Speaker Profile: Caterina

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Name: Caterina Tavagnutti
Course (and Year): BA Criminal Justice and Criminology (Year 2)
Presentation Topic: Representing Criminal Justice students – a forensic guide

Tell us a little bit more about your presentation.
I will put aside my hate for crime tv series exclusively to offer you a presentation that will hopefully keep you on the edge of your seats and give an idea of how being a Course Representative-and being engaged at university in general- is in fact a thrilling experience. My presentation will follow the format of a crime investigation – because everyone loves CSI, right? Well, I don’t. However I will assume for five minutes the role of police officer and possibly challenge some misconceptions about Criminology in the process.

Why did you choose to take part in this project / take on this role?
I think it’s very important (especially at university, when you have plenty of time and energy) to have a proactive attitude and take each opportunity to act towards positive change. I thought being a Course Representative, a Student Ambassador and a Peer Mentor at the School of Law would have been a perfect way to reinforce communication between students and the university and help them, which I really enjoy doing. On a personal level, I decided to take over this role to force myself to face my fear of speaking in public. How very clever of me to mention this right before my presentation.

What has been the best part of your student engagement experience so far?
As a Course Rep I had the chance to get a first-hand experience of the frustration of establishing effective communication channels with students. It’s ok, most of us have neglected our student e-mail for a week at some point in time and we all have had that assignment haunting us that makes us forget about anything else. However it might as well prevent you for finding out about interesting initiatives, events, opportunities to do some work experience. I have brought up this issue during a Student-Staff Forum as a follow up of the Course Rep Conference, which made me realise how it is a problem felt across all faculties. I suggested some techniques to improve communication with students, for example by improving the role of peer mentors and making a better use of social media to advertise opportunities for students. My engagement in the school resulted in a Contribution Award that will give me the chance to shadow a prison officer at HMP Leeds.

What would you say is the most important thing you have learned?
The most important thing I have learned is how to effectively listen to people. It’s a skill which is easily taken for granted – however communication is a tricky business, and without the necessary effort it can easily go wrong. Especially when your brain speaks different languages and loves to misinterpret things! It is something that I managed to apply in my everyday life, too, and the whole experience made me more conscious about other people’s perspectives.

How have co-/extra-curricular opportunities enriched and broadened your degree?
Alongside with getting involved with students societies (PIN students and Street Dance), this opportunities definitely gave me the feeling I was spending my time at university doing something worthy. It is also a different way to experience university and learn more about how the system works. Moreover they helped me gaining soft skills that will be very applicable to a future career, which you can’t gain from writing essays alone!

How has getting involved in co-/extra-curricular activities at university helped you with future career goals?
For sure I have learned quite a bit about problem solving – which is definitely what I will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis if my dreams come true and I end up working in the criminal justice sector. However you can easily apply that to any other job. Plus it definitely helps you coming out of your shell and coping better with responsibilities, if you get used to that now the transition from education to work will appear much less scary.

Why is the University of Leeds such a good choice for student engagement?
Well, I will mention something you might have heard of before: the University of Leeds has the biggest Union in the country – just saying! It really does cater for everyone’s interests. Also, every department in the uni offers an infinite range of activities to help you make up your mind about your future. As an international and mature student I never felt there wasn’t anything for me out there or that I was not being included. Have a look around, and you will soon realise that you got 99 options, but gettin bored ain’t one.

Why should every student get engaged at Leeds?
Just do it! (to be read with Shia LaBeouf’s voice) I think it’s hard not to get engaged when there are so many opportunities all around you. Find something you really really enjoy doing, or try something you have never done before to broaden your horizons. This is the moment when you have the most chances to learn and experiment – while meeting lots of interesting people!

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