“Amazing – once in a lifetime.” Clare reflects on her transformative experience as Vice President (Welfare).
Clare Clark was elected as your Vice President (Welfare), then known as Welfare Officer, for the Union from 1999-2000. Clare has continued her passion for helping students and now works as the Advice Service Manager at the University of West England’s Student’s Union. We caught up with Clare to chat about her highlights as Welfare Officer, how it has formed her career today and the endless opportunities it can give you.
Were you involved in the Union before running in the Elections?
I was bar supervisor in the bar based at Kedleston Road. It was when the Union had Union one and Union two and the Late Bar - that collection of entertainment. At the time it wasn’t called the Academy it was called the Union Arms!
Why did you run to be Vice President (Welfare)?
Part of it was I was training to be a teacher at the time and I wasn’t ready to leave Derby and my student lifestyle. I was chatting to my friends and staff who worked within the Union of Students and I was made aware of the elections. Based on what my career path was looking like and my personality trait of being helpful, I thought it was something I could do. It wasn’t helping children but it was helping students in need in terms of welfare and accommodation.
What is your top tip for a successful elections campaign?
Be creative and stand out from the other candidates. My campaign was “Clare for Welfare” and it was something that stuck in people’s heads.
What changes did you make when you were in office?
The main ones were to do with student finance – there was a fund that the university operated and as a member of the Union of Student’s team I was on that group of people who would help allocate the funds. Often, I would see students before they submitted their application form and help them through that process just to make sure that they had submitted all the right evidence. I would spend a lot of time helping with that because I knew what we were looking for on the panel.
At the time we also operated a short-term loan for the students, which required an appointment with me as Welfare. It was the smaller things like helping students to understand how to talk about finances and what financial schemes were available – that was something I was quite heavily involved in and enjoyed doing.
What would you say your mic drop moment was?
I think for me it was a more personal one - it was about being more confident. Having to talk in front of hundreds of people, having to be that representative for the student body and going to meetings with senior members of staff. As well as helping the students understand the funding system more, on a personal note, it was that it gave me more confidence which I have taken forward in the work that I’ve done since.
What was your favourite memory of working for the Union?
Elections night and getting elected which I won quite convincingly – I think mine was over 600 votes compared to my competitor who had 300. I remember campaigning with the netball team in the atrium at Kedleston Road and we were running around causing a bit of mayhem trying to get people to vote. It was also the things you could get involved in - the training opportunities that were opened up to you. It was a unique opportunity and a once in a lifetime to see behind the scenes of a business at such a young age. I still keep in touch with members of the officer team through Facebook.
What was the biggest perk to being Welfare Officer? And how has it helped with your current career?
The opportunities that being an Officer opens up to you. I was coming to the end of my time in office and I was always going to be moving to Bristol. There was a Student Adviser job that came up at UWE in Bristol and because of my background, and the fact I decided I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore, I went for it. I’m now Advice Service Manager in the Student’s Union and I think a lot of it is because of that year that I had. It opens up so many opportunities that you wouldn’t have had a clue that you could be a part of at such a young age. It’s a huge role and I think a very unique one.
Would you recommend being an Officer Trustee?
Yes, definitely. In terms of the opportunities it gives to you – the meetings, the decisions you get to be a part of. You get to see yourself as a person, separate to your degree, you’re an employee as part of a great organisation. From what I did and where I ended up is very relevant. That year that I had in office has shaped my career that I’ve now had for 20 years and one that I love. I think a big part of why I got my job was because I could talk about my time as Welfare Officer.
What would you like your legacy at Derby Union to be?
I like to think that I had an open door and had an approachable attitude to students. I wanted to provide somewhere they could come in the Union, where they felt safe and listened to. I wanted students to know that there was always someone to talk to – I hope I was that person and that they got something out of coming to see me.
If you want to be like Clare and make changes, you can run for a position in this year’s Union Elections. Whether you want to take on a year-long paid role or just commit to a three-day conference, we've got something that's perfect for you; giving you experience, the chance to stand up for students, and the power to drastically improve university life at Derby.
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