Over the Summer, Podio Preston asked some questions to UCLan’s new Students’ Union President, Zuleikha Chikh. She told us about what her role as UCLan Students’ Union President entails, along with some of her greatest achievements and the ways in which she hopes to continue to inspire people in years to come.
Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I am MSc Sports Business Management graduate and President and Company Director at UCLan Students’ Union. I am passionate about sport, volunteering and building communities. I used to compete regionally in trampolining and then over the last 4 years as a student, I represented UCLan in basketball, badminton and futsal. I became the Founder and Chair of UCLan Women’s Futsal Club in 2019. In my spare time I hold positions with The Football Association Asian Women in Football Steering Group and Lancashire Football Association Inclusion Advisory Group to ensure football and futsal is an inclusive space for all. In 2019 I received recognition for my contribution to sport where I featured on the Muslim Women in Sport Power List and became the recipient of UCLan Students’ Union Sports Personality of the Year and the Vice Chancellors Award for Excellence in Volunteering. I have just completed a research paper as part of my master’s degree on the underrepresentation of minority women in leadership in the UK and a call for change in the football industry which I thoroughly enjoyed working on.
Why did you decide to study at UCLan?
I wanted to develop my knowledge in sports business management and the course and modules at UCLan looked interesting but also what I was looking to do. When I came for an applicant day, the lecturers were on hand to answer any questions and explained the range of support available for students at UCLan. I was impressed with the range of resources and facilities available at the library. As a sports enthusiast, the free facilities at Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre and UCLan Sports Arena for students was a big plus! The opportunity to get involved in sports, societies and academic representation through the Students’ Union appealed to me.
What do you like the most about studying in Preston/Preston as a whole?
I like the close-knit and community feel. It’s a cosmopolitan city and buildings are in walking distance of each other and it’s great to see similar faces around. There’s a good atmosphere and positive vibe amongst students and lecturers. We’re also not too far from some scenic places!
Would you mind telling us a little bit about the Volunteering work that you have done in Preston and abroad?
I became the Founder and Chair of UCLan Women’s Futsal Club. Using the power of sport,
I was able to bring women together from a variety of backgrounds, boosts their confidence and creates leaders. Each week I created a safe space for more than 20 female students and staff to become physically active. Communicating in French with girls from France, Morocco and Ivory Coast helped international students connect with the sport easier. In the club’s first competitive season we finished second place in the British Universities and Colleges Sport Northern 2A Division. To finish off the season, I was successful for the 2020 BUCS Chris Potter Bursary and the 2019 Volunteer of the Year at the Lancashire Sports Awards. for my dedication to empowering girls from all backgrounds to get involved in sport. I took the opportunity to travel abroad multiple times to promote the use of sport and leadership to help young people in other countries. Last year with UCLan’s Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership, I went to Agadir, Morocco with Community Leadership students. Prior to going I did some fundraising and the local Mosque donated approximately 50 football kits and sports equipment. Delivering sporting activities in French and engaging children in art, painting and ICT activities allowed me to connect with young orphans and have a meaningful experience. Our group also delivered a personal shield workshop to young adults at an alcohol and drug rehab centre. This activity encouraged local residents to start thinking about their values and aspirations for the future.
As part of Lancashire FA’s Inclusion Advisory Group and The FA National Asian Women in Football Advisory Group, I advocate for more representation at all levels of the game and work to eradicate racism and discrimination to make football a better place for all.
What have you achieved in the past few years that you are the most proud of?
My most memorable experience at UCLan was when I travelled to Lesvos, Greece. After completing the Global Youth Solutions training with the Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership, I delivered the leadership programme to 17-18 year old unaccompanied minors at an informal education centre. This programme helped young people realise their potential, future goals and the leadership role they can play in their communities to create change through activities based on communication, teamwork and problem solving. This experience sparked my interest to want to work in a role where I am changing people’s lives and supporting the progression of underrepresented communities.
Who or what has inspired you?
First and foremost my mother. Her support, positivity and ‘can-do’ attitude has definitely rubbed off on me to follow my passions and dreams. It has ignited a sense of self-belief in me that I knew I had. There have been other people of inspiration such as lecturers at University of Central Lancashire and staff at British Universities and Colleges Sport and The FA who I have met and been inspired by. Today I am who I am as a result of everyone who has played a part in my journey so far.
What inspired you to run as SU President?
The culture and values of the Students’ Union aligned with my values and I wanted to be in a role where I can create meaningful change. Our previous SU President, Suntosh Kaur, explained what the role entails and pushed me to go for it. Also when I was in my first year of University we had a Muslim female at SU President, Sana Iqbal and she has also been a great role model and paved the way for young women like me to believe in themselves. I was inspired by what they both achieved in their term and the opportunity to create a positive change in students’ lives. I am passionate about developing myself as a leader and helping students have a positive experience during their time at University.
What does your role as SU President entail?
My role involves representing and championing the voice of all UCLan students. I oversee the Union governance and democratic processes. I am responsible for the Union’s leadership team of Elected Officers, where I represent the views of students at the University and ensure they get the best possible academic and student experience during their time here. I work on my manifesto aims throughout the year and provide the student voice in all University meetings. I also oversee the delivery of the Students’ Union’s services, including the Students’ Council (made up of voluntary elected student representatives), Course Reps and School Presidents (who help to create positive change at course, school and university level). I Chair our Union Board of Trustees and hold a position as a Non-Executive Member of the University Board.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I would like to have a positive impact on people’s lives and develop opportunities for underrepresented communities to succeed.
How do you want to inspire other people?
I want to be build confidence in people so that they can become leaders in their own right and create the change they want to see in the world.
If you could offer a piece of advice to someone who was going to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
Believe in your own capabilities, be authentic and bring people along with you.
If you want to find out more about some of Zuleikha’s incredible achievements, then you can take a look at some of the links below: