SES is looking for speakers!

Hello everyone,

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Thank you to everyone who came to our introductory meeting last week – a big thank you to Kelsie Root for sharing her experiences of last year’s showcase. We hope that this has told you a little bit about the upcoming event and what it would mean to take part. For those of you who couldn’t make it, this is what you missed:

The Student Engagement Showcase 2015 is on Wednesday 25th November from 1.45 – 5pm. Speakers don’t have to stay for the full event, but we hope that they’ll want to! Presentations will be in the Bettakultcha presentation format, which is electronically-timed to five minutes – you’ll find out more about this at the training session with the founder of Bettakultcha, Ivor Tymchak, on Monday 2nd November. You’ll have the team’s support throughout the next month and we’ll give you as much (or as little) help as you need. We’d like all speakers to join us in the room you’ll be presenting in a week before the showcase, on Wednesday 18th, for a quick run-through.

The event will begin with a short introduction and then the first six presentations, followed by a short workshop and coffee break. Next, the second set of speakers will do their presentations, after which we’ll have a longer workshop session. The showcase will end with a wide selection of refreshments and a chance to meet everyone participating at the event.

WE ARE STILL ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR SPEAKERS. If you would like to apply, please send your expression of interest (and presentation topic) to leedsstudentengagement@gmail.com by Friday 23rd October. Here’s a little more about what we’re looking for:

Research & Leadership Scholarships, Leeds for Life projects, internships, societies, volunteering, discovery modules, being a rep, making a difference… Let’s celebrate student engagement at Leeds!

Education is complex and comes in many forms. We want to hear how you’ve broadened your education whilst at the University of Leeds. Whether you attended an out-of-the-ordinary module, have been involved in a research scholarship, taken part in a society, set up your own enterprise, participated in volunteering programmes or been involved in one of the other countless opportunities available at university, we want you to raise your voice and inspire your peers.

The Student Engagement Showcase is looking for twelve inspiring students to share their stories of engagement at Leeds. You’ll receive exclusive training by one of the founders of BettaKultcha. BettaKultcha is a new underground phenomenon of public speaking sweeping the country – you’ll be performing a short talk in this new style to an eager audience at the showcase.

SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday 25th November is the date for the second Student Engagement Showcase, where we’ll be celebrating the university’s diverse range of opportunities for students.

We hope to see you at the event, if not as a speaker then as a participant. It’s a great way to meet some interesting people and to find out more about how you can get engaged at university.

Thanks for reading!

The Student Engagement Team

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Student Engagement Showcase 2015

Hello everyone,

Welcome to our second event, the Student Engagement Showcase 2015 – back this year bigger and better than ever!

On Wednesday 25th November, we’ll be celebrating the various ways that students have expanded their horizons and broadened their degrees whilst at university. From involvement in societies to exciting research projects to participation in volunteering programmes, students at the University of Leeds have a wealth of opportunities of which they can take advantage. Our aim is to showcase the wide range of student engagement available and inspire its progression to students and staff alike.

Twelve inspiring students from across all faculties will be sharing their stories of student engagement at Leeds in the new public speaking style, BettaKultcha. The event will also feature interactive workshops designed to encourage both staff and students to develop new schemes to engage with, followed by refreshments.

This is the blog that’s running alongside the showcase. Here you’ll find a wealth of information relating to both the event and student engagement in general, so it’ll be a good resource to keep bookmarked even once the event is over. We’ll keep you updated with how preparations are coming, have interviews with our great speakers, and let you know about all the ways you can get involved with something a little different at university.

The showcase is organised this year by three student co-ordinators:

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Hi! I’m Joanna, a third year English Literature student who’s still trying to pack all of the amazing opportunities the university offers into her final year. I knew as soon as I got to university that I wanted my degree to reflect more than my academic interests, and I’ve done some great projects that have really enhanced my university experience, from being a mentor to creating (and teaching!) workshops for schools to volunteering for my local charity shop and various arts organisations. This year I’m part of the leadership team for a charity enterprise group called Ukuthemba, where we’re working towards ending sexual assault in South Africa through multiple mediums, including implementing an educational programme.  My advice to those who want to broaden their university experience is to do something a little out of your comfort zone – I joined Backstage Society in my first year and worked in a theatre for the first time, and it was unexpectedly incredible!

