By Cerian Jones
Henri Page is your Societies & Volunteering VP, one of seven elected officers chosen by you – the students of Cardiff University. Henri champions societies and student-led groups within the Union, and is responsible for allocating budgets and tiers, as well as supporting and promoting Student Led Services and Campaign Associations.
“As a VP I represent the students and their interests within the university in many different ways. Including going to meetings with the university, contributing to feedback in reports regarding the students needs. But more specifically in my role I look out for the student lead groups; societies and volunteers. Basically everything extracurricular, except sport!”
Your job is very demanding; spanning much of the SU’s events and groups. What made you apply for the role in the first place?
“I really enjoyed my time at university because of the societies and the volunteering projects that I was a part of. They really shaped my university expreience and also who I’ve become and the skills that I now have. I saw that the department and the representation of those students was really, really important and I wanted to give back to them. I thought that I would be able to do a good job and I felt that I owed that to the groups that had given me so much.”
Was the application process quite difficult, and what did you have to do?
“I nominated myself in January of 2018, and then ran a campaign week during the voting period in February. Many found campaigning difficult because you have to go out and talk to as many students as possible about your priorities and tell them why you think you’d be really good for the role. And students are busy people so you have to develop an excellent elevator sales pitch, and I never stop talking so I found that really good fun. But it was absolutely exhausting. I’d highly recommend it, even if you run and don’t win – I know it’s easy for me to say – but if you don’t get elected you still learn a huge amount from the experience.”
The majority of your job is talking to students and so if you’re good at campaigning, does means that you’d be good at the job?
“Exactly! Yeah, it feeds straight in, being able to accurately put your point across and show that you really care about what students are saying is hugely important to the role”
What are you currently working on, and what projects are you involved with at the moment?
“At the moment we’re working on the run up to the winter show-case, which is an opportunity for societies of all types to show off what their made of and what they do. We offer them the opportunity to put on a programme that’s publicised throughout the university for people to come and see what they do. It’s a fantastic way for societies to show what they’ve been working on all semester, and its also an opportunity to attract some new members – people who missed out the first time, now in their second or third year, who didn’t realise how much stuff they could get involved in.”
What are your aims for the end of the year?
“Overall, I’d really liked to have achieved a sense of value associated with societies and volunteering projects, there’s so much more to life than your degree – it’s very important but it’s not what enriched my time during university. I think that needs to be appreciated; both students and university staff need to see the value of these group activities, as well as how much work, and time, and energy goes into that from the student members and their leaders… We have over a thousand committee members and a lot of them spend as much, if not more, time on their society projects than their degree. It’s so important to them and it’s important that we recognise that ”
How do you plan on highlighting these achievements?
“We’re looking into the Rewards Balls and the awards we present at the end of the year and what they really mean. In the meantime We’ve been working with Cardiff volunteering on a portal where you can log all the hours that you contribute to your society or volunteering group, or media outlet. So you can get an official certificate at the end to state your achievements, and as a thank you. We’ve also revamped the tier structure to display the quality of the society, and we tried to make it more about how much work their society and committee members are putting in, and the quality of what they’re doing and the imagination with which they’re going about it, rather than just sheer size and financial scope that the society has. I’m really excited to see how it goes.”
You work closely with students through the societies and other student ran groups, but do you think students are adequately informed and engaged regarding what you do?
“There are 32,000 students and there are seven of us on the full-time elected team and so it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to know who we are and what we do. But I’d really like more students to know more because we’re here for them Our purpose is to represent them. I think we can always do better in that regard”
What course did you study before becoming Societies VP?
I studied Politics and Philosophy, so essentially arguing and overthinking. Which I am now really, really good at. I absolutely loved my degree.”
What interests do you have outside of the job?
“Ooh well, I like to sing, I’m still a member of the acappella society and I absolutely love them. I’m an avid reader, I’ll read anything from newspapers – from Gair Rhydd – all the way to long fantasy novels, I love them. I drink a ridiculous amount of tea. Does that count as a personality trait?”
“I love dogs. And I love sleep, sleep is my favourite thing to do.”
Finally, what do you see for your own future and what would you want for the SU’s future?
“I’d love to continue working in student representation, I think it’s hugely important. Especially because we’re characatured on a public stage as students, and I don’t like that at all. Yeah so maybe stay in student representation, or even broadcasting, or go back and do further study. I really don’t know.”
“Especially having a role like this; you’re given so many opportunities, and experience that you can take on and take in so many directions.”
“I’d love to see every student flourish at university because they’ve found a place where they fit and a place where they’ve found a support network. Be that through a sports club, a society, a volunteering project, their peers on their course, being supported by academic staff; their personal tutor; and coming out of university as a well-rounded graduate with a fantastic degree from a brilliant university. But also having had all these other fantastic experiences.”
Henri Page, like the other VPs is situated on the third floor and is a very busy bee, but appreciates students concerns and ideas. As Henri stated you don’t just come to university for a degree, the social aspect is a huge part of the experience, and societies and volunteering can be brilliant platforms to make friends for life.