Thomas Freeston is Vice President (Welfare and Community) at Kent Union and a former MSc Management student. Here he explains how the support from the University’s Wellbeing Services during his mental health struggles led him on an exciting path to the coveted, elected role…
“I started at Kent studying BSc Psychology. As someone who has struggled with mental health issues, including depression and Imposter Syndrome, it was rewarding to study a course that helped me to understand the human brain and factors that play a part in the way it functions. As interesting as it was, I still battled with low level depression throughout my course. I was absolutely astounded by the support the university offered – even allowing me to take my course over four years to make things easier.
During this time, I headed up the Psychology Society. I was managing a team of seven and it was through this experience that I got a taste of business life. The society required leadership, strategy, and a good deal of people management skills.
Applying for an MSc in Management was really exciting. Management to me presented lifelong skills that are really valuable: To be a leader, to understand finances and Marketing or things like HR. It isn’t just one career, it’s very broad and could work across all walks of life.
The Master’s course was better than I could have expected. The cohort came from many different backgrounds and disciplines including those who had been out in the world of work and returned to study to streamline their skills. It was great to take from their perspectives and experiences.
Over the course of my year as a Master’s student I worked as part of many community groups that drew on my strengths in both welfare and mental health – including the LGBTQ+ society (where I trailblazed the campaign for rainbow laces within the university sports groups to show support) and things such as Respect the No, a student-led campaign which aims to address issues with drink spiking at universities.
The role of Welfare and Community Officer at Kent Union was a natural progression. I realised I could harness my KBS course in management and mental health struggles to benefit the student community. I didn’t get it last election, but it didn’t deter me. Like our Union President Zaid, I came back bigger and better!
Going on the campaign trail with Zaid felt quite something, we both had studied with KBS in differing capacities and we both knew how to market ourselves and run the campaigns like a business. Overall, however, we all had the students and their welfare at the heart of what we do. My plan was to focus on the real issues affecting students and their emotional welfare such as the Cost-of-Living Crisis and financial hardship. I also wanted to represent the ‘unheard’ voices of the student community and ensure that university life is an equal playing field for everyone.
My studies in Management have really lent themselves to the day-to-day job, dealing with accounts, balance books as well as working as part of the team at Kent Union are all things that a Master’s in Management has helped with. I also find that studying Psychology and being part of so many societies across my five years at Kent have given me the experience on a pastoral level that compliments my executive skills.”
Thomas Freeston is Vice President (Welfare and Community) at Kent Union and a former MSc Management student.
He has always lived in Kent and fell in love with the city of Canterbury while at university. Through a background in Psychology and his own mental health struggles, he is incredibly passionate about student welfare.
At the University of Kent we aim to build a supportive community environment and we are committed to helping you get the most out of the challenges and opportunities university study brings. For support and advice visit our Wellbeing Services.