The 'Rep of the Month' Award recognises Course Reps who have gone above and beyond in their role. Students, staff and Reps themselves are welcome to nominate any Rep they feel is working hard to represent their Course or Department well, and ultimately to improve the student experience at Sheffield Hallam.
Winners of 'Rep of the Month' receive a small prize (which may vary this year as regulations change!). We also interview all of our winners, to see how they have found the role so far - see below to read about previous winners.
Click the link below to nominate someone today!
Our first Rep of the Month winner for December is Greg Baldwin, who is studying a PGCE in Secondary Science. As a mature student, Greg chose to step into the role of being a Rep when he saw how he could help reduce stress and provide support for some of the younger students on his course. We loved his proactive approach towards creating a supportive environment for students on his course, including his development of a Facebook Group, and the creation of a Friday morning social space where students could meet more of their coursemates, voice their concerns, and get peer support over some coffee and cake.
Keep up the great work Greg!
Why did you decide to be a Course Rep?
"I guess as one of the older people on the course, I found a lot of people on my course were just coming out of university, so I wanted to offer guidance and a way for people to communicate. It is quite a stressful course, and at the beginning there were a lot of people going through some quite emotional issues. I do try and let them know that I'm doing this and it terrifies me too. I think actually sharing that and saying it's okay to be scared or lost helps."
So in your Rep role so far, have you found you've been able to bring about any positive changes on your course?
"Yes I have. In our first meeting with all of the Course Reps, it was really apparent that we were being listened to and you could see actions being taken as the meeting went on. One of the things that lots of people had issues with was one of the main online systems we use as PGCE students. The system was core to everything but it got to the point where people were so confused with how to use it that they started ignoring it. The University was very open and honest and said they knew it wasn't an ideal system but within a week, we organised a session to help people get extra support with the system. I had lovely feedback from one student in particular saying they now had a much better chance at tackling the issue."
"Alongside this, I’d been following some Facebook groups when I was applying for teacher training. I found those groups really beneficial in terms of getting advice and having a network that felt really supportive. So the first thing that occurred to me coming here, when I realised it wasn't already in place, was to set up a Facebook group. Although in your PGCE you're assigned a peer support group, you don’t actually tend to see those people very often, so some way of sharing knowledge with other students on your course in a very quick, easy and accessible way just really made sense."
Do you have any other specific examples?
"Yes, we also do a coffee morning on Fridays in Charles St. The idea actually came from a mature students' session that the University put on for us at the beginning of the year. We were all discussing the problems we faced in terms of juggling multiple things at once, such as children, our course, careers and partners and we realised we were all very similar. Someone suggested getting a coffee morning together just for mature students, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to open it up to everyone on the course. It's almost like a drop in, where if you have an issue it is somewhere you can go and talk about it, or if you just want to have a catch up with people, socialise and get to know other, there is the opportunity for that as well."
Have you found that you've learnt anything from doing this role?
"Yes definitely! It has given me the opportunity to get to know lots of people on the course, which has been really nice. I started this course thinking that as a bit of an oldie, I may be a bit excluded and I probably wouldn’t have much in common with my coursemates, but it has been really nice to get to bond with people and I feel like we are all in it together."
Our second Rep of the Month for December is Fatima Jafar, who is a Course Rep for MSc Specialist Physiotherapy Practice. As an international student, Fatima shared her experiences with adjusting to a new academic context that differed from that of her home country, as well as her work representing other international students and helping to improve communication between staff and students on her course. We loved her desire to continuously learn and improve in her Rep role, as she navigated challenges and adapted her approach to gathering feedback and supporting students.
Well done Fatima!
What led you to apply for the Course Rep role?
"We were asked to put forward our paragraphs and then we got elected, so it was a competitive thing for me because I was with people who I don't know but who still had trust in me. Everyone encouraged me to go for it and I thought that I could represent students well. That was a real push and gave a boost to my confidence."
How have you found the role so far?
"I think that being a Course Rep is a good way to engage with students, especially students from other backgrounds to you. I struggled with it at the beginning but with time, I understood that there were quite a few issues that I had to take forward. The protocol of asking students for feedback and then conveying it to the teacher was a rollercoaster for me. I was also very careful to not put forward my personal opinions."
Is there anything you have learnt from being a Rep?
