Sofia Akel

Hey, I’m Sofia and I am running to be your next VP Welfare and Community FTO. I recently graduated with a degree in History from Lancaster and now study MSc Management. Throughout my time at University I have supported community and welfare-related campaigns and initiatives, and have also set up my own social enterprise to support students in diversity, welfare, education and employment-related fields. I really look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to offer my experience, support and passion to you all!

My main goals:

  1. Integration Not Just Diversity

Our student body is becoming more diverse with over 3000 international students, and a gradually increasing BME population.

        But here is the problem:

  • Many international and minority students feel marginalised and find it difficult to assimilate. Over half of all international students are East Asian and are among some of the most marginalised groups here. In my experience many BME students may face racial discrimination, whilst LGBTQ, disabled and other minority groups also face forms of unacceptable discrimination.

         My solution:

  • To continue working with ‘We Are Lancaster’ to develop a student integration strategy
  • Continue supporting liberation and minority campaigns and societies with a focus on accessible participation and durability of campaigns as they often fizzle out after students leave
  • To work with the Education VP on developing a curriculum that reflects the student body and is relatable.
  • To set up a ‘parent system,’ where new students are assigned a ‘parent’ mentor who will support them and arrange frequent ‘family’ nights where they can check in on each other. In the next year, the freshers will then take on the parent responsibility. This will help students to learn about different walks of life, make contacts, receive academic and personal support and in the long term help to integrate the student body.
  • Launch a termly magazine showcasing the talent, campaigns and initiatives started by our students
  • Zero tolerance on all forms of discrimination to make Lancaster a safe haven for all students to be themselves, irrespective of their personal background.
  1.  360° Equality of Opportunity

As students, most of us are here to get the best possible start in our careers, however many personal barriers may make it hard for students to sustain themselves during and after their studies. Here is my solution:

  • 360° employment opportunities - Provide regular careers events and drop-in sessions in every department to mirror the success of LUMS careers.
  • Encourage students to gain LUSU accredited work experience through their societies by teaming up– e.g. the Politics Society teaming up with the Afro-Caribbean Society to host a debate on multiculturalism.
  • Supporting students from low-income backgrounds in light of student finance cuts and rising costs – Ensuring that no student lives on the breadline, by tackling on campus store prices, and rising accommodation costs, whilst establishing food vouchers, printing subsidiaries and more scholarships.
  1. Healthy Minds = Healthy Community

78% of UK university students have reportedly suffered from mental health during their studies, with more than half never seeking support, which from experience can be extremely hard. Therefore I will create avenues to support students in innovative ways:

  • Sports therapy – Will work with sports teams to create welfare ambassadors to lead a series of  ‘for fun’ sporting teams to promote physical health. This is proven to reduce stress hormones and boost endorphins. I will also try to work with gyms both on/off campus to provide further discounted classes and memberships for realistic prices!
  • Exam Stress Busters – working with welfare JCR’s to run a variety of fun, free, therapeutic sessions both on and off campus!
  • Alternative Exam Environments – Students, who suffer with anxiety, and other such mental health issues, can opt to take their exams in a more appropriate environment, hopefully improving focus and results.
  1. A United Lancaster

Lancaster University has many divides, e.g. between students and local residents, but together we can work toward making a united Lancaster for all.

  • Continue the work of  ‘Community Day’ events showcasing local businesses, arts, and cultural outlets strengthening the relationship between campus and town.
  • Taxi Sharing App – work with iLancaster and local taxi companies to create a cheap and safe travel network for only students
  • Continue the current Welfare FTO’s work with welfare JCS’s across campus, providing continuous support, and strengthening of the relationship between LUSU and Colleges.
  • Society and Youth Pairing Schemes – widening opportunities for low-income youth, through a training scheme where they can work with societies to gain experience in a variety of fields accredited by LUSU and the Lancaster Award

To read more please follow the hashtag: #standwithsofia