Inclusion & Communities Officer

RUSU Inclusion & Communities Officer 2022/23 Jem McKenzie

Inclusion & Communities Officer
Jem McKenzie

Hi I'm Jem (she/her), I was born in Nottingham eldest of six children. I grew up in a very big family so I love being around people and helping where I can. My upbringing was tough and I struggled in many areas. As a result, I have personal experience in many areas where students may feel they need more support. I am very keen on helping the Reading Community and University feel like home for all students. I want to ensure everyone feels welcomed.

Start us off with three interesting facts about you...

  1. I am distantly related to Shaggy through my dad's side of the family!
  2. I have a background in theatre and acting, including singing and dancing and I'm hoping to get back in touch with the hobbies I enjoyed growing up.
  3. I enjoy music from every single genre (though I still have certain favourite genres).

Why did you come to Reading?

I picked Reading because although I loved my hometown I felt like going to the south would be a good fresh start and a new place to grow. In my time here I have achieved more than I ever thought possible.

I struggled to fit in when I first came here and now I want to share what I learned to help students feel at home. I am a BA Ethics, Philosophy and Values graduate. I felt I needed to see what the working world and living alone was like before I headed to university so I took a gap year after finishing sixth form. It was a really helpful experience!

Why did you run for the role of Inclusion and Communities Officer and what did you learn during the elections?

I stood for this role because this role is exactly what I want. I am interested in improving inclusion and diversity in multiple ways wherever I work and I want to improve the quality of people's lives. In the election, I learned a lot about myself and how people perceive me. I never fully embraced the leadership skills I had until I ran in the election and put my all into proving why I would be perfect for this role.

What experience do you bring to the role?

I grew up without a support system and experienced abuse in different ways, low mental health, low income and faced discrimination (in many areas) around my identity. Learning to tackle these issues alone for most of my life I quickly also became a support system for a lot of friends struggling with other issues in their life. I volunteered at school as a peer counsellor at school and did a sports leadership course and by the time I started working I was the youngest and first person to secure a job in my year at school. I learned that all I wanted to do was give back to people and communities.

At university, I took on the welfare committee role in multiple societies and then recently the equality, diversity and inclusion representative in the societies. This insight and experience has made me determined to make a positive difference.

What do you want to achieve in the role?

I want to bridge any gap between any students who feel isolated at university and help create an environment where people feel comfortable being themselves and opening up. I'm looking forward to working professionally in an environment where I can work on projects which create a sense of unity. I am also looking forward to being able to be in a position where I have more resources to put into projects that will help students.

Quickfire questions! Tell us your favourite...

  • Film: Twilight (sorry)
  • Book: Hayclon (childhood favourite)
  • Food: anything with apples in it
  • Thing to do in your free time: dancing, reading, seeing my friends, baths, writing poems
  • Thing about Reading: the campus lake and all the ducks

And, finally, what is one piece of advice you'd give to a brand-new student at Reading?

Never be afraid to try different things and go outside your comfort zone, and try to join as many societies as you can in your first year! Get involved with events when you can and get a buddy who wants to go to some of the ones you want to go to if you don't like to go alone.

I ended up meeting my best mates at this university, and I almost left in my first term due to feeling alone and isolated. I gave it a second chance and now I'm the Inclusion and Communities officer. So, always give yourself a second chance and don't give up too quickly!

Check out my manifesto

What does the role of Inclusion & Communities Officer involve?

I am the lead officer for all liberation-based work; promoting and developing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) on campus. They will champion intersectionality and belonging amongst student communities.

As Inclusion & Communities Officer, I support the campaigns and activities of key liberation groups and the RUSU Part-time Officers.

I am also responsible for creating links with the local community and local interest groups.

My remit includes:

  • The creation and support of liberation groups/networks (LGBQ+ students, trans students, Black students and students from minority ethnic backgrounds, women students, disabled students) and other key communities within RUSU (such as, mature, part-time, commuting and international students)
  • Leading on the creation of new and exciting communities outside of the traditional sports and society structures
  • Creating links with the local community and local interest groups, including representation at community events and meetings
  • Leading on RUSU's Liberation, Equality, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Plan (LEEDI), ensuring that liberation and inclusion is a key focus within RUSU
  • Leading on LEEDI issues with support from other Officers
  • Providing support to the RUSU Part-time Officer team to ensure they are able to fulfil their responsibilities
  • RUSU's response to regulatory and consultative submissions including, EDI Reviews and Office for Students (OFS) Access & Participation Student Submission
  • Maintaining positive working relationships with key University staff and representing the student voice through attendance and participation in relevant university committees and working groups

I also attend a number of committees and groups to put forward the student voice; some of these are:

  • Student Experience Committee: Ensuring the student experience remains a focus for the University and the Students' Union.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board - Working with the Activities & Opportunities Officer to ensure the student voice informs the development of university work relating to diversity and inclusion; working to develop and also monitor progress on matters relating to diversity and inclusion for students at the University. Also feeding into activities on all protected characteristics and reviewing priorities.
  • University Board for Teaching and Learning - Working with the Education officer to ensure students' views are considered by the University when making decisions on all teaching and learning matters and ensuring the diverse needs of students are being considered.
  • Access and Participation Committee - Monitoring the University's progress against the Access and Participation targets and investment plan and leading on the student Submission report to the Office for Students.
  • Race Equality Implementation Group - Ensuring Students' Union actions are completed and monitoring University progress against existing Race Equality Plans.