Current Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone and previous VP Campaigns and Communications (2012 – 2014)
For the next instalment of our UUSU ‘s Student Officer Success Stories, we are introducing you to another incredible alumni, Jemma Dolan. We have seen many Student Officers and Reps move on to successful careers and beautiful lives, Jemma is one of these.
Name: Jemma Dolan
Role at UUSU: VP Campaigns and Communications (2013 – 2014)
Currently: Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone, getting elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2022
We caught up with Jemma to find out about where she is now and take a look back at their time with UUSU.
We asked Jemma…
“Did you enjoy your time at UUSU?”
Jemma: “ I absolutely loved my time at UUSU. I would actually go so far as saying the time I spent at UUSU has stood to me better, and has been more useful, than my actual degree has!:
Many members tell us they wish they had gotten involved with UUSU sooner, Jemma agreed. “If I could change one thing, I would have gotten involved with UUSU sooner than I did. I only became involved in my final year, when I ran for what was then known as Campus Council, for the Coleraine Campus. But it wasn't until then that I realised how much the Students' Union did and what it had to offer students, particularly in the form of societies.”
When asked if their time as a Student Officer provided any skills opportunities or connections that helped achieve future career success, Jemma answered “Absolutely! Putting my name forward to run as VP Campaigns and Communications was the first taste of running for elected politics that I got. From first of all being persuaded to run, to filling in nomination papers, to building up a campaign, to canvassing for votes, to eventually getting elected, it's not totally dissimilar to a NI Assembly election campaign. Ha!”
So if a future in politics is for you... so may be a role at UUSU!
Jemma continued “It involved responsibilities such as decision-making, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork, all of which have transferred into my career as a press officer and a MLA. It has also helped me interact and engage with the Students' Union movement as an MLA and understanding issues facing students. I was instrumental in setting up the All Party Group for Further and Higher Education because I know how frustrating it is being a Student Officer and feeling like politicians aren't listening.
I also built up relationships with student officers from across Ireland, many of whom have gone on to work in different sectors and when I bump into them, it helps to have a familiar friendly face or point of contact. The same can be said for the university staff that I engaged with during my time as VP Campaigns and Communications. I love having meetings with University staff and reminding them that I was a student officer because they immediately realize that the student voice within me hasn't gone away!”
A role at UUSU also had a personal impact on Jemma… “I definitely gained confidence. Although I would still think of myself as being quite quiet, being a student officer also helped my public speaking abilities. Attending high level meetings, representing students with individual issues affecting them and even sitting on interview panels are all skills and experiences that I have carried with me. It also helped me to understand and appreciate the value of education.”
Speaking on her favourite moment working with UUSU, Jemma was undecided “It sounds cliche but it is very hard to pick out one favourite thing or my best memory! I loved how much fun it was, I loved being part of a team, I loved the students' union staff and I loved the USI Congress'! It definitely was a challenging job with big responsibilities, but it allowed me to live life like I was still a student whilst also gaining experiences that would stand to me. I am still in contact with a few of the officers that I served with, as well as some of the staff from the Students' Union but I think a reunion of the 2012 - 2014 term is well required!”
A massive thank you to Jemma for taking the time to answer our questions and give as insight into their career and time at UUSU!
Do you want to kickstart your career with UUSU like Jemma did? Our Leadership Elections are currently open! Nominate yourself today.