Ismail Sadurdeen, the SU President for The University of Nottingham, will be leaving his post today, 14th July 2017, to his successor Alan Holey. In his interview with Impact, Ismail talks about his time as president.
At only 22 years of age, Ismail has had a great deal of responsibility since becoming SU President. Everything from having personal meetings with the Vice-Chancellor, being part of University Council meetings, or visiting Parliament and meeting MPs. Ismail has had opportunities that according to him, “people often have to work 10-20 years to get”.
Speaking to Impact, Ismail talks about his experiences, the SU, the Karnvial, and his role as president, which he admits is “not a 9-5 job. [W]herever you go you carry the president title with you, and can never really switch off”.
“The role of an officer is much more than a manifesto which you only fully understand as the months go by.”
Reflecting on your time as the SU President, how have you found your role?
Ismail: “The year goes by so quick that unfortunately you do not have much time for reflection during the year, but the past couple of days while doing [the] handover you begin to reflect more on your year so you can pass the knowledge you have gained to the new officers. That is when you begin to realise how much you have grown over the year.
“Overall, it was a really rewarding experience [to] be able to influence the student experience not just for this year but for many years to come.”
What has been your greatest achievement during your time as the SU President?
Ismail: “I can quite confidentially say the team and I are leaving the SU in a better place than we found it a year ago.
“For me personally I was able to drive the International agenda heavily. Amongst other things, I am quite happy to have started the Global Buddy Scheme in Nottingham, which will [be] continue[d] beyond my time as president.”
“There is only so much you can achieve in 9 months, you are not Superman!”
As good as achievements are, it is not uncommon to leave a job without certain disappointments. Is there anything that you did not achieve that you wish you had?
Ismail: “You are really in post for approx. 9 months –two months goes for training, conferences and the other 1 month for holidays, sick leave, etc.
“There is only so much you can achieve in 9 months, you are not Superman!
“Of course I was not able to achieve every single point set out in my manifesto and you have to accept that once you are in post you learn so much in a few months that your manifesto will change. You pick new ideas after attending conferences, amending ideas after training, dropping ideas once you find a better solution for the problem, etc.
“The role of an officer is much more than a manifesto which you only fully understand as the months go by.
“I tell students to vote for the person as well as [the] manifesto, no point having the best manifesto if you don’t have the courage to speak up in meetings to fight for student’s rights.”
“As an SU we have been able to make great strides this year on the inclusivity front.”
One of your manifesto points was to celebrate students, which you did by creating a magazine based on inspirational students in the UoN. What are the plans for the future of this magazine?
Ismail: “The Inspirational Magazine was one of many such initiatives. [W]e also launched SU’s first hall of fame, this is going to get much bigger and better in the Atrium which is currently under renovation. We also organised one of the largest SU Prizes and Awards ceremony.
“Alan, my successor, really likes the idea and will be leading on the magazine. He also has his own ideas [on how to] make it bigger.”
As an international student, inclusivity seemed to be a big point in your manifesto. Do you feel like you were able to achieve this?
Ismail: “As an SU we have been able to make great strides this year on the inclusivity front.”
He goes on to give some examples, one being the launching of WeChat to connect with Chinese students, the other commissioning the SU disability survey to lobby the University to make the campus more accessible.
“For me personally, one of the proudest moments as president was to see a huge number of BME students run for full-time positions in the 2017 student leader elections compared to previous years, which has traditionally been dominated by white, male and British. My successor being an International student is [a] testament to that.”
“Rag raids and 7legged [were] challenging decision[s] for us as officers.”
As your time as president, did you feel like you were given the tools and resources from the University for you to effectively do your job?
Ismail: “Although you are thrown in at the deep end, you [are] given a good life vest to stay afloat. The SU invest[s] thousands of pounds on your personal development throughout the year. But [the] year is what you make out of it, you can have the best of everything but it’s your motivation that keeps you going.”
There has been some controversy with Karnival, one being the RAG Raids, are there any updates on the future of Karnival in the UoN?
Ismail: “Rag raids and 7legged [were] challenging decision[s] for us as officers. Although unpopular at that time, it is in the best interest of everyone involved going forward.
“Karnival still exists, the SU and the Karnival executives have been working closely and reviewing the processes to come up with a better model which lives up to the inclusive values of the Students’ Union.”
“If you have 7 officers and they come from 7 unique backgrounds you have 7 different networks you can tap into.”
You were very active on social media during your time as president. Despite this, there are still many students who are unaware of any SU updates or even know who the SU officers are. Do you feel like you have made improvements in regard to this?
Ismail: “[T]his year we did a Union Refresh, where we rebranded the SU to give it a better identity, we approved funding for a new SU app during Welcome 2017, [and] the online user experience is currently being reviewed for a new website. There is a lot that is going on at the moment which will bear fruits soon.”
Despite digital improvements being made, Ismail believes that in order to increase engagement you have to increase diversity:
Ismail: “If you have 7 officers and they come from 7 unique backgrounds you have 7 different networks you can tap into.
“No matter how fancy your social media is, only certain groups of people will really engage with you no matter how much you try. These people [either] have something in common with you, can relate to you, or care about the SU.”
Do you have any advice for students who want to have more of an input into the University?
Ismail: “The more you put into University, the more you get out of it. The University and SU are what you make out of it.
“Time flies, grab any opportunity you get because at the end of the day you only regret the chances you didn’t take.”
Any final words?
Ismail: “It has been a privilege being SU President and I want to thank all the students and staff that I had the pleasure of working with.”