12167439_989016367817997_188139540_nHello! My name is Dan and I’m a third year Neuroscience (BSc) student. Over my time at Leeds so far I’ve been dumbfounded by the amount of opportunities available to students during their degree and I’ve tried to take complete advantage of it during my three years at university. Personally I’ve been involved in Backstage Society at LUU and have worked my way up to become Stage Manager for the new production of West Side Story with SMS. (Shameless self-promotion: It’s on at the Riley Smith Hall in the Union from 1st – 5th December, come see us!) I’ve also been involved in many different science internships with the university including organising a two day event at the Leeds City Museum and creating a 21 day roadshow traveling all across the UK! My advice to new students is to always keep an eye out for new projects to get involved in, you never know what doors the experience will open for you.

12064125_989016521151315_1404727_nHey! I’m Georgiana, a final year International Relations student. I think helping students reach their full potential through co- and extra-curricular opportunities is an area where the University excels, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience many of these opportunities myself. At the end of my first year, I was awarded an Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship, which enabled me to conduct research on the responsibility to protect. Last year, with the help of the Leeds for Life Foundation I was able to take part in a 3-week study programme in Hangzhou, China, where I studied Mandarin and Chinese politics. I am the co-founder of the Practical Initiatives Network (PIN) society for students passionate about international development, and, this year, together with a group of students we are launching the Responsibility to Protects Student Coalition Leeds, a space for those who want to enrich their knowledge and debate about humanitarian intervention and prevention of mass atrocities. My advice to new students would be to quickly enter that Leeds-mindset-that-everything-is-possible, because there’s plenty of support available to you here.

To keep up to date with the event, don’t forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter – and if you have any questions, you can always email us at leedsstudentengagement@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

The Student Engagement Showcase Team

Leeds Student Engagement Showcase – The Low-Down

student engagement day

After weeks frantically organising, negotiating and selling our souls to online promotion, we finally got there! And the event was a great success, if we do say so ourselves.

Of course it wouldn’t have been half as vibrant or interesting without the wonderful speakers and enthusiastic participation of those that attended. There is always the worry with networking-type events that they will feel forced or even dry, but we really got the sense that people were enjoying themselves (if you can’t tell that from the picture above, full of smiling faces!).

So please take a read of our overall review. Treat this as a plea for why the event should definitely run for future years, and also a chance to learn from our experience if you’ll be doing similar things in the future.

What went well?

Team’s perspective

  • Atmosphere – we felt that the audience were genuinely enjoying themselves, engaging with the event and feeling inspired by the speakers.
  • Pre-event preparation – items like the photos of students with blackboards and the student blogs went down very well and we hope that this will continue to act as a point of reference for what it’s really like to study and be engaged at Leeds.
  • Theme – this leads onto our theme and branding, which was centred around the preliminary use of blackboards. We felt that it was important to maintain this consistency and that, again, it went down well. It also defined us as a group to our audience.
  • Speakers
    • The speakers were incredible in addition to being really well-received. In particular, we felt that in hindsight our method of “short-listing” people worked very well – upon an email of interest we invited interested parties to a meeting in which to discuss their topic – it was much easier to gauge enthusiasm and how well that person might perform in public in person, in addition to helping them by meeting fellow speakers and the central team. Yes it felt a little bitchy, but the competition was fierce, and we are now so grateful that we held out for the most inspiring students!
    • The speakers felt that they were supported through the process. We held extra meetings – either individually or in groups to discuss any problems or ideas people were unsure of. In addition we booked two sessions in the event room in order to practise with our speakers, familiarising ourselves and them with the surroundings and giving them an idea of what the event itself would be like.
    • We also provided any speakers who couldn’t make the training with extra support, not only sending them all the relevant Bettakultcha materials, but also offering a separate catch-up in order to ensure they understood the concept.
    • Finally, on the day of the event a few speakers arrived early in order to gauge the room and maybe have a practise session. On the day we also gave them all an individual thank-you card and £5 Starbucks gift voucher.
    • Finally with our speakers, we managed to get a good mix of genders, topic areas and disciplines, keeping the audience interested very effectively.

