Being Student Governor – the youngest on the committee
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
My name is Kelly Russell and I am the Student Union President and Student governor for Dudley College. I am 27 and the youngest member of corporation.
This is my second year in both roles, when I first became elected as the SU President, I shadowed the previous president before, I remember my first experience sitting on the board as an observer at the time as the president before was still a member of corporation till June, then I would take over the role.
It was all very formal and all these different people came into the room plugging in their laptops and getting cups of tea and food. The committee that I sat on and still sit on today was Standards, everyone greeted me and smiled and introduced themselves. All these governors had such wide range of experience from education, business and community backgrounds.
I had read the papers the night before however I just kept thinking I have no idea what the papers were saying and kept asking Kim (president at the time) what they were discussing and worrying I wouldn’t be a very good student governor as I couldn’t comprehend what was being said.
The most daunting prospect for me was defining what issues were relevant to bring up at corporation.
I had my first meeting with the clerk to the corporation who explained my role and that my buddy on the board would be the chair to the corporation, so if I had any questions on any papers I could speak with him or the clerk herself.
So there I was sitting on the board as now the new student governor with all my papers in front of me and this was the main meeting which was corporation, we all introduced ourselves and halfway through the meeting I remember thinking which agenda item are we on now till a fellow governor helped me with my papers. I also hoped no-one would ask for my input as I didn’t want to portray myself as naïve and stupid being the youngest on the board.
So I said there listening really hard and making notes but deep down I was worried thinking I have to do a Student Union report soon, how I am going to be able to speak in front of these people who are so academic and knowledgeably? I could speak to students all day long about issues that are affecting them and gather feedback but these people are in a total different league!
There are 13 corporation members on Dudley College Board of Governors the principal, clerk, Chair of the corporation, staff governors, management, external governors and another student governor. 6 females and 7 males we do have a good gender mix and we are continuing to strive for governors with different social backgrounds and greater ethnic backgrounds.
Darryll, who is the other student governor supported me before meetings as he has been on the board for two years, so we would go through the papers to discuss any issues that I could raise in standards.
After a few meetings on the board, I met with the Chair of the Corporation for a one to one session to discuss how I felt the meetings were going and I explained that I didn’t understand the jargon what the governors used when they spoke, so I could get a little confused and me being too shy to raise my hand at the time carried on listening to them with no idea to what they was saying.
The chair took this on board and when the governors spoke he asked them to use the full term as some members of the committee who were new could understand and I was grateful for that. Finance papers were a major concern for me and maths never being my strongest point, I sat down to speak with the clerk who arrange for some training for me with the Director of Finance and the other governors.
There was always training events for new governors to attend for instead Equality and Diversity in the Governance and not forgetting NUS Student Governor Support Programme where I met with other young governors who felt the same as me, so I wasn’t on my own.
The time came for me to read out my Student Union report and I was nervous, I made little notes in my paper in case I forgot what to say. I tried to make eye contact and be confident but felt like all eyes were watching me but I shouldn’t have worried, they enjoyed my magazine and all the wonderful things that the Student Union were doing for students and congratulated me.
Two years on, I feel confident enough to speak and raise my hand when I felt an agenda item concerned any students and I have raised one issue with the new chair to the corporation about governors getting to know the students more and the chair as now been invited to Student Council where the principal will be taking part in a question and answer session. I also have meetings once a month with the principal.
As any governor you should feel that your opinion does matter regardless of age/gender/ethnic background and to be honest I do feel fully supported in my role.
The main concerns I felt for me when I first sat on the board was
Trying to understand the papers
Having the confidence to speak out
Working out what was relevant for me to raise
Corporation members generally tend to be older and building working relationships can be difficult because of the age gap, however it is something that I raised with the chair to the Corporation .
I think talking and getting to know the younger members of the board is very important for them to feel relaxed when they attend meetings.
Being the youngest on the board does actually help as many corporation members do not understand what is concerning young students and having a young voice is greatly appreciated by the board. However you need consider that young members may not feel confident enough to raise issues and the buddy system does help. I think for me when you see older corporation members you do feel that these people are going to have so much more experience then you and a better understanding of the world outside but as a student myself we are the ones they are working for and there is no better experience then having a young student member on board.