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Your SU Vice President for Welfare, Miranda Black

Friday 4 December 2015

Miranda recently finished her English degree and is now the Students’ Union VP for Welfare. Her campaigns, policies and events focus on mental health, disability, and creating a close-knit community across campus. She also aims to reduce student stress and encourage healthy habits 
through the Study Well programme.

Kajal Kumar, Student Communications Intern, caught up with Miranda to find out what she’s been up to and what she’s got planned.

What did you study at QMUL and how did you find it?
I just finished my degree in English and really loved it. The course was so diverse (I could even bring an element of Psychology into my dissertation), and my lecturers and the administration team always offered me so much support.

What has been your favourite part about studying at QMUL? 
That’s a tough one. I really enjoy that there is something for everyone at QMUL. For me, academia was really important and I felt totally at home on my course. Now I’ve joined the Students’ Union, I realise just how many other things I could’ve done!
Did you live on campus? What advice would you give to students who are living away from home for the first time and feel very homesick?
I wasn’t based on campus, but I rented a room locally so I was away from home for the first time. It was tough moving away from family, friends, and my quiet little hometown. The best thing for me was to get stuck in as soon as possible – I spent time as much time as I could on campus, meeting new people and going to events. I also told myself that I wouldn’t go home until reading week so I could get used to and embrace my new life. It took me a while to find my feet, so I’d also advise anyone who is finding it hard to settle in to give it some time and try new things!

What inspired you to run for VP Welfare? Were you previously involved with the SU as a student?
I actually didn’t have any previous involvement in the SU, but I really wish now that I had! I randomly read an email that was sent out by the SU about the elections, and the role stood out to me straight away. Welfare, particularly mental health, is something I feel truly passionate about, and the role has been even more rewarding than I could have imagined.

Miranda as a pillar campaigning at an Economics lecture

We heard you ran a pretty unique campaign during QMSU elections, dressed as a Greek pillar – what motivated you do this?
I will never live this down! I decided that my main priority and tagline would be ‘supporting you’… and then I started thinking about what I could dress up as (any excuse for fancy dress!). Having decided that dressing as a table was just ludicrous, I spoke to my friends and mum about the column, and they were lovely enough to help me put together the costume. Plus, I could also call myself a ‘pillar of the community’ (even if more than a few people asked if I was dressed as a bin).

What’s your day-to-day role like? Do you work closely with the other Executive Officers?
Not one day is the same! One minute I’ll be out running one of my various campaigns (sometimes dressed as an elephant), next I’ll be sitting in extremely important university finance meetings. It’s one of the most rewarding things about the role. I work with all of the Executive Officers on joint projects such as student engagement and QMSU / BLSA relations – they’re genuinely brilliant, and I love my team! I also work closely with the part-time Officers on Welfare Zone, who are phenomenally engaged and inspiring.

You run the Study Well campaign to reduce student stress and encourage healthy habits – can you tell us a bit more about it?
At the beginning of the year, the university helped to launch the campaign with 500 Study Well bags going out to our students – Carolina [the SU President] even saw someone carrying one in Madrid! I’m now booking out a programme of events for the exam period, and am promoting study-related workshops that are being run by Advice and Counselling. Our BL Welfare Officer Emma has already started to run ‘Chill Zones’ at Whitechapel, which have been really successful.

Did you find the workload at university stressful as an English student? What advice would you give new students, who are stressed about the transition and workload at university?
I did find the workload tough, especially during exam periods. I tended to procrastinate and overthink things, so I found that introducing a task sheet and breaking each assignment down into small, manageable tasks really helped (ie, write 500 words followed by a break, rather than trying to tackle it all in one go).

How would you explain the role of QMSU to new students, in particular Welfare?
Queen Mary Students’ Union is here to represent our students. All elected officers are here to make the change that our students want to see. We are democratic, but we’re also fun. In my role, I represent our students on matters surrounding equality, wellbeing, housing, transport and community. Welfare campaigns tackle really important issues, but it doesn’t mean I won’t bring out fancy dress at every opportunity possible.

Although you’ve just started, you’ve campaigned and increased welfare awareness immensely (including dressing up as an elephant during Welcome Week). What is the best memory you have from Welcome Week? 
Thank you so much. I loved going into lecture theatres to welcome our new students to campus and tell them about the Union. Hopefully my welfare selfies, or ‘welfies’ will live on forever!

You also seem heavily involved with societies, alongside Rachel Nelms, the Student Engagement Administrator.  
I actually met Rachel on my first day of university, so it’s been really lovely to go on this journey together! The team within the Students’ Union are fantastic, and it’s great that I’ve been able to work with everyone on different things. They’re a dedicated group, and I feel very lucky to have their support and be part of the QMSU family.

Are there any exciting plans for this academic year? Apart from the Queen Merry Market which sounds amazing!
The Queen Merry Market looks amazing! I’m so pleased for everyone that’s been working on it. I’m quite looking forward to Sexual Health week, which will have a Mean Girls theme. This is only the beginning of a semester of whacky and fabulous campaigns.

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