Speakers’ perspectives

  • Friendly atmosphere
  • Enjoyed listening to other peoples speeches
  • Good organisation – no misunderstandings and good communications lines. Good preparation. Professional
  • Good room set-up
  • Facebook photos effective
  • Variety of activities at the event was interesting (people could interact even if they weren’t speaking)

 

What we’d recommend for next year

  • LfL – upon meeting with the Leeds for Life team we felt that we had very similar goals in showcasing and encouraging student engagement and would love the opportunity to work with them next year.
  • Union – we contacted the union on several occasions hoping to initiate some involvement from them and unfortunately never had any response. Next year we would suggest trying this again, particularly using Hannah Goddard
  • (Goddard@leeds.ac.uk) and Sanna Laakso (S.K.Laakso@leeds.ac.uk) as ambassadors, as they came to

the event in 2014

graph blog engage.

  • Timings – there was some debate over the timing of the event and whether the workshop should have been between the two sets of speakers. We had the workshops after the speaker to ensure all the speakers received equal amounts of attention and no-one (or very few) people left before the speakers had finished. However, it may be worth thinking further about this versus whether to have a workshop between the two sets of speakers in order to “break things up”.
  • Programme
    • This year we were reluctant to publish the programme as it meant committing to certain time frames and in addition, two speakers dropped out in final stages of planning. A lot of academics requested a programme to be published however, in order to establish whether it was ok to drop in or out and because this is normal protocol for usual university procedures.
    • There were some grammar and spelling mistakes in the final draft. This should be thoroughly checked next year.
  • “Show off wall” – although it was a good concept, this didn’t prove as popular as some of the other interactive activities around the room. This may have been due to the set up – there wasn’t as much colour as some of the other displays. Next year we would recommend collecting “show offs” from audience members before the event (perhaps via Twitter) and collating them onto the wall as a display, rather than an activity, on the day.
  • Guidance with activities – we presumed people would pick up on all the pieces of paper we left about and our explanations. In retrospect it would have been useful to give a bit more guidance – perhaps via more structure – to the audience as to what was what. In future we would recommend coming up with some ideas for this.
  • Length – In retrospect, giving a 3 hour time slot for this event was very ambitious and in reality, our networking began half an hour earlier. It might be worth considering re-wording the advertisements as “from 3pm” or something similar.
  • Presentations – although they went well, in the photos it would have been nice to have the logo present. By editing the presentations to all have a logo in one of the corners, this would allow both of these to happen without distracting from the presenter. This should be checked with the speakers.
  • Budget – the budget was plenty for this event and we recommend using tea and coffee, hot water, wine etc from Tess. In addition, in the bid for funding we would recommend including the “helpers” as part of the budget as they were very useful!
  • Advertising was perhaps not very useful when towards students – we would recommend focussing on spreading the word among staff.
  • Engagement in the academic sphere seems to have more of a definition aligned with academic activities, such as extra modules or work around a discipline. We would recommend either suggesting a student definition at the beginning of the event to avoid confusion, but also maybe focussing more on academic activities from speakers rather than co-curricular activities.
  • Location – unfortunately the Centenary Gallery won’t be available next year. We would recommend looking for a similar capacity room in the university as it wasn’t full this year and can’t expect to grow ridiculously! We are currently investigating the use of a room within the School of Music and hopefully this will be secured before the next academic year.

Thanks for reading! Hope there are a few pointers here for next year.

Cait, Nicola and Georgiana.

Is there a secret to public speaking? Lessons from Bettakultcha

This week I delivered a speech at Leeds University’s very first Student Engagement Showcase. It was an afternoon of presentations designed to highlight the many ways that Leeds students are engaged in university life outside their studies.

We heard from a variety of speakers with an array of interests, from volunteering in India, to music improvisation, entrepreneurship, rugby and medical ethics. My speech was about my passion for media and journalism, which has been burning steadily alongside my studies in English and History ever since my first work experience placement at my local paper in 2010.

On hearing ‘afternoon of presentations’ you might think that the Showcase was a long string of speeches that had the crowd’s heads lolling about their shoulders.  But the speeches weren’t merely factual regurgitation- they were inspiring, entertaining and heart-warming narratives, written with the sole purpose of sharing unique and untold stories.

Prior to the event, when the showcase team had selected each speaker, we attended a training session led by artist and professional speaker Ivor Tymchak, who has been making (tidal) waves of creative impact lately in Yorkshire. Ivor is the co-founder of indie phenomenon ‘Bettakultcha’, a cultural event in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield that invites people to deliver presentations about their passions.

