Keisha is one of the Students Union’s team of Sabbatical Officers for 2021/22 and her role involves promoting all aspects of student welfare and equality in Oxford. Here she reflects on the highlights and challenges of her year in post and shares some of the exciting projects she has been involved with.
Keisha’s role at the SU is multi-faceted: “I am a student representative at all times, but this takes on different meanings depending on the day and the setting.” She participates in meetings within the SU and the wider University, organises events for students and works with different societies and groups, as well as providing support for individual students who contact her with their concerns. Her favourite part of the role, which has enabled her to learn the most, has been completing her promises and projects for students. “I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of it and figuring out the best route to create something that could be beneficial for the student body.”
Keisha is most proud of the very first project she completed as a VP. She designed a workshop series entitled ‘A Mindfulness Return to Normal University Life’ which aimed to equip students with practical skills to help deal with anxiety associated with walking into a post-Covid university environment. “I created every detail of the series from scratch right at the beginning of my role when I had no idea what I was doing. Student feedback was incredibly positive. I felt as though I had made a significant impact and helped people calm their anxieties associated with Covid.” A total of 50 students attended the workshops, and Keisha is very grateful for the support she received from University staff members with planning the project.
Her final project as VP, the Summer of Empowerment, has also been a great success. Every year Oxford SU organises a BAME Leadership Conference in the form of a one-off workshop series. “This year I changed the format to a conference with a series of ‘In Conversations’ followed by a panel discussion. I also introduced three additional conferences: the Women’s Leadership Conference, Disabilities Leadership Conference and LGBTQ Leadership Conference. All the conferences aim to platform members of minority groups to encourage students to take on leadership roles.” Keisha has also started a new book club, the Gold Book Club, for women and non-binary people who also identify as Black or People of Colour.
Although student life in Oxford has been rocky at times for Keisha, she has also enjoyed some real highlights. She feels that she has grown as a person during her time here. “When starting my journey at Oxford four years ago I could never have imagined that I would achieve a VP position or even have the confidence to put myself forward for it.” At the end of an academically challenging first year, Keisha has fantastic memories of attending her college music festival, Wadstock, and the Wadham college ball, which was a wonderful experience and a chance to celebrate after prelims. Keisha’s college tutor has been very supportive throughout her time as a student, and, outside of her studies, she also gained a lot from getting more involved in activism at Oxford, joining groups like common ground.
Keisha’s EDI work is powerfully motivated by the desire to break down barriers that prevent people from realising their full potential: “I strongly believe that every person has the same potential within them. I believe that it is the external barriers that exist within a society that prohibit people from fully realising that potential and seeing that potential. I know from personal experience that if society treated every individual with the respect and care they deserve, it would have a massive impact on general well-being and how that individual can operate within society.”
Keisha is very aware that EDI work can take its toll on those involved in it. She believes that the issue of burnout is not spoken about enough. “Speaking from my own experience, often those partaking in EDI work are directly affected by the issues being discussed. It can therefore be emotionally draining at times when you have to fight or stand up for a particular minority group. I think it is important to recharge and take time for yourself when necessary.” Keisha believes that all staff working on EDI in the University should be able to access the support and care they need.
When she is not working or studying, Keisha really enjoys being in nature and switching off from technology as much as possible – although she loves to watch Netflix if a good series is on! She likes to meditate and does a lot of yoga. She also enjoys playing sport and spending time with family and friends.
Keisha’s passion for EDI is clear to see, and we wish her all the best for her future endeavours.