"The most important thing (and a funny one too) that I learnt is that I actually got too overloaded and too passionate about the Rep role. Students would come and say 'Fatima, I texted the teacher and she hasn't responded to me', so I'd say, 'Alright I'll just ask the teacher to respond to you'. I took on too much. Then one of our module leaders messaged me saying you don't have to contact us on behalf of every student. I had gotten so involved with doing everyone's work."
"The description of the role was very helpful. Some people think it is a very exhaustive role but we do have the marcations. We are not taking people to different places, we are simply signposting them. In my home country I was a monitor and this involves a lot of work; from helping your teachers out and collecting stuff to doing extra hours to help students with their assignments. So I was still in that mind-set of having to be there for everyone. "
So once you had settled into the role, did you find a method of gathering student feedback that worked for you?
"So initially when we announced that we were the Course Reps (there are two for my course), students expressed that they had a few problems. The first time around, we didn’t have a proper feedback channel so we just noted the issues down and presented it to the teachers. However, when the teacher asked how many students were having specific problems, we didn't know. Myself and the other Course Rep were responsible for everything, and we were advocating it. So I made up a Google sheet and created a WhatsApp group for our whole class and now, I just send out a message to students saying if they have any particular feedback or issues, just fill in the form and let me know. That was very convenient for me as I got a list of the students who wanted something, and the teacher would know how many students raised it."
That is a great method and should have helped students feel comfortable in speaking up.
"Yes, in my home country (and in many home countries of the students on our course), students don’t speak against the teachers. It is a cultural thing and they are seen as similar to your parents. You have to respect them, so this method was a good thing as the teachers didn't know the names of the students. The students then felt comfortable and were more open to talking about the problems they were facing."
Our final Rep of the Month for this academic year is April Moon, a student in her first year of a Midwifery degree, who won the award for being a committed and effective Course Rep who has worked hard to bring about positive change. It was great hearing how the role has given April the chance to make significant improvements both for her cohort and for future midwifery students at Sheffield Hallam.
Well done April!
How have you found the Course Rep role this year?
"It has been fantastic! Being a Course Rep has meant that I've felt more linked to the University whilst on placement because I've been coming in every month for student voice meetings. It has also helped to build my confidence and I feel like I know my cohort a lot better now. I'm a mature student and have been to university previously but I've never really done this kind of thing before, so I thought I'd put myself forwards as I feel like I'm an approachable person. I also thought being a bit older and having a bit more experience at university would help. It was just me for a while, but we have just had another Course Rep allocated recently so she has been helping too which is great."
Can you share some specific examples of changes and improvements you have made to your course?
"So we've been sorting out lectures and seminars as we had quite a lot of feedback about improving the slides. Making sure the lecturers put them on before the actual lectures so that people could make notes and print them off. I do a lot of signposting students when they come to me with personal issues or things that I can't necessarily deal with or take forwards. We've also made improvements to timetabling and made changes that should hopefully make it better experience for the year below us. The lecturing staff are brilliant. They will take the feedback and they will fix it by the next meeting usually."
"We have also rectified some of changes that the year above made for us, that we felt didn't actually work. The current third year's requested that they don't do an OSCE (a verbal examination) in their first year. So the current second year's didn't have an OSCE in first year, but then when they had their OSCE in second year they didn't feel prepared at all. We therefore recommended that they keep the first year OSCE exam as we found it really useful in preparing for second year."
What are some of the ways that you gather feedback from students?
"Our cohort is setup into five different groups, and each one of them will have a Student Champion. We have a Facebook Messenger group with the whole cohort, and then I have a Facebook Messenger group with the Student Champions. When I need feedback I make a general enquiry on the group chat for the whole year and the students can then choose whether they want to private me directly or whether they want to tell their Student Champion, who will then pass it onto me. I then write everything up and try to write ways of resolving the issues myself, so that I'm not putting it all on the lecturing staff to come up with a solution. Once the feedback has been discussed in student voice meetings, the minutes are typically available on Blackboard, but as students don't really check these, I write a brief summary explaining how each thing has been resolved and the actions that are being taken and put it on the Facebook Messenger groups."
"Another way I gather feedback is through conversations in lectures and seminars. If I hear students talking about something I will make a note of it. Finally, our the new Course Rep set it up so that when we receive issues via private message, we will then put them up anonymously in FB Messenger groups and ask people to vote on each issue. This helps on the occasions that staff imply something is an individual's issue, as it means we can provide evidence when an issue is actually affecting multiple students and really needs addressing."
