Sarah Collins, Director of Widening Participation, Winchester University

Sarah Collins

Sarah graduated in 2008, BSc Psychology and is currently Director of Widening Participation at the University of Winchester but during her university days she was the Students Union Women and Equal Opportunities Officer 2006-07.

A typical day for Sarah in 2018 involves attending conferences and seminars up and down the country with a view to informing university strategy. Finding ways to develop new areas of funding or projects to help underrepresented student groups.

A major achievement for Sarah was in 2016, the University of Winchester Widening Participation team won a Times Higher Education Award for their pioneering work encouraging and supporting young carers into higher education.

We asked Sarah some questions about why volunteering is so important to her.

What inspired you to volunteer your time, and become a member of the Students Union?

I was very engaged with the Student Union throughout my time at Glamorgan, I first got involved with the student council through being a member of the LGB Society and the women’s rugby team. Through the LGBT society in my first year I was nominated to attend a number of NUS conferences that ignited my passion for student engagement and drove me to stand for Women and Equal Opportunities in 2006-07.

What is your favourite memory of your time with the SU?

The year I came in to office was the first tuition fee cap rise and there were a number of student campaigns and organised protests. Through my post I was able to support the Students with Disability Group and two members, one with cerebral palsy and one visually impaired with a guide dog, were keen to get involved but anxious about attending the march. I was able to encourage them to join the march and helped support them on the walk across London waving signs and hooting to chants. They were both thrilled to be involved and were even ushered to the front of the march, making their way into lots of photos. It really was a case of seeing student engagement regardless of barriers.

Did you continue to volunteer at any other organisations?

Being a volunteer at Glamorgan has encouraged me to continue volunteering throughout my graduate life. I have volunteered with work setting up and co-chairing their LGBT* staff and allies network at the same time founding and co-chairing a small community Pride event as part of LGBT History Month. I have volunteered a number of times abroad including teaching English at an orphanage in Cambodia and as a Volunteer Manager in Costa Rica for Raleigh International. I am also currently a trustee for a local youth counselling charity.

Do you think your volunteering experience helped you in your career? What did you get back from volunteering?

Without a doubt volunteering has helped get me where I am today. In my first graduate job my boss always told me my SU experience is what put me above the other candidates, whilst volunteering to set-up and chair the staff LGBT network helped me develop a profile with senior members of staff at the university. In addition, where my previous roles didn’t have any line-management or strategic elements, I’ve been able to develop experience in these areas through volunteering which helped me apply for and reach my role as Director of Widening Participation.

What advice would give to our current SU President?

If people are questioning your actions or decisions you must be doing something right! Those not held to account are the one’s not making a big enough difference in their term of office!


#Volunteering #students union #international-womens-day