Congratulations on your big win! What originally motivated you to run for AU President?
“Actually, the idea came to me not this year but the year before when I was talking to one of my friends who was a president of a sports club. I was kind of saying what I thought the AU President’s job should be, and how that was making sure the voices of clubs were really heard, especially when the clubs don’t have directors of sport or are smaller. One of their key responsibilities should be doing that, and my friend said ‘Oh, well that sounds like something that the AU President could do, maybe you’d be a really good fit for it.’ I guess that planted the seed. This year, when it came around, I thought it was a great opportunity. Also, I’m just generally extremely passionate about sport in St Andrews and I thought I could make a difference to people’s sporting experience.”
How did you find campaigning in the midst of this pandemic?
“It was a bit weird because the whole campaign happened from my flat, if that makes sense. There were definitely times when, in a normal year, you’d be out campaigning or chatting to people or whatever. And, I was sort of sat there thinking, ‘I feel like I should be doing something, but there’s nothing I can do right now’ – especially if I’d already done some posts that day or scheduled the posts and chatted to people already. So, it was strange from that side of things and it meant that I hadn’t met the other candidates until much later in the week when it was the question time.”
Why do you think that your manifesto and ideas won out in the end?
“Hopefully, part of the reason is because I really tried to incorporate the voices of other clubs and other sorts of sports players and non-players into my manifesto. During the process, I reached out to a lot of clubs and some of them I already had contacts with, they were just my friends, and then in other cases it was just reaching out on a whim. I think that allowed me to include things in my manifesto that clubs genuinely wanted to see from their AU president. Then another part of the reason might just be that the policies that I thought were really important and relevant were things that resonated with other students and clubs.”
What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge that you’re going to face, especially now that we’re emerging out of the pandemic?
“Communicating the changes in the rules, and everything else that’s going on, will be super important. It’s something that, from an outside perspective, it’s super easy to say ‘OK, well, this is the information I need.’ But, when you’re on the inside, you may know what that information is, you just don’t necessarily know that other people need it. So, I think I need to maintain a view where I can work out what information clubs need and make sure they get that promptly and all at the same time. That will be super important for negotiating any rule changes and fast paced decision making, alongside the financial side of things – if there’s changes to clubs’ budgets because of COVID or just because of general restructuring that’s going on – it would be super important for me to communicate why those changes are happening to clubs. And, so, I think that will be challenging because it will be a big task and some clubs might not be happy but, hopefully, I’ll be able support them through it.”
Moving on from challenges, what are you most excited to get on with? And, what are your big priorities when you finally get going?
“I’m quite excited for some of the things that could make a difference. I guess it’s sort of natural to be excited about the things that are likely to happen first. So, I’m quite excited about things that could come in at the start of the year like helping clubs run ‘give it a go’ sessions a little bit better so that is much clearer for beginners how they can get involved and ensure they can feel comfortable doing so. I’d love to make that a big success and maybe bring in some new ideas or even help clubs to share ideas between themselves. And, I’m also really excited to try and work on the diversity training and make that less rubbish. I think that’s quite exciting because that could involve collaborating with quite a few different people. I think that is something that could make a big difference.”
How will you deem that your tenure as a president has been a success? What do you hope that you’ll be able to look back on as your biggest accomplishment?
“I guess having clubs feel I’ve fulfilled the role that they need me to. Speaking to a lot of people, I had a lot of feedback saying ‘Sophie’s done an amazing job’ or ‘Sophie’s been really helpful by doing this thing’. So, I’d love, at the end of my role, to be able to hear the same kind of things because I think that is one of the fundamental roles of the president: to represent students and represent clubs. It would be great to have done that extremely well. As well as, of course, meeting manifesto points and that kind of thing.”
Increasing sport participation was a major aspect of your manifesto. Can you speak to the importance of sport in your university experience?
“Sport has just been massively important for me throughout my life. I’ve met some of my closest friends playing badminton and also through other sporting things, such as the Saints Leaders course which is a program to boost your leadership skills, but I met a lot of people from different sports clubs there. That was really nice. Especially during COVID, when it is harder to socialise, sport is a great way to meet new people. I’ve also found it a great way to balance my studies and my mental health. If you’ve got a session to go to during the day, it’s an achievement to go and do that but because you also enjoy it and it’s fun, it’s more motivating than a home workout. So, I definitely think it’s a great way to finish off the day or start the day. And it has been a massive part of my university experience.”
To close, do you have any advice for current or incoming first years?
“I guess, to remember that the sports clubs want as many members as possible. No sports club is turning away beginners or turning away members. Even if you think that you’re not the best at sport, or you wouldn’t be the most valued club member, or you just want to play casually, clubs will still value that. And, I think, take a friend or find someone from your flat and find a sport that you’re both a little bit interested in and go along together. You do see a lot of freshers who come in groups and one of them says ‘I was super keen to try Badminton and my friends are just here because they wanted something to do.’ I think that is a great way to get involved: to try lots of things out and it takes the nerves out of the whole experience.”