Alumni profile - Shamima Akter
As part of Welcome Week 2020, we caught up with alumna and newly elected President of the Students' Union, Shamima Akter (Computer Science and Multimedia BSc, 2020): "One of my main aims this year is to be able to lead the union through a global pandemic. I think surviving this year and making sure we stay true to our values and who we are as an organisation is a massive priority."
Why did you study Computer Science and Multimedia at Queen Mary? I think whilst researching, the degree sparked my interest due to how valuable the skills from computer science are for the upcoming future; I was considering career options and how the degree opens a lot of employability paths, going forward.
What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable? The most enjoyable aspect was definitely the group projects and doing projects in general; the concept of creating things is very enjoyable. One of the first modules we did on this degree was procedural programming and for some of us, this was our introduction to the world of coding, so this module definitely had an impact.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary in particular? Queen Mary was the university I felt was most exciting out of the London Universities. I enjoyed the vibe and liked the people; as we all know Queen Mary is all about the people – they make this University what it is.
Congratulations on your new role as President of the Students’ Union. What made you apply for this role? Thank you! I first started getting involved with the Student’s Union during my first year through being on committees in societies such as Bangladesh society and Enactus. Then I went on to become Welfare Representative for Mile End in my third year. Soon after, I ran for the elections again to be Vice President Welfare, which I was successful in and that led to me running for President this time round. My motivation for doing a lot of the welfare related work earlier was due to personal experience; I really wanted to use my platform to bring awareness to issues surrounding forced marriage and domestic violence, amongst many others. That was the specific reason for wanting the role of VP Welfare. However, wanting to be President has an additional reason; I genuinely love the people of this university and I wanted to make sure that whilst I still have the chance, I can maximise the impact I have on the lives of many students and help them have a better student experience. I want to create more change and lead the union to become more representative.
What do you aim to achieve in this role? What are your main aims going forward? One of my main aims this year is to be able to lead the union through a global pandemic. I think surviving this year and making sure we stay true to our values and who we are as an organisation is a massive priority. Students need the support of the SU more than ever during these unprecedented times and we need to be able to provide that support.
There’s also the institutional racism work that I have been championing for a year now. Last year I started work on addressing our own institutional racism as a union and this is a piece of work that I am continuing this year. I hope that this project is ground-breaking in addressing racial inequalities within student unions and can pave the way for more work to be done in future years.
How does it feel that you were elected by students to represent the voice(s) of students? How do you plan on ensuring that you truly represent the voice(s) of students? It feels amazing that students can put their trust and faith in me to represent them as President and lead them. It’s a massive thing for me. There is that element of pressure but it’s more a motivation to ensure that I perform to the best of my ability and do this role justice.
As an executive team we work hard to ensure students are represented through our campaigns and also by being present and engaged in key discussion within the university, so that we can drive change and impact major decisions. As an individual leader, I personally think it is my duty to stay honest, transparent and work diligently to represent students and the various range of issues our students face.
Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options? One thing I would say is that your degree doesn’t necessarily define your career path. Take me for example, despite having a degree in Computer Science, through this role and the leadership roles I have taken, my career aspirations have taken a completely different direction.
Another thing I would say is to take every networking opportunity you get. Networking is a very powerful thing and can open doors!
What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? This may sound a little cringe, but honestly I mean it… the people, the students, the communities you create in this university are what makes your time here so special.
Elections are always a memorable event and for me, having run in three elections, I definitely cherish the journey for each and every one of them. I also loved going to society events, they allowed me to meet such amazing individuals and honestly gave me very good memories.
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities during your studies? As mentioned before, I was in committees for societies, student council etc. I didn’t do any ambassador roles but I did take part in programmes such as QMentoring and QChallenge – which were both amazing.
Do you have a favourite spot on campus? I always say it’s the ITL (Informatics Teaching Laboratory) – only because of how many memories that place has allowed us to create.