My Experience Chairing a Student Voice Forum – Miguel Santos

Being a Student Rep is an empowering experience. Not only is it an opportunity to create real change in improving the student experience, it has enabled me to develop skills that I would not have otherwise gained.

As a Student Rep at both undergraduate and postgraduate taught-levels, I have experienced first-hand the meaningful work Reps do to improve the academic experience. Here at Kent, I led a campaign to diversify the student curriculum in the School of Arts, resulting in a School-wide diversity statement.

Now as a postgraduate research student, it is important that university staff listens to our views because our voices need to be heard, given the variety and diversity of experiences within the postgraduate research community.

To that end, the Graduate Student Voice Forum in the Arts and Humanities is an opportunity to raise concerns about the academic experience and to ensure that actions are taken to address these concerns.

Due to encouragement from the Arts and Humanities Student Experience Team as well as the Director of Graduate Studies in the Arts and Humanities (Ben Hutchinson), I volunteered to be a student chair for the forum.

Despite it being my first time chairing a formal meeting, it was an opportunity for me to develop employability skills and graduate attributes that I can refine in my career. As chair, I had to ensure that the agenda ran efficiently, so that all items were discussed in the timeframe allotted, which enabled me to develop my time-keeping skills.

Moreover, chairing developed my communication and leadership skills. Since I was chair, I wanted to ensure that all the student reps’ views were heard and acted upon by the university staff. Even though I much prefer contributing, rather than leading a discussion, I nonetheless have experience now in steering discussions in a structured way.

Finally, chairing also gave me the chance to be adaptable. As the meeting was done via Teams, my WiFi would intermittently cut out, so I had two devices with me to ensure that I could be present to chair. Rather than panicking, I acted quickly and maintained my composure.

As such, I do hope that having myself chair this Student Voice Forum will encourage other Student Reps to do the same. While it is intimidating, it is also empowering to see our peers lead the discussion; it also creates a space where students’ voices are at the forefront of the forum. Finally, chairing is a unique opportunity that has enabled me to develop my skills, whilst also representing the views of my cohort.

While it may be scary to chair a Student Voice Forum, it is a way of making a real impact to ensure that our voices as students are heard.