Senate House update from Julio (Bristol SU’s Union Affairs Officer)

A lot of things have changed very quickly in the last few weeks and months – and that has impacted all of us in lots of different ways.

We chat to Julio Mkok, Bristol SU’s Union Affairs Officer, about how the new spaces at Senate House are taking shape, why these spaces matter now more than ever, and tips for coping during lockdown.

Q: How have you found adjusting to all the recent chances? Any top tips?
A: Transference is inevitable. It’s been very hard adjusting. We are coming from a way of life that flourished on human interaction and now we are moving into an era that doesn’t support or encourage the basic human interaction.

We all need each other to fully appreciate the joys of life. But, despite being so far from everyone else, there a few tips that could help you just the same way they’ve helped me ride out this wave. Daily exercises and a healthy routine that prioritises your wellbeing have really helped me. I for one am trying yoga for the first time…. I would highly recommend it! 😊

Q: You’ve recently been re-elected. What would you like to achieve during your time in post?
A: Having been re-elected for my second term as Union Affairs Officer, my main aim is to make sure that the Campus Heart Project is delivered with the interest and suggestions from the student body at its core.

The way that things are taking shape at Senate House is really exciting – we’re working on a new food court, known as the Market Place, and the Beckford SU bar – all right at the centre of the campus. We’ll have a Dining Room to accompany the Living Room at Senate House!

Of course recent events have meant delays to the project overall, but we’ll do everything we can to keep you updated on what’s happening, when. Even if we can’t come together now physically, the time will come that we will be able to be together again, safely. Spaces to help build communities will become even more important.

Q: Why do spaces like Senate House matter, especially in light of the pandemic?
A: The University of Bristol is one of the few Russell Group universities without a social space exclusively for students at the heart of campus (excluding libraries and other academic areas).

Senate House will provide a space for students to come together to socialise, play games and interact with different non-academic aspects that the University has to offer.

Q: What other changes would you like to see happen on campus? Or what are you excited about what’s already happening on campus?
A: The University’s main responsibility is providing academic excellence and support to its students. However, what is mostly forgotten is the “university student-experience” that most people always look forward to when coming to university.

I would like to see more non-academic projects that improve and support the student experience such as the Senate House Project. Additionally, we are all hoping that sometime in the future everything will go back to normal and the possibility for all of us students to come back together and continue with our day to day shenanigans.

It is on this note that we need the right spaces to be able to facilitate, diversify and improve this interaction.

Building strong communities

Our work to improve the sense of community for our students here at Bristol has started, and initiatives like the Bristol SU Living Room are helping students connect with one another. However, our students have told us that there is still more to be done.  

Over the next two years, we plan to build on our strong platform of student-centred services by aligning many of the routes to support together under one roof. Given the centrality of Senate House, and the ongoing refurbishments that have already seen the building transformed into an easily accessible and all-inclusive hub for student activity, the plan is to bring even more services into the building. 

Already the home of the Study Centre, the largest Bristol SU Living Room, the PGR hub (for postgraduate research students) and a student café, Senate House is steadily undergoing further changes as it becomes the centre of Campus Heart.    

As well as revamping the ground floor to include a one-stop information point for all students, we hope this will become a fully integrated space that offers students access to all they need; from help and advice about fees and funding to a suite of wellbeing services. There will also be additional SU space for students to use for work or relaxation. 

Our Student Wellbeing Service and Residential Life teams are already expanding, with positive results that have seen a reduction in waiting times for counselling support and a more seamless approach to early interventions, in addition to professional support available round the clock, every day of the year.  We’re building on this success to ensure that our students can continue to access the high quality support they need. This includes working in partnership with Bristol Students’ Union, Sports Exercise and Health and academic colleagues to provide a range of activities to help build strong communities across our university.  

Find out more as we chat to Ros Elliott, Head of Student Residential Life.

Further information about what we’re doing to transform our campus including all the latest developments at Senate House, can be seen on our latest film (January 2020).  

This case study is part of a series of stories sharing findings and student views from our Mental Health and Wellbeing Surveys 2018 and 2019. It’s a chance for us to share what we have done in response to what students have told us and to share what we’re planning to do. See our webpage for further information

Campus Heart Fest – our favourite moments

On the first day of Spring, the very first Campus Heart Fest saw hundreds of students and staff coming together at the heart of the campus for a day of fun.

Hosted in partnership with Ignit10n, a sporting event that’s run every year by the SU’s Sports Network, more than £6,500 was raised for Bristol charity Above & Beyond.

Students buckled down for 10 hours of tough sporting challenges, and visitors could sample the winning cake in the PGR Hub’s Bake Your Thesis competition. Congratulations to Elisa Coraggio for winning the Bake Your Thesis competition, and Mary Jenkinson-Finch for winning the People’s Choice vote!

Visitors also took part in creative workshops and pop-up stands throughout the day, including the Careers Service, a stand about the New Library and the Global Lounge.

Please keep your eye on the Campus Heart website for future plans.  Here are some of our favourite moments of the day: