara was inspired by the work of School Representatives in improving students’ experiences, and picked student activism and representation as a highlight.

“I’m so grateful to all the students I’ve had the opportunity to work with at Edinburgh. It’s been an intense, odd year for students here, but seeing the work of School Reps to improve students’ experiences, and the activism and solidarity of groups like the Staff-Student Solidarity Network is incredibly inspiring. Working to improve processes like the Special Circumstances system, and to strengthen student representation in University governance has been incredibly rewarding, and I hope that this is only the start of improving students’ experiences at Edinburgh. I’m really excited to see our new Sabbatical Officers come into office, and incredibly grateful to the rest of the team I’ve had the pleasure of working with as your VP Education.”

Reflecting on her time as VP Welfare, Aisha is proudest of creating the Students’ Association’s first Cultural Festival. 

“It feels great to be able to leave a legacy behind that will hopefully carry on for years to come and positively impact the lives of many students by creating that much needed sense of belonging we all deserve. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the other Sabbatical Officers to achieve our shared goal of improving the student’s experience. I could not have asked for a better team of 5.”

With the outgoing and incoming teams working together to hand over responsibility in early June, the 2021/22 Sabbs are looking back on their time in office and wishing the new Officers well.

“This has been a deeply rewarding role,” says Ellen, “and I am incredibly grateful to both of the teams I have had the pleasure of working with. I’m looking forward to handing over to the 22/23 Sabbatical Officer team. I truly hope they have a Covid-free term, and wish them every success!”

Image courtesy of ‘Stinglehammer’ via Wikimedia Commons