Being a student representative
At the University of Sheffield, Post-Graduate Research (PGR) students representatives can help students report issues to the department anonymously and speak for students when decisions are made at Departmental and Faculty meetings.
I joined the team of departmental representatives in 2016, and became the first Faculty rep in December of 2017. I stepped down from the departmental committee in December 2018 as I was finishing my thesis and am continuing as Faculty rep until I graduate.
Rebuilding the team
When I became PGR rep to the faculty in December 2017, I had been a PGR rep to the department for about a year and a half. The team had been inactive for most of that time due to personal issues of more senior team members. Having found myself with new responsibilities at Faculty level, and the task to recruit new members for the PGR rep team, I decided to bring a renewed momentum to student representation in the department.
I recruited two dynamic new students to join me on the team, Owen Huxley and Sam Jenkins in early 2018. I told them my vision for the re-invigorated involvement of PGR reps in the department and we have since worked together very successfully to make this a reality.
One of the very important pillars of a community is regular interaction between its members. To foster positive spirit, and increased support and socialisation between students, the PGR reps have been organising regular events like the PGR Coffee Mornings or the Rapid Fire Presentation Evening in collaboration with the Maths department. We also promote student led initiatives, such as the CREATE events organised by Gemma Rate and Emma Daffern, where students can go a craft, draw or paint and socialise.
The new team has continued leading and developing such initiatives after I left the team.
Increased Student representation
In 2018 the increasing visibility and leadership of the PGR team, as well as an emphasis on anonymity and protection of the students, led to an increase in issues reported by students: be it with concerns during the strikes of spring 2018, teaching concerns, or questions on changing University Policies.
In the year 2018, I have been very active rebuilding and leading the PGR rep team. In order to help with continuity in future teams, and to make sure PGR reps have the resources they need to do their job effectively, I drove the creation of a set of PGR guidelines and a PGR recruitment process, to make sure that prospect representatives are treated fairly, and emphasise the need to maintain the diversity of PGR rep team.
At faculty level, I flagged up the need for the School of Science to provide clearer guidelines to help PGR students report bullying and harassment. The Faculty took this issue to heart and has since created a flow chart, which has been included in induction material for new PGR students.
I also drove the creation of a Code of Conduct for the Department of Physics and Astronomy which was debuted in January 2019. This has received the invaluable contribution and support a great number of our members of staff including: Paul Crowther (Head of Department), Richard Parker (E&D committee member), Richard Joned (E&D committee chair), Simon Goodwin, and many many others (including the rest of the E&D committee).