The University of St Andrews has over 150 societies and subcommittees affiliated to the Students’ Association. In the 2021-22 academic year, four societies successfully affiliated: Women in Business, Sitara, Gluten Free Society, and Spooky Society. The Saint was able to speak with three of these societies on what their aims are, what events they hold, and how freshers can get involved.
Each society had different reasons for why they believe theirs was an important one to establish. When speaking to Women in Business, they said,
“’Beyond the glass ceiling’ is a term we hear a lot as, in its most literal sense, ‘women in business’. This refers to the gender inequalities faced by women that prevents them from rising to positions of seniority.”
“Through the establishment of St Andrews’ Women in Business (WIB) society, we aim to focus on the empowerment of women pursuing careers in the financial, consulting, and legal sectors, amongst others to break through the glass ceiling. We believe that it is this that highlights the importance of WIB.”
Sitara was set up in 2008 and originally hosted by the Sanskriti Society to showcase South Asian Culture but has since grown into its own independent collective.
On Sitara’s importance and value, they said, “Sitara challenges stereotypes and celebrates Asian lifestyle and culture, something that has always been underrepresented in St Andrews, and aims to provide a safe space for often under-looked cultures and identities to be represented. Sitara has played an integral role in St Andrews for the past few years, bringing in people from all different parts of the world and creating a dynamic environment through small events spanned across the year. Fashion shows in St Andrews penetrate every aspect of student life, and although the university is an international institution, it is not easy for students to fit in due to the image of exclusivity portrayed when it comes to our little sea-side town. At Sitara, we educate each other and expose St Andrews to a celebration of South Asian culture.”
Gluten Free Society provides support for gluten-free students while living in halls and studying at university.
They said, “The catered gluten-free food options are limited, often repeated, and cross-contaminated, leaving students without safe and nutritious meals. As a society, we are working to improve the conditions of gluten-free food while providing additional support on shopping and cooking amidst the stress of university life. It has been so reassuring and empowering to share experiences with other people who understand the stress and struggles of being gluten-free.”
A key part of every society in St Andrews is the events it holds, and these newly affiliated groups are no exception.
Women in Business held various networking events in the 2020-21 academic year. “These have included workshops and our monthly speaker series where we hosted various female professionals from the UK and globally.”
Sitara is a student-led charity fashion show and held its show in March 2022. This show combined fashion and culture alongside supporting charities such as Action Aid.
On describing the show, Sitara said, “The show encompasses dance and performance alongside fashion - Sitara is more than a fashion show as it becomes a musical and passionate drama through its combination of movement, clothing and music to present a diversity of cultures. The show begins with an opening of drinks and a special invite to its VIP guests, followed by different acts of the production with its intervals of music and dance, local food and drink vendors add to the event. Following the fashion show there’s an after party to continue the celebration of fashion and cultures.”
Other events Sitara held included the launch party, which introduced the theme and showcased the first look of the models. In addition, they held an event called ‘Sitara: Awakening’, which celebrated their art in early October. This contained speciality cocktails, food and an afterparty held by the BPM collective.
Sitara is different to other St Andrews fashion shows through its dedication to showcasing Asian Culture, both through fashion but also performance in their shows.
They said, “This objective remains at the heart of what Sitara is about and gives us a purpose. In compression to the other Fashion Shows we focus on dance and music and add these aspects to the acts of our final show. We aim to support smaller cultures within our community and create awareness for diversity. We send all profits and ticket sales made to charity.”
Gluten Free Society held events last year to celebrate gluten free food.
“Last year, we held lots of events involving food, especially baked goods! We hosted bake sales, cookie decorating, homemade pizza nights, and cake and coffee outings. They were all perfect opportunities to share recipes, advice, recommendations, and experiences while enjoying delicious food.”
All societies have exciting plans for the upcoming year. Women in Business hope to continue with events from last year, as well as hosting new events.
They said, “We wish to include LinkedIn/CV workshops, pub quizzes, and collaborations with other societies and our sponsors.”
Sitara too has plans. “The first thing we have planned for this year is Freshers’ week events. We plan to have a DJ night and a sober event during the day. Both would be a great chance to get to know Sitara but overall get to know our vibe and the committee itself! From connecting with art society’s and music society’s we aim to bring Sitara and its culture to the rest of our university. We plan to do an official launch in Semester One, a night you won’t want to miss! We have our main show in Semester Two which is the main event. Many other events will be conveyed through our social media, so don’t miss out.”
Gluten Free Society has plans to collaborate with other societies next year. This is to encourage other societies in making events accessible to all dietary requirements. “We want to show that gluten-free food can be delicious!”
On how freshers can get involved, Women in Business said, “We will be at the Freshers’ Fayre this September and our events during the year are open to everybody – these are regularly updated on our social media platforms with events, news and other current opportunities. We’re immensely excited to carry out our plans for next year and can’t wait for you to be a part of it!”
Sitara said, “Freshers can get involved in many ways! We are launching applications for Freshers Reps in late August, they will have a chance to be involved in the Sitara Family. As an ambassador, Freshers will gain hands-on experience of the behind the scenes running of the fashion shows and given access to the planning and organizing. We will also host events in early September, and we encourage newbies to get involved! Positions such as models, graphic designers and dressers for the actual show as well as makeup artists will open later in the year and these individuals will gain access to the show.”
Gluten Free Society said, “Freshers can get involved by following our social media accounts (@glutenfree_standrews on Facebook) and visiting our website for resources and updates on upcoming events. If anyone is interested in being more involved in advocacy or planning events, we have a few open committee positions, and we would love to fill them during Freshers Week! Message us if you are interested or if you have any questions or concerns about starting uni. We are here to help!”
Illustration: Lauren McAndrew