Take Action and Put Yourself Forward

Why You Should Put Yourself Forward in the Student Leader Elections…

by Gift Sotonye-Frank
Part-Time Women Students’ Officer

Are you a Queen’s student?
If you answered yes to this question, then you should indeed put yourself forward for the Student Leader Elections!

I still remember the 28th of February 2018 at about 8pm, how I went from just being a PhD student to becoming the Women Students’ Part Time Officer.

I must confess that I wanted to win having put myself forward for that election. However, I was nervous and very uncomfortable waiting for the results. Nervous because it didn’t seem to me at the time that I stood a chance of winning.

I considered myself in the minority in lots of ways. These included the fact that it seemed as though there were not many research/PhD students like myself who had put themselves forward and, also given my international student status, I imagined how I would ever speak to as many people to vote for me.

Nevertheless, the next question might provide some clarity as to how it all began.

Why Did I Put Myself Forward for Election?
I constantly enjoy being challenged by new opportunities. For example, competing and winning the 3 Minutes Thesis Competition at the QUB School of Law, which then led to my participation in the same competition at the QUB graduate school level and also beyond.

Yet, I never imagined that running for an elective officer position would be one of the opportunities I would be exposed to!

It was in January 2018 during an ‘Inspiring Leaders’ workshop organised by Volunteer SU. Upon arrival at the workshop venue, it appeared as though there were more undergraduates who had signed up for the workshop and instantly I felt I was in the wrong place but I soon had a mind shift as I reminded myself that the workshop was open to all QUB students to which I was one. So I just made myself comfortable even though my inner self talk was constantly trying to make me uncomfortable. On the brighter side, the food provided on the day was good, as breakfast lunch and dinner were served to all participants!

During the course of the workshop, the former QUBSU president, Stephen McCrystall stood up to speak to participants about the then forthcoming student officer elections and he encouraged us to put ourselves forward. He told us his own story of becoming the President of the Union. He concluded by stating that our participation in that workshop was an indication of our leadership potential and that we should all go ahead to nominate ourselves for any of the positions.

In that moment, I became even more uncomfortable, thinking to myself that I should not have been in this workshop in the first instance and now a call to run for an officer position. I said to myself, this is for ‘them’ not ‘me’. However, the words he spoke never left me. It was like the call to leadership was pulling at me from within.

Furthermore, I wanted to make my day spent during that workshop count for something. I wanted to put to use the learning gained that day into meaningful purposes. Thus, when the call for submission of nominations was made, guess what? Yes you guessed right – I nominated myself for the role of Part-Time Women Students’ Officer.

Why Should You Put Yourself Forward?
Leadership is not just about holding a position or a title, rather it is more about taking action and being the example.

Sadly though for women, their leadership has been confined to actions related to gender stereotypes of nurturing and care in the domestic or home life.

Research shows that gender stereotypes hold women back from active participation in the public sphere. As Alice Eagly puts it, “women are often thought of as ‘communal’ individuals who are nice, friendly, and caring. Whereas leadership in the public sphere is hardly ever an issue for men.” It is therefore imperative that QUB women students should come forward and seek leadership positions as part of efforts to combat such stereotypical views.

Generally speaking however, fear limits a lot of us from taking up new opportunities. Yet everyone who has been successful at anything, both men and women, started with some measure of fear. So you will not be an exception. In the words of Theresa Golden, “Fear … puts us in a box, locks the door, and throws away the key. It makes us hide behind the things we do best and never venture out into the unknown. … It keeps us from sharing our true selves, scars and all.”

My suggestion is therefore that you ‘do it afraid’. However, it doesn’t stop there. The truth is, you are never alone. You will receive ample guidance and support throughout the nomination and election process. If you do become successful, and are voted into your nominated officer position, you will also receive training. Staff are also on hand to answer your queries if you have any.

More importantly you will experience the joy of being able to take action on the things that really matter to you particularly through the voting procedures. You will have the opportunity to hone your public speaking skills. You will make new friends and acquaintances. You also really become part of those who actually engineer and promote students’ voice and students’ welfare in the University and beyond. This for me is very rewarding not to mention the value such an experience adds to your CV and in the world of work.

Some Helpful Tips for Putting Yourself Forward

  1. Choose a role that interests you. It may be one that has some connection to your area of study.
  2. Ask yourself who is going to do it better than you? Or, what could you do differently?
  3. Remember it may be unfamiliar terrain, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  4. Ask for help.
  5. Do it afraid.

Every progress happens because people are willing to do something to make that progress happen.

Therefore, my question to you is what contribution can you make to the progress of students’ voice at QUB?

It is time for you to Take Action, Run for Something, Put Yourself forward.

Find out all about the Student Leader Elections and put yourself forward for one of the 6 Full-Time Student Officer or 12 Part-Time Student Officer roles by Wednesday 13 February!

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