Wednesday 30 April 2014
Rebecca Fickling recently won the President’s President Award for her work as the President of the PsiStar Society. She tells us about her experiences of trying to make changes to such a large society and her plans for her future after PsiStar.
Congratulations on winning the President’s President Award! What did you feel like when you found out you had won?
Winning was nice! You put a lot of work into running a society and want it to have a positive impact on anybody involved in it. As PsiStar is so large (186 paid members), it's difficult to truly gauge how well the society is meeting its targets on an individual level - so being recognised by other Presidents is a great way to confirm our performance!
Tell us about the society.
PsiStar is a society that considers its members' dynamic desires and expectations by offering a large amount of different events. Though based in the School of Physics and Astronomy, PsiStar is more focused on providing students with opportunities to do something fun and no event is exclusionary based on Physics or Astronomy ability or interest. We revel in the challenge to intrigue non-specialists by favouring the more interesting aspects of the discipline with any truly academic events communicated at a level that everybody can understand.
Every year, there is a 200 person strong Physics and Astronomy Ball with food, wine and music - this year provided by the Jazz Band as well as a specially formulated Physics Band consisting of 4 third year students (with a lecturer starring in an entertaining cameo!) Other events include karaoke nights, summer BBQs, evening Physics and Astronomy guest lectures, trips to CERN in Switzerland, as well as the frequent pub-crawls!
Why did you decide to become the president of PsiStar?
Everybody has an idea about what they expected from university before they attend and this rarely matches up with reality. One aspect that deviated from my expectations was the department's society. But rather than be critical, I took any opportunity to be involved with the society, firstly as Vice President and the following year as President. Simply, I think it's important to step forward and be the change!
What changes did you make to the society?
I felt that the society should be doing more to have a big impact from day one on students, so that as they arrive, they have a foundation to build friendships on. I expected the society to act as a family away from home so, when I was able to, I made sure that Freshers' Fortnight was promoted to students at every opportunity, and that we had lots of varying events saturated into this period. We made sure that as many current students from all years were in attendance at events, in order to confirm our claims that the society is a source of support and fun. Staff were a large support – they were asked to attend events where appropriate and the new students were impressed that lecturers made efforts to be involved in welcoming them.
What has been your favourite part about being the PsiStar’s president?
As mentioned earlier, the society is enormous. Being involved with so many people is fantastic. There's nothing better than knowing that you have been a factor in so many people having a great time at Queen Mary.
What has been the most difficult part about being president?
The stress aspect of it can be a little overwhelming at times but, if you're honest at times of hardship, then your fantastic committee will eagerly emerge to rescue any issues!
What are your plans for the future?
Ultimately, I would like to carry on the entrepreneurial skills developed as President and either operate my own business or at least be heavily involved in driving technology based enterprise. I have enjoyed my Physics degree and would like to challenge myself by going in a new direction. The experiences at the heart of PsiStar have been invaluable - you are responsible for everything and have to be very good at it very quickly!