Kent Business School student Zaid (Syed) Mahmood has been crowned President of Kent Union. Zaid, who studies BSc Business and Management with Data Analytics, is the first ever Medway campus graduate to be offered the opportunity to run the charitable organisation, serving as the voice of all Kent students.
Here, Zaid, who starts his new role in June, explains his tireless campaign trail, visions for the future of Kent and why being the first Medway student to be offered the post is an important thing.
“When they announced me as the new President, I was overcome with emotion,” explains Zaid. “It was a full circle moment because when I first came to Kent, I said to myself ‘one day I will be President’, and here I am!”
Zaid is no stranger to going out of his comfort zone. He landed a place on BSc Business and Management through clearing after missing out on the grades to study Medicine. He has since relished life as a Kent Business School student, taking up posts far and wide across university – from President of the Business Society, Social Media Assistant and Student Trustee not to mention podcast host and presenter for the Marketing team at KBS.
“I even work in the library café,” he laughs. “I like to think I am part of the furniture across both campuses, a familiar face!”
Zaid ran for President last year but was not deterred by his defeat. He vowed to come back better – and didn’t disappoint. Running with the bold strapline of The Choice for Change, his mantra is to boost student wellbeing in terms of inclusivity and work on making things more affordable, for all.
“We did a whole week of online campaigning and a week out on campus with handmade placards and t-shirts. I used the skills I have gained through my social media assistant role to launch a new Instagram channel, I followed everyone, sent DMs, designed beautiful graphics and things to share – all of this stuff I have learnt through KBS.”
By the end of the first week, traffic on his Instagram had risen 53,900 per cent and his name was getting out there.
“I spent the time out on campus listening and understanding, coming up with viable problem solving for issues that span the student community. The Choice for Change slogan, I explained to them, is synonymous with ALL students being seen and heard at university. Regardless of race, religion, sexuality or background, they should feel represented. I have proven leadership skills, but I am an empath, first and foremost.”
Zaid will work alongside three others in the Kent Union Leadership Team – Vice President of Student Engagement, Carolina Van Eldik; Vice President of Academic Experience, Lupe Sellei; and Vice President of Welfare and Community, Thomas Freeston. All of the new team have studied previously with KBS, making it a landslide victory for the division.
“The Kent Union is a charitable organisation, but all day-to-day running requires business knowledge,” explains Zaid. “The stuff I’ve learned on my course – from financial accounting, management accounting, marketing, business operations to HR, all of these areas will come into play within the new role. Kent Union runs the Coop, Woody’s, Venue and the library café. These are streams of revenue that need to be managed to make a surplus that goes back into the Union.”
So what does Zaid really want to change when he kickstarts the role following his graduation, in June?
“I will spend the quieter months of the summer planning. I feel ambitious. The biggest issue for me is the cost-of-living crisis and I think it’s only fair that we offer students value for money in the sense of accommodation and the facilities on campus. Being the first Medway student to obtain this position, it is also imperative that we are more joined up as a university, with two beautiful campuses and so much to offer across both.”
Zaid is also mindful of the student feeling, post Covid-19, and the impact it has had on wellbeing and morale.
“It’s time to reset,” he says. “It’s time to think about a new kind of Kent for students, to ensure they know about all the wonderful services we have to offer, to be heard or to just be themselves. I want everyone to experience University here the way I have, as a treasure-trove of opportunity.”