To mark LGBTQ+ History Month and the University's 60th anniversary, we've been catching up with LGBTQ+ Officers for the Students' Union, a part-time role delivered alongside your studies. Holly Rayner is the current officer for the 2023-24 academic year, and chats about her experience so far.

What did you study and why did you choose the University of Essex?

I study BA Literature and Creative Writing, I chose the University of Essex for convenience more than anything. My fiancé was already coming here himself, but I originally hadn’t planned to come to University, I was meant to be taking a gap year and then studying Illustration at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge, but I decided in late September of 2021 that I didn’t want to be left out as the only one not to go to university, so I cancelled my offer at Anglia Ruskin and applied here through clearing, which truthfully is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life!

What inspired you to stand for the LGBTQ+ officer role for the Students' Union? 

After my first year of university, I felt that I hadn’t done anything to involve myself in clubs or societies on campus. I resolved to do more in my second year and that is how I became involved in both the LGBTQ+ Network and society, attending as many events as I could. Because of this, I met some of my closest friends, including the person in the role before me! They are the one who encouraged me to run and answered all my questions, and still now they help me in my role and really are a vital part of what I do! 

What were your hopes going in the role, did you have any specific goals?

I had no specific goals going into the role, I was mainly hoping to feel it out, get used to it, learn all about it and hear from my community as to what they want from me! I’m here for them, and to make sure that I’m doing all I can to help them, and that was my only objective going in. 

You’re about halfway through your time in post, can you talk a bit about what your proudest achievement has been so far?

So far my proudest achievement in post has to be LGBTQ+ History Month, but not entirely in what has been created, but also in the preparation for it. I took on the responsibility of chairing the meetings, something I have never done before, and the joint effort of staff and students across the university and the Students Union was wonderful, however I have many more things in the works that I’m hoping to get out in the next couple of months so stay tuned!

How did you feel this experience has impact your personal and professional growth?

The position has given me admin experience, which is incredibly useful for me going forward as I really want to work in an office one day, strange as it may sound. The communication I’ve had across the SU and the university has been wonderful, learning how to chair meetings, gathering feedback, there have been all kinds of incredible skills that I have gained over my time and I’m incredibly thankful for that. 

Do you have any advice you would give to future students who take on the role or to students within the LGBTQ+ community who come to study at Essex?

To those coming into the role, I would say be experimental. The needs of the community changes so often, each new student wants to get something different out of their time, so the best thing you can do is to try new things and listen to your community, and make sure to cultivate good relationships with everyone you work with, it really makes the job easier!

To students in the community at Essex currently or soon to join, please speak out! Engagement within the community is so vital, if for no other reason than it holds us accountable, and enables us to make your experience as safe and as fruitful as possible. Being together as a community is a wonderful thing, it led me to all of the friendships I have now and I can honestly say that it has made my life so much more incredible, so please be loud and be heard!