A few weeks ago I had the privilege of interviewing Ross Loveitt, the president of the Guild of Students at UCB. After contacting Ross he kindly agreed to let me interview him for the University blog (I think this is before he realised I’d take up nearly an hour because I’m so chatty, whoops!)
I wanted to do this firstly to give the students an update on all the Guild’s activities and secondly to get know Ross. As the student’s voice for the University, shouldn’t we hear his voice and how he’s expressing your voices?
To start I asked Ross about his education and personal journey and experiences at UCB. Starting in September 2013 on the BA Business Enterprise course, Ross passed with flying colours. He then came back in 2017 to start his master’s which he has also now passed with distinction (huge congratulations).
This was with the help of all his lecturers, but when asked who was a particular inspiration, he mentioned Affi Agbodo, who Ross describes as “an inspirational character” and “a mentor”. Moreover, he feels a lot of his fellow students also share in his admiration for this esteemed lecturer.
Ross is grateful to his many lecturers when he looks to what the future has in store for him. When I asked him what his plans were after UCB, he answered “that’s a good question”. However upon discussion, I learned that Ross has brilliant short and long term goals. Ross explained: “Long term I’d love to become a lecturer in business but I think straight after my graduation I’m going to look to get some more industry experience working for quite a big company, hopefully.”
When I asked in what sort of business area he was interested, Ross said consultancy was the area he was looking to find more initial experience.
Being a student at UCB for such a long time (I was literally 13 when Ross started, not to make him feel old or anything), I asked Ross which of the facilities he had found really useful during his time here. Ross responded he had found hired@UCB really useful, saying: “In my second year they helped me out when I did a summer internship and I knew that I’d have to get some more skills in a business environment, so I did an internship with Marketing Birmingham to gain some marketing skills. Also it helped me out with my education because when I was doing assignments, I was thinking ‘okay, what did I do in industry?’ And the same again when it came for applying for jobs, I could think ‘well I’ve got this experience and how can I relate it to these situations’.”
I then proceeded to ask Ross what his favourite thing was about being a student at UCB. His immediate response was about the people, “how friendly everyone is, students and the staff. Usually when you come to uni you see the same faces and it’s quite comforting in a way”.
My next question wasn’t as easy as I questioned Ross about his least favourite things about UCB (Ross and I joked that a great title for the blog post would be “Guild president slams UCB”.) Ross stated that he wanted to give students a louder voice and this was part of the reason he got into his work at the Guild: “Wanting to make a bit more of an impact for students, I wanted them to have the opportunities to gain work experience and gain employability skills because a lot of us come from backgrounds where we don’t necessarily have all of that support.”
Ross is also clearly passionate about “social capital, which is gaining skills outside the classroom”. Ross believes “gaining social skills and soft skills, for example entering competitions, enables us to become better people more holistically”. Speaking from experience, Ross explained that employers not only want a qualification but to see “who you are, what you’re about”.
When I was just being nosy (because I hadn’t planned this question but I’m just inquisitive) I was asking Ross how do a master’s and run a business? Ross explained that it was a sabbatical position, and that he only had to do it alongside his dissertation in his third semester (which I found hysterical as you can’t say ‘just a dissertation’ then get a distinction – mind blown!). Ross’s response to my complete amazement was to at least prove to me that he’s human as he described a time he was working in the library a week before his dissertation was being handed in.
Ross said: “I wasn’t being productive at all so I went to get myself a drink from the vending machine, walked in, put my money in the vending machine and it stole my money. Instantly I broke down, I was at breaking point, burst into tears and was like ‘this is not happening’. And as soon as I let it out, I was like ‘actually I feel so much better’, went back to work and smashed out a few thousand words.”
In this story I felt slightly better as Ross laughed looking back at this ordeal, proving that even the distinction-getting, business-running students from UCB struggle and stumble. But as in Ross’s case, a little perseverance (and even tears) can quickly get us back to where we need to be.
Ross and the Guild
Ross’s involvement with the Guild of Students originally stemmed from being a course rep, then wanting to be more and more involved – he describes this as “building a set of steps”.
The fundamental step in his plan that affects us as students is Ross becoming President of the Guild of Students. When asked for his reasons for taking this position, Ross explained: “The Guild became an independent charity so I saw it as a business opportunity, to help establish a business.” On the other hand Ross is completely for the students at UCB as he says that he “saw students were lacking opportunities and how can I help encourage students to take up the opportunities they see”.
Ross makes an excellent point that “if you look across all our schools – catering, beauty and sport – a lot of those students are going to become self-employed, so how would you encourage them to start their own businesses or gain the skills they need outside of beauty, catering or sport”.
The quick response to the next question I asked was astounding as I asked Ross has he enjoyed the job – remarkably quickly he replied “I’ve loved it!” When I asked the follow up question of was it stressful, he replied just as quickly with yes! He credits this to the learning curve being huge and the rate of his progress fast throughout the job. I’m not surprised Ross has developed throughout the job as he is involved with all aspects of the University, from academia to course developments to socials and society.
