Daisy Giuliano studied history and was elected as your Union President from 2014-16. Daisy has since gone on to make a huge splash in the world of youth voice, currently working for the British Youth Council, MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Society health charity and is the Co-Founder of the social enterprise WiLD, supporting women to work in their own way in Derby.
We invited Daisy for a coffee in Blends to talk about her experience winning in the Union Elections, her time as Union President, and how her life has changed as a result.
How did it feel to be voted in by your peers?
It felt amazing that people had trusted me, I always tried to be really sincere and honest about what people were voting for. When I got voted in, I felt a real sense of responsibility to stick to my word - I wanted more people to know about the Union and also for the university to take the Union more seriously.
What were your manifesto points?
The main one was I wanted more people to know about the Union of Students. What I learnt was that your manifesto isn’t everything that you do, it’s better to think of your manifesto points in a broad way. The other thing is to speak to people, it’s good practice for the Election time, go up to students and tell them you’re thinking of running and get their opinions on things or ask them what’s important to them. There are so many ways you can be a student at the university, and being a full-time history student based at Kedleston Road is just one of them. I think it’s important to be backed up by people who are different to you.
What changes did you successfully make?
We got more money from the university in terms of our block grant than previously, so that was an acknowledgement that they understood more what the Union was doing. In meetings I was very vocal, I presented the student perspective in a situation and I think it helped people change their opinion of the Union.
One of the ones I’m most proud of being involved in was a community programme called Age Exchange. I went outside the university on community neighbourhood boards and represented students, because students in the local area weren’t taking their bins in and local elderly residents were getting annoyed. So I went on Radio Derby and was trying to integrate the community more. We did some events in the local area with the elderly, and students came along and supported too, which was great.
What was your single biggest ‘mic drop moment’?
We all had hoodies that said our name and role on the back of them and I would go to loads of university meetings where everyone was wearing suits and were a lot older than me and really experienced. I would have a stack of papers, about university accounts on really significant decisions the university was going to be making, and I’m told that I have an equal footing on that board just as much as anyone else does. I always showed up to those meetings wearing my hoodie because I wanted to show that I represented something different. There was an issue that I felt I wanted to scrutinise further that I felt passionate about, so I got the chair’s attention and shared the reasons that supported my argument.
In that moment I really felt powerful, that people would listen to what I have to say and that emboldened me to continue to do that, to challenge in a way that was constructive. So, for me, the mic drop moment was feeling powerful, feeling respected and capable of making change.
What transferable skills did you learn?
It was such a broad experience – I gained a lot of skills in terms of event management, coordinating a team, project management and time management, all the good stuff that other jobs look for. I think for me the Union showed me that I was capable, that I was confident, and that people could take me seriously. I felt that I had stuff to say, that I could make change, and it was validation that the things that I thought about myself were true.
The Union nurtures you and develops you in a way that is really personal. You are able to stop and think about ideas, you are able to make a difference and change and you are supported to do that. There is someone to hold your hand but you also have real responsibility at the same time. It’s started my career off in such a brilliant way.
What was the biggest perk to being an elected Officer Trustee?
It provides opportunity like no other and I think to have that at the beginning of your career is incredible. We get paid, which is great and it’s important, but it doesn’t feel like work, so that’s a perk. You are part of great opportunities like being on recruitments for Vice Chancellors or sitting on the governing body for the university. I really felt like I was part of Team Derby for the first time and all of those things are ones that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been in that role and they’ve all really stuck with me.
What was the toughest part of being an Officer Trustee and how did you overcome this?
The opportunity to do what you want is overwhelming – it’s the best and worst thing, you can achieve anything, and you have a year to do that, which is intense. There’s quite a lot of learning involved, you want to do lots of stuff but to begin with you don’t actually know how to do it. The desire to succeed can be overwhelming and it can’t always happen in the way that you think it’s going to. The Union environment was really supportive and I felt like part of the team. I was taken seriously. The Union allowed me to succeed in the ways that I wanted to, and it was generally really fun, and I’ve never known another workplace that’s like it - I always feel like I want to come back.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of the Union President?
I would continually talk to students, whenever The Atrium was busy I would go and talk to people and ask what their experience as a student is, which I think is very useful. There are lots of meetings, which, to make a change, I think it’s important to be around the tables to be able to influence decisions. Things like going to the sports games and going to society events, I think it was important that they felt supported by people who would make decisions on their behalf. Also, working together as an officer team as well and supporting each other in terms of what work we were separately working on and how they overlapped. It was also important for me to go to events and be a representative of the students.
What are you doing in your career now?
In my career now, I influence people and also support people to make their own changes. I started out doing that with young people. There is a real thread in the values and the way of working that the Union gave me and it is really influencing what I’m doing now. A lot of what I was passionate about at the Union is something that I’m still doing, so it’s shown me that I’m doing it for the right reasons.
How do you feel your role has influenced your next stage in life?
I had a couple of jobs where I realised I wasn’t using my leadership skills to their full potential so I set up WiLD, this social enterprise to support women who are young and who need support in their decision making. That’s what the Union did for me and I want other people to have that experience too. If I can create a network of people to say “yes, you’re capable, you’re confident,” I hope more people can feel more satisfied in their career.
Would you recommend being an Officer Trustee?
Yes, definitely, go for it. I think even if you don’t win, the process of how you present yourself and how you believe in yourself are all really valuable things to have, especially if you’re just about to graduate and do the same thing in interview situations.
It’s also really fun to run in the Elections. I like to be creative and ran quite a creative campaign such as standing up on the bus and talking to everyone about why they should vote for me and I used my name to my advantage (*Pick a Daisy for President). You get to meet really interesting people, it’s a good week out to think about what’s important to you.
What would be your advice to a student who is thinking about running for a role in the Union Elections?
Just be yourself – it’s really difficult to get people to believe in you if you’re not being authentic. Be creative and have fun, it’s a great experience.
What would you like your Union legacy to be?
Anyone can do anything. People didn’t know who I was and I still won and I had a great time and I made a difference. The Union is a place where you can come in and say “I think these things are really important” and change the direction of something and I think that’s really exciting.
Find out more about Daisy’s organisation WiLD.
If you want to be like Daisy 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.
NEXT UP: The (Democratic) Kama Sutra Quiz – What’s your position?