Overall, do you think the Student Rep system has been effective in bringing about positive change on your course?
"Yes. I think a lot of students feel like they have been listened to because things have changed. I think the Rep system is a good way for someone to vent about their issues and then my role is to tweak their complaint slightly, and to put it in a more positive light before presenting it back to staff. I always ask for positive feedback as well, as I think the staff need to hear about that too. Our Course Leader will actually ask us what things are working at a course level and make changes, even to the little things. So they do listen to us."
This month's winner is Kacper: a Course Rep in his first year of Software Engineering. Kacper was nominated by peers for his dedication to the role, and for instigating significant improvements to lectures and seminars. We liked Kacper's proactive approach and how he encouraged students to propose solutions not just raise issues; ensuring dialogue with staff stayed positive and solution-orientated.
Great work Kacper!
"It's my second attempt at university so I'm a bit older and have a bit more experience than some of my course mates. One of the reasons I signed up for it was because I didn't like the course much at my previous University, as well as the way the Course Reps worked. Our module leader was also saying, "We listen; just tell us what you need changing and we'll change it."
What have you most enjoyed about being a Rep?
"I've liked seeing that you're actually making a difference. That is probably the most satisfying part of it. In just two weeks from our first Staff-Student Meeting, there was a difference in how the course was run because they knew exactly what the students wanted. At the end of the day, if you are listening to what people are saying and moving it forward, it doesn't take much, but the difference you make is huge. It doesn't just improve everyone else's experience; it improves your course and your experience as a student as well! That's what it is for me; you actually see a difference and make an impact. And hopefully the differences we made this year will transfer to next year's first years!"
How do you gather feedback and ensure you are representing a wide range of students on your course?
"People are terrible at replying to emails, including myself; so I just tend to have conversations with people. I know that a lot of people don't like to voice their own opinion. They just try to deal with the problem as they feel like it's just them. I've been there myself; but by chatting to students, they tell you things and they realise that it's not just them. I also think feedback is a lot better if it is done anonymously as students can worry that they've offended a teacher and that it may then impact their mark."
"I sit in different places in lectures, as people tend to sit in the same places, and I ask questions. I try to speak to people one-on-one as much as possible and encourage them to tell me how their course could be improved rather than focusing on the problem. Lecturers typically already know what's wrong with the course so presenting them with solutions helps to keep the conversation positive, and helps to move things forwards."
Would you recommend the role of Course Rep and why?
"If you think you can do it then just go for it! By waiting a year you may have wasted an opportunity, so if it's something you want to do, just go for it. Everything you need to know is said to you during training or it's provided in the (Course Rep) handbook."
Our winner this month is Sophie; a Course Rep who is in her 3rd year of a degree in Education with Psychology and Counselling. She was picked as February's Rep of the Month for being an amazing Course Rep and always standing up for students. We also loved hearing Sophie's story about overcoming a lack of confidence through her Rep role.
Why did you become a Course Rep & how has the role contributed to your experience at Sheffield Hallam University?
"I wasn't a very confident person in first year and I wouldn't really talk to anyone, so when I heard of the opportunity to become a Course Rep I thought I'll give it a shot and see how it goes! It worked out well for me and I started to build my confidence both as a Rep but also as a student as I began contributing more in lectures and seminars. The role has also helped me to learn a lot more about how the University works and has given me an opportunity to help other students, which is a really nice feeling."
Do you have any specific examples of how you have supported students during your time as a Course Rep?
"I have helped make some positive changes concerning some of our modules and staff communication, that although didn't result in immediate change, should have improved the experience for the students in the years below. I have also done a lot of signposting students to the right resource or form of support which I think even if I wasn't a Course Rep I would be doing anyway".
How do you go about collecting student feedback?
"I think I'm pretty perceptive, so I mostly gain student feedback by making a note of what students say before and after lectures or seminars. I have previously tried to gain feedback via more formal methods but the response was minimal, so now if I hear students talking about a specific issue a lot then I will raise it in our Student Rep meetings. I think this method has allowed me to gain more honest feedback. We also have an active Facebook group chat where students from our year often post questions or issues they are having and other students will point them in the right direction."
What do you like most about your time at Sheffield Hallam beyond your academic studies?
"I really like the general community, especially in the Students' Union. It's nice to hang out in HUBS; everyone is so nice and I think this has helped me to be more comfortable than I would have been at another University."
Why would you encourage others to be a Rep?
"Mainly confidence building. I also think it's just a great opportunity to help other students which is a really nice feeling."
Our winner this month is Clare; a commuter student in her second year of a degree in Mental Health Nursing, who is both a Course and Department Rep! She was picked as January's Rep of the Month due to her dedication to her Student Rep role, going above and beyond to ensure other students feel supported and heard. When speaking with Clare, we loved to hear how engaged she is beyond her studies, taking advantage of the many opportunities available to students both at the University and the Students' Union, as well as her enthusiasm towards bringing about change and reform to nursing at a national level.
Why did you become a Student Rep?
"I think I am naturally quite organised and I like to think about the future generations of people to come. I feel as a Course Rep you have more of an impact on the now, and as a Department Rep it is more about influencing future developments and making changes for people to come. I am also interested in systems and processes, and in my career prior to studying nursing, I was one of the first people to bring the idea of the customer journey to the UK. I think that is why I am passionate about the student journey."
Do you have any specific examples of how you have supported students during your time as a Course or Department Rep?
"I have done a lot of signposting, helping students to better understand the different processes and guiding them on what route to take for their specific issue. I have also taken a lot of student issues to staff and then listened to the staff perspective before relaying it back to students, which is the part I think is often missed by Student Reps. It is important to communicate to students when staff have heard and understood their issue but when in some cases they are unable to bring about a given change or resolution at that time. At other times it has just been about going and sitting next to students to give them the confidence to confront an issue. Whether it's advising them to write down their thoughts before a meeting or letting them talk it through with me beforehand."
Is there anything else you are involved with besides your Student Rep role?
"I am a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Student Information Officer, where I campaign on behalf of student nurses. Our local MP in Sheffield is amazing and they actually read my letter on student funding for nurses in the Houses of Parliament which helped bring it to the debate. I am also providing a student perspective on the new Integrated Care Curriculum for students in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing. I'm on the Volunteering Committee at the Students' Union and I am about to go to China with the University's Go Global scheme!
"Outside of University, I am working with people across the UK to develop and curate a national Twitter account for nurses. The idea is that it will be a place of informal support and advice for nurses through peer-to-peer communication in a sector that traditionally stays clear of social media. I also serve as a Guide Leader in my local community for which I am leading a group of girls on a trip to Mexico. Then on top of all that, I'm a mum to four children. Oh, and I'm doing a nursing degree!"
"I think you get to see the bigger picture. You start to realise how things are working and why they are happening. It is really easy to get drawn into the nitty gritty and the detail, but I think it is important to put your head up and see the wider picture. I've got 20 years of work experience but I think for younger people who have come straight out of school, it is such a good skill to development and I think being a Course Rep gives them that opportunity."
Amy is studying an Extended Degree in Engineering and Mathematics and has won November's Rep of the Month for a number of reasons including:
Her approachability, can do attitude and willingness to help
For being a supportive figure for her classmates; referring students to support services at the Students' Union when they are struggling with personal issues and encouraging them to join societies and make new friends
Speaking up for mature students ensuring that they feel apart of the wider student community
Why were you nominated for the Rep of the Month?
"The majority of votes were saying that I had helped them with troubles they were having at home; anxiety, and things like that. We had a few students facing more severe issues and I helped them build a case to take to the Students' Union. It's been a mixture of helping students when they've said 'I can't do it, I'm going to quit' because if I've been out of education for 9 years and I can do it, you can too! I've been helping them with their course, building cases (for people). I've given them the push to join societies and make friends."
Why did you become a Course Rep?
"I became a course rep because I feel everyone deserves a chance to get support and I feel that a course rep's job is to let everyone know that we have that support, whether that be that because you’ve moved away from home you feel like you’ve got nobody to talk to or you feel that as a Mature Student like me that everyone will avoid me like the plague cos I'm a few years older. I feel like everyone should have the chance to have someone to talk to and someone representing them and their views. Everyone should have a say on the course and if things aren't working what do they want to change. I feel like I'm very approachable and have that natural instinct. I feel like people come to me if they need help or advice and I can pass that on or direct them to where they need to go, or just someone to listen to."
