Sarah Reynolds – Area Manager for London South – has been elected President of ASRA (Association for Student Residential Accommodation). She becomes the first person in a purpose-built private student accommodation to take the reins.
Here, Sarah describes her experience in the sector, why she applied for the position and what her plans are for ASRA.
My journey to student housing
I have worked in the student housing industry for just over seven years. Before that, I worked in retail for 16 years, including Woolworths – where I worked my way up from a Saturday job to management – and Carphone Warehouse. The student accommodation sector was brand new to me when I joined Unite Students as Multisite Manager for London in 2014.
I enjoy working with people, being around people and providing excellent customer service. All of these qualities are important to succeed in the role of president of ASRA.
Get involved in ASRA
ASRA is a network of people working in student residences, both within universities and private accommodation providers. I’ve had the pleasure of being part of it since I joined Unite Students. I remember attending my very first regional meeting thinking how lucky I was to be invited to attend an event that provided so much information and encouraged collaboration with colleagues from across the sector. Believe me, this would never have happened in retail.
The first ASRA conference I attended was in Wales in 2015 and really highlighted the value of being a member through its training sessions and national networking opportunities. Many other conferences have since followed, and year after year I have found them both enjoyable and a great opportunity to find out what is going on in the industry.
After four years, I ran – and was elected – for the newly vacant position of South East Regional Representative. This ranged from hosting regional meetings, where we discussed topics ranging from student welfare to personal development and visiting a host of member institutions, to attending quarterly management meetings, which allowed me to have a say in the future of ASRA, as well as the planning of the annual conference. I have also had the opportunity to attend meetings with many different groups on behalf of ASRA including the British Property Federation, Accreditation Network UK (ANUK) and Unipol.
The emergence of Covid-19 in 2020 forced us to adapt to ASRA, particularly in our way of communicating. I was proud to be part of ASRA Hour, which launched in 2021 and allowed members to continue to meet and discuss industry issues.
My projects for ASRA
With the position of President vacant this year, I felt that my experience in the student accommodation industry and my previous work experience gave me the skills to take on this role. My years of involvement with ASRA, particularly on the management committee, have given me a good understanding of the association, how it works and, above all, how we can continue to move it forward.
As the first chair of the private accommodation industry, I want to ensure that universities and private student accommodation providers (PBSAs) are aligned on topics such as student support, working collaboratively to deliver the better student experience. We all have the same goals and students see no difference between us – so we all have to work together.
One of the most valuable aspects of ASRA is its fantastic networking opportunities, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we can leverage our communication channels to encourage this. I also want us to continue to engage with other associations to use our influence and work in partnership with them to move the industry forward.
The future of ASRA is looking really exciting – and I can’t wait to be a part of that change!