I am always inspired by our students and it was an honour to host a celebration on Thursday 24 March in partnership with the Students’ Union. Our societies and clubs play an absolutely vital role in delivering the Essex Experience. This was my chance and that of Samira-Caterina Monteleone our Student’s Union President, to say thank you to our student leaders for their amazing contribution to our University, as society presidents, club presidents, Rebel leaders, SU parliamentary representatives, department representatives, VTeam project leaders and in many other roles.

A community of 135 societies

Our annual Freshers’ Fair showed the enthusiasm that our students have for getting involved and membership of our societies now stands at 3,600. I am proud that 135 societies have run events, supporting members and creating the rich and diverse experience. During the pandemic, clubs and societies have continued to host a huge range of events online and in person. This has been a much needed and appreciated part of supporting our Essex community. The hundreds of events societies are organising every month for their members is helping build back our great Essex community.

The ‘Women in STEM’ and ‘Writing Society’ were shortlisted for the National Societies and Volunteering Awards in 2021 and we hope to see lots more nominated this year. Our Enactus society reached the semi-finals of its national competition and we wish them the best of luck next month at this year’s competition.

UK’s number one university for student volunteering

Our students are also making a difference and changing lives through their volunteering. This year, our VTeam volunteers have delivered over 18,000 volunteering hours with 1,180 active volunteers supporting 14 regular projects plus numerous one-off events and special projects both on and off campus. I want to thank you for your work as I know how much it is appreciated in our surrounding communities and within our campuses.

I want to offer a special mention to the phenomenal work carried out in National Student Volunteering Week 2022. Our VTeam volunteers delivered over 50 unique sessions, with a record 786 participants – that is over double our previous record. They delivered more than 2,400 hours, which is another record for us! This continues our proud tradition of being the UK’s number one university for student volunteering.

I want to offer a special mention to the Refugee Teaching Program. We’ve always known how important their work is and recent events have underlined this, so I was particularly pleased when the programme won a National Volunteering and Society Award. A special mention is deserved for ‘Rebel’, which raised hundreds of pounds through a 50 Hour Radio Marathon in aid of the Colchester Food Bank and Black Minds Matter. The Rebel media empire coming back to life is one of the highlights of the return to campus, with the studios buzzing producing new radio shows, video projects and editorial pieces by our members for our members.

A record breaking year of sport

Turning to our Essex Blades Sports clubs, it looks like it will be the most successful season in Essex’s history. Congratulations to everyone who has contributed to that success.
We now have 3,195 Essex Blades members across 40+ sports including two new clubs – Ice Skating and Kendo. Essex Blades clubs have been there for their members at a much-needed time. They’ve also achieved so much and as at 23 March, 12 teams currently top their BUCS Leagues.

One of the highlights of the year so far was Essex hosting the BUCS South Eastern Conference Finals where our Futsal Men’s First team and Basketball Women’s Second team won their competition and our Lacrosse Women’s First team was a runner up. This week two performance teams were in the National Championship Finals – our Basketball Women’s First team and Volleyball Men’s First team. It was not to be for our Volleyball Team who were runners-up in the national championships, but our Basketball Women’s First team ran out winners after a nail biting final and are undefeated this year.

It is great to see our sport offer growing with the introduction of two new sports in BUCS with Baseball and Dodgeball both fielding teams and performing very well. Teams that are top of their BUCS League for 2021-22 are:

  • Badminton Men’s 1st
  • Baseball 1st
  • Basketball Women’s 1st
  • Cricket indoor Men’s 1st
  • Football Women’s 1st
  • Football Men’s 2nd
  • Hockey Women’s 1st
  • Lacrosse Women’s 1st
  • Netball Women’s 2nd
  • Rugby Men’s 2nd
  • Volleyball Men’s 1st
  • Volleyball Men’s 2nd

Congratulation to you all and everyone who competed under the Essex Blades banner.

Students help deliver our transformational education

Education is at the heart of the Essex experience and I’m very grateful to the 380 student reps assisting our student community and working closely with the University to review personal tutors, so that we can deliver the best possible support. Our really strong partnership with the SU is helping us really listen to the needs of students. The SU Education Team have launched live feedback with all departments and student rep convenors have been working with us on equality and diversity and diversifying the curriculum.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to the 20 Student Community Officers across our campuses. Student Community Officers have represented their communities through an uncertain and difficult year. They have also strived to celebrate and raise awareness of Days of Significance, more than we have ever done so before. These include, Trans Awareness week, LGBTQ+ History Month, Black History Month and International Women’s Day. All of these events have supported and celebrated different sections of our community, whilst educating us all about the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion. This year, students have needed and wanted to meet others and our SCOs have led on this. In welcome week we had over 700 attendees at mixers and this has just continued to rise. Our Student Community Officers have also helped bring people together with more than 700 students attending mixers from Welcome Week onwards. Essex’s Student Parliament has also benefited from our Student Community Officers providing updates on community feedback every month.

Thank you to our amazing SU sabbatical team who have been absolutely superb and thank you to our student leaders for continuing to champion your communities – and helping the University and the Students’ Union deliver the best possible Essex Experience this year.