Today is #LoveSUs day - the second year NUS has run a national campaign day to celebrate all things amazing about students' unions and the collective work we do for and with students and their communities day in day out.
My experience at Cardiff SU in the early 90s was brilliant - a real cornerstone of my university experience which afforded me support, fun and numerous opportunities for development and growth. However, I came to NUS with very little up to date knowledge about SUs, and almost no knowledge about the full diversity of SUs across further and higher education.
Over the last 18 months I have learned and been endlessly impressed by just how diverse SUs are, and just how central SUs are to continuously improving the academic and wider experiences of students - whether that is campaigning to improve timetabling, to keep Wednesday afternoons free for sport, lobbying for better mental health support, cheaper transport or better assessment feedback, challenging the attainment gaps, proposing ways to improve student experience or representing students within institutional structures.
I have also learned how critical a role SUs play in continually setting the bar on ethical enterprise by ensuring we understand supply chains, being leaders in political education - working hard to make sure students are registered to vote, hosting political discussions, debates and providing training on far ranging topics from the marketisation of education, the Teaching Excellence Framework and the attainment gaps to Fairtrade Clothing and the Prevent Strategy.
SUs provide spaces where students can self organise and determine their liberation, set up their own clubs and societies, fundraise and volunteer in their communities - raising money and donating time to help address issues in their local communities, as well as protest against injustice in those communities and further afield.
And for all those reasons I appreciate, value and #LoveSUs. And it is the people that make the magic happen. Some of you reading this will know that at the heart of SUs is student leadership. Others won't. Student officers are elected by their peers to lead SUs - in paid and voluntary roles. Working together paid staff and elected officers provide a combined leadership that at its best creates energy, strategy and space to be responsive, creative, innovative and bold. Leadership that challenges the status quo where it doesn't fit 21st Century needs; always focusing on making things better for students and their communities.
SU and NUS colleagues and friends, know this: we are making a massive difference to students' lives and their communities, we are changing the world bit by bit. Our collective voices are needed now at least as much as ever before. #LoveSUs was created for us to show and tell, to take time and create space for us to boast, to reflect on and demonstrate just how important the work we do is. Whatever your plans for today please take time to reflect on all we achieve together day in day out and celebrate it hard. Working in the student movement is a privilege. I salute you and of course I #LoveSUs.