"I'd encourage everyone to do it because it gives everyone a voice and it's nice to know that people can come and talk to you and you have that ability to pass on other people's views and that ability to listen to other people and understand them. It makes you feel better as well because at the end of the day I'm going home knowing I've helped someone, even if it's just the smallest thing and that we've had so much feedback. I've sent out a student survey and it's really nice to say "oh, this is working, this isn't" and you can pass it all on rather than it just being your own views."
"Just go for it. If you feel like you can offer people help and advice and even just be there for people who might have no-one, just go for it and be that person that everyone can go to if they've got an issue!"
Brittany is both a Course and Department Rep, and has been awarded the April Rep of the Month awarded for:
- Creating a society in response to students saying they wanted a stronger sense of community on their course
- Addressing issues regarding elective modules after one failed to run
In her role, Brittany has enjoyed knowing where students voice's actually go, and understanding all perspectives that comes from being both a Course and Department Rep.
She recommends taking on the position as it allows you to become friendlier with your course mates, grow personal confidence, and an understanding of how your opinion is valued. Brilliant work, Brittany!
Waleed is an Undergraduate Computer Networks student who has been awarded March's Rep of the Month award. He was nominated for:
- Being a friendly and approachable rep, who is always happy to help.
- For asking the opinions of students directly, making them feel more engaged with their course.
Waleed took on the Course Rep role because he was new to the University and wanted to learn from others whilst gaining leadership skills. Whilst in his role he has changed timetabling after students expressed issues with it, and helped a new lecturer be introduced to the students.
He recommends becoming a Course Rep because of how it allows you to engage with students, especially if you're a fresher, as it gives you the opportunity to make new friends. Congratulations, Waleed!
Helen is a Postgraduate student studying MSc Mechanical Engineering who has been awarded February’s Rep of the Month award. Helen received multiple nominations for:
- Being really approachable, hardworking and listening to everyone’s opinions to try to help
- Getting the lecture slides put up in advance of the lecture, so people wouldn’t struggle following the content
- Following up on the specifics of assessments so students knew exactly what they were being marked on
- Helping international students to use Blackboard
Helen decided to become a Course Rep as she never got the opportunity during her Undergrad. Skills development and employability was also a motivating factor!
She would recommend the Course Rep position because she has found it rewarding to listen to issues from and help make positive changes to make them happy. Brilliant work, Helen!
Rob is a Secondary Maths with QTS student who was awarded January's Rep of the Month title! He was nominated for:
- For creating a Course Rep survey, the feedback from which was collated and presented to staff members.
- For taking everyone's concerns on board, and going above and beyond to get them resolved.
- For outstanding and unfailing commitment to the position.
He initially took the position on purely because he was the only one who volunteered, but since then has found it to be incredibly interesting and rewarding, relishing in the opportunity to try and make changes on his course.
He recommends the Course Rep position because of the new skills he's learned throughout it, whilst dealing with different groups of people and collecting feedback. Congratulations, Rob!
Sarah is a Psychology student who was awarded November's Rep of the Month title! She was nominated for:
- Creating surveys for both Level 5 and Level 6 Course Reps and putting the feedback into Word documents to send to the other Reps.
- Making a PowerPoint slide ready for the screencasts to deliver the staff comments to students on her course.
- Her approachability and hard-working nature.
Sarah took on the Course Rep role as a way of building her confidence and to promote student voice. Since becoming a rep, she has gathered and sent feedback to meetings, and even won the Course Rep of the Year Award last year. Some of the feedback she has collected has been used by staff members to alter modules for the better for future students.
She recommends the Course Rep role for the increased responsibility it gives students and how it can improve your confidence when speaking infront of others. Keep up the fantastic work, Sarah!
Hollie is a Science and Education with QTS student who was awarded October's Rep of the Month title! She was nominated for:
- Improving lecture times and making them more worthwhile.
- Helping with placements and the running of that scheme.
- Making staff aware of social issues students may be having that could impact their studying.
Hollie recommends the Course Rep programme as a way of learning more about University processes, whilst also believing it to be productive for the reps themselves as it teaches you how to prioritise and negotiation skills. It's also a great way to get involved, Hollie believes. Congratulations, Hollie!