Overall I’d say Ross’s commitment to not only this role but to his career is inspiring even only chatting for about an hour. Ross is able to take students’ queries to a variety of forums and contacts throughout the hierarchy at UCB. Ross explained that he is in constant contact with different University staff on a daily basis based on issues. He also has talks weekly with Alex Lofthouse, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), and monthly with Ray Linforth, the Vice Chancellor and Principal. The governors are on a 2-3 monthly basis to give updates on progress.
Being the students’ voice, I asked Ross if he feels the students get a lot of say. “Absolutely” was the immediate response, as he expanded: “I don’t think the students realise how much of a say they have at all or how to put together an argument”. In essence this is the Guild’s primary function, to mediate between staff and students. Ross states: “It’s my job to make sure everyone gets their voice heard”.
An issue Ross really wants to avoid is students’ frustration exploding if they feel they haven’t been listened to – by going to the Guild they will make sure it is dealt with to ensure students aren’t frustrated.
The next question I asked Ross was what he felt the pinnacle of his time as president had been so far, to which he responded: “It’s hard to pick one. I thought the re-freshers we did in February was a big turning point.” Ross explained that he felt the Guild had had a backseat role in previous years and he wanted to properly engage students: “The difference between September and February engagement-wise was massive, we had 580 people attend re-freshers and engaged with 460 on social media”. This affirmed all the hard work going into this and proved the Guild’s presence.
However Ross wants to “create a positive community” and he explains there is still work to be done and it’s the students job to lead the Guild for what they want.
Sports and Societies
Moving on to some of the different University areas, I asked Ross if he thinks sports and society are important to University life. He responded: “If you want to develop yourself outside the classroom, if you join a society it’s a great social experience, you get to meet lots of new people, you gain networking opportunities”.
Ross was part of the UCB football society and goes on to say: “Getting involved in different activities is good, it broadens your horizons and if you want to get involved in sports as well, it’s healthy and adds to well-being in general.”
My next question was based on a recent blog post of mine – Social and education – and I asked Ross about his opinion on whether societies and university work go well together. He responded: “You can’t be 100% academic… If you’re focusing solely on work all the time, it’s not healthy for your brain or mental health.”
Ross’s opinion is that societies can play an element in “work hard, play hard”, as he emphasises the importance of a healthy balance. It is a very individual choice what you spend your time at university doing and “hopefully if we put the information out there, eventually it will sink in for people” how to have the healthy balance and take responsibility for your own behaviour. Ross emphasises: “If you’re struggling it’s important that you can speak to someone as well and we’re the people you should be able to speak to because we’re students as well”.
In terms of sports this year, the Sports and Society Council has been introduced where captains meet to discuss the issues the society are facing and how to support each other. Ross said: “I’m really impressed that a lot of people have taken it upon themselves to get involved and support each other” in terms of the society fundraisers.
The Guild for the College
One of the issues facing the Guild currently is the lack of presence among college students. When I asked Ross about this, he assured me this is a “big priority as FE makes up a third of the students” and they are looking for someone to come forward as an FE representative willing to assist in the focus on this area within the new structure.
Ross also is looking at the progression of students from FE to HE. As someone who has done this myself, it’s ridiculously easy to apply but the information wasn’t obvious as I started to fill out UCAS forms when all I needed to do was a five minute internal application.
The Guild are also involving the college students in sports as they are allowed to train with the university teams as completing GCSEs must be a priority over having their own teams this year.
The Guild for International
International students are also a huge part of life at UCB. Fatima is the International Officer at the Guild. Ross explained that they did a “meet and greet” where the students brought dishes originating from their home as a chance to mingle and meet.
Walking tours have also been done for both freshers and re-freshers with Erasmus students in attendance. The students attracted by these events have now become part of the thriving International Society.
The Guild Space
Another issue I felt compelled to bring up was the lack of buzz at the Guild Space. As someone who lives at The Maltings and uses the sports hall on a weekly basis, I’ve rarely been in the Guild Space and am unaware of its purpose. Even though Ross described it as “dead space” there are huge plans coming for the space which all the residents will love! Even though Ross has told me the plans for the space I am going to leave you in suspense as that’s way more fun!
To end I asked Ross what development is he especially excited to see at the new building Moss House, and the new Guild presence and what the future holds for UCB and the Guild of Students.
Now…. as I felt I got to know Ross pretty well, here are a few quiz answers from your Guild president!
Favourite club? PRYZM (Only if you’re in the Curve Room, Ross)
Favourite restaurant? Nando’s (As a chef student I told him that hurt my heart)
Coffee shop order? Soy decaff caramel latte (So extra Ross, what’s wrong with a mocha?)
Favourite Netflix series? Suits (I did enquire if he even had time to watch Netflix)
Finally, I just want to really thank Ross for giving up his time to give this interview and also for all his hard work for the students of the University. I would personally urge you to entrust the Guild with your queries and concerns – you can find the Guild online as well as in Summer Row by the Resource Centre. I know Ross will deal with your problem and is genuinely passionate about every student having the best experience possible at UCB.
Also, CONGRATULATIONS to Ross on his re-election as Guild president – I’m sure we’ve got many more great things to see from him!
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