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A year in review: a conversation on what it’s like being a student during the pandemic

A conversation with Lucie Langley, Faculty Education Manager for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), and Cameron Storey, Students’ Union Vice President for HSS, on working together to support students. Lucie and Cameron discuss their upcoming session at the Festival of Education, where they invite students to share their experience of what the past year has been like.

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Cameron Storey and Lucie Langley

Lucie: Hello, I’m Lucie. So, as Faculty Education Manager, I work with schools in order to share best practice in education. I work closely with the Directors of Education in HSS and support the Faculty in delivering student-led initiatives!

Cameron: Between you and me, we all know Lucie does so much more than that! So, on to me. My role this year as Vice President HSS involves representing and championing the interests, needs and concerns of all our students studying in the Faculty. I’m the voice of thousands of students across eight different Schools, including undergraduates, postgraduates and research students! I carry out projects and campaigns throughout the year to improve the student experience at Queen Mary.

Lucie: Cameron and I work closely together in order to make sure we are on the same page in supporting our students. During this year we have been able to develop and run many projects together, the Festival is just one example!

Cameron: Yes, we’ve also worked together in improving the Student Staff Liaison Committee meetings within HSS, making sure that student co-chairs are embedded in every meeting and that the student voice is at the centre of change. In addition, we have worked together on surveys, improvements to module evaluations, and even the Covid-19 mitigation measures! One of the reasons we work so well together is that we care about the student experience and make it the beating heart of everything we do.

I’m also really looking forward to our session at the Festival of Education on Wednesday which is all about student experience at Queen Mary over the past year.

Lucie: Yes, we really wanted to give students the opportunity to talk about their experiences and really have a platform to highlight what the past year has been like. It has been a year like no other, full of challenges.

Cameron: You could say that again!

Lucie: As part of these difficult circumstances, university education and the student experience have been through some massive changes, and it’s so important to allow our students a safe space to talk openly about how this year has impacted them, and to reflect on who we are today.

The Festival programme on Wednesday is designed around showcasing the concept of student engagement, and we can’t discuss that without student representation! Cameron came up with the idea of a panel and we are hoping to include as many students as possible.

Cameron: From first year students starting their degree in the midst of a pandemic, to students who graduated during the first national lockdown, like myself, it is important to highlight these voices so we can get a holistic understanding of the impact of the pandemic.

Lucie: Looking at the impact of the pandemic, a real challenge I’ve seen is having that clear divide between work and home when we are working at home. Staff have worked unbelievably hard to create fantastic content online but students can find this overwhelming.

Cameron: I would agree with you! Working from home can be really tough, and it can be hard to switch off at the end of the day. We are separated from our friends and colleagues, but we are all in this together to support one another, and our students!

Lucie: I’ve been incredibly impressed by the way our Schools have worked with students to listen and understand their challenges. Staff are under an incredible amount of pressure but they still have their students at the heart of what they do. For instance, the town hall meetings in the School of English and Drama have been a true collaboration between staff and students.

Cameron: What has surprised me most over the past year is the way in which multiple different departments are collaborating together with students and staff to deliver really exciting new projects and campaigns! There has been some amazing work done together, some which we’ll be revealing during the Festival!

That said, I think it’s been really hard to engage from home. Speaking to others through a screen and not having that social interaction has been strange. But it still amazes me how our fantastic student groups have been continuing to put on some incredible events! Never before have I seen such a variety of online events that really do have something for everyone.

Lucie: True, and it’s been great to see increased student engagement in initiatives that support their learning such as the HSS workshops developed and run by Olu Popoola (Student Study Skills Coordinator, Library Services). I think the fact we can provide sessions online and at flexible times means more students are able to engage.

Cameron: We are just only scratching the surface here – I hope as many students and staff as possible can join us on Wednesday.

Lucie: It would be great for staff in the room to hear directly from the students, and for the students to feel empowered by sharing their experiences. I want to learn how students feel they have enjoyed this year even at a difficult time.

Cameron: Yeah, people should attend because we are looking to have an open and honest conversation about the struggles we have faced over the last year and continue to navigate now. I want students to hear from people who have similar experiences to know they are not alone!

Festival of Education: Monday 8 – Friday 12 March

The Festival is a free, online event taking place this week between Monday 8 and Friday 12 March, with a focus on online and blended learning, innovative approaches, flexibility and student voice. There are a wide range of choices available across parallel sessions throughout the week. Don't miss this opportunity to connect and share experiences, and to explore the opportunities that lie ahead. Book now.