But there’s a catch- all presentations must be five minutes exactly, consisting of 20 slides lasting 15 seconds each. All slides must move automatically on a timer- and the crux of the idea is that all presentations must tell a story. Forget all your one-dimensional presentation styles like describing, explaining and listing- and start thinking more along the lines of engaging, exchanging and inspiring.

So what did we learn from Ivor? Listening to him bestow his public speaking wisdom took me on a journey back through all the embarrassing presentation mishaps of my past. The first thing he focussed on was that presentations are a two-way experience. Not only do you have to think about getting the bare bones of your presentation right, but you also have to remember that the audience will only relax at your discretion. “If you feel awkward and nervous, the audience will feel awkward and nervous.”

He also told us not to pretend to be someone we aren’t, as audiences have a natural intuition and will be able to see right through it. So rather than spend an entire evening watching Ted talks and deciding that you’re going to adopt a different accent or start using an array of fancy hand gestures, try focussing on what makes you unique, and whatever that thing is- nourish it.

Something I’d never considered before was to remember to make your presentation human. Don’t let the podium, the microphone or the spotlight go to your head and remember that you’re just like the audience. They’re much more likely to relax if you talk about relatable or humbling experiences- or even the times that you failed.

But the ultimate piece of advice was to speak from the heart. Think about why you’re passionate about your topic in the first place. Why do you care about it, why is it important, why is it pressing? Think about the many reasons why you are emotionally attached to your passion and share them.

As I thought back over the various speeches I’ve listened to in the past, this last piece of advice immediately made sense. It reminded me of sitting in the audience at World Merit Day 2014, when I was moved to tears by a speech from Hillsborough disaster campaigner, Margaret Aspinall.

Margaret lost her son James in the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 and has campaigned for truth and justice for the last 25 years. The weight of the journey she’d already endured, the enormity of the path ahead and an unwavering determination to carry on the fight were articulated loud and clear with every word she spoke.

I didn’t give her a standing ovation because I thought she was well rehearsed, because she was especially articulate, or because she used just the right amount of triplets and idioms. I gave her a standing ovation because she had moved me. I was roused from my seat because I’d forgotten I was listening to a speech at all. I wasn’t hearing a speech: I was listening to Margaret and her story.

I’ve been writing and blogging for a lot longer than I’ve been public speaking. But what Ivor helped me realise is that what unites the brilliance of the written and spoken word is very simple. As Sir Philip Sydney once said, ‘Look in thy heart and write.’ The next time I’ll be taking to the stage, I’ll remember to look to my heart for inspiration before opening my mouth.

The Arts Show Roundup – 23/11/2014

Check out the Student Radio at Leeds University. Here’s a post from the Arts Show, talking about all of the fun and creative things happening in Leeds.

The Arts Show on LSR

Review: Below The Belt at Duncan Street art space
Helen headed down to Below The Belt, an exhibition exploring masculinity (including a fruit orgy!).
Below The BeltBelow The Belt
You can check out a gallery of photos from the event and check out the online debates about the exhibition’s content on the Facebook event page.

Debate: where do you draw the line between admiration and obsession?
Mark and Faye headed up our debate this week, discussing how far some fans will go to show their dedication to an artist or band. If you’ve been following us on Instagram, you’ll have noticed lots of lovely Lady Gaga fans waiting for the Art Rave in Sheffield. Mark discussed his experience of the concert on the show.

Have you ever been harassed by…

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Lottie Prince – Managing Editor for the University of Leeds’ Human Rights Journal

Lottie

I’m Lottie and during my final year as a Classical Literature and English student. I was also the Managing Editor for the University of Leeds’ Undergraduate Human Rights Journal.

For the first couple of years at university – like many English students – I had my heart set on a career in journalism. I got involved in all kinds of activities: Lippy (Leeds University’s alternative women’s magazine); Leeds Student Newspaper, Ones to Watch (a student journalism website showcasing the best of national student media); and some free-lance writing for various online blogs. As well as my editing roles, I was writing articles on the problem of poverty in Leeds, the humanitarian crisis amidst the Syrian Revolution, the law that forces women to marry their rapists in Morocco, the participant of Afghani women in international sport, a Guardian journalist’s run-in with Russian intelligence, the plight of mothers seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, and artistic dissidence in countries of conflict. I also had managed to interview an academic who went to see the conflict in Syria for himself.

I knew that I only really ever had an interest in writing on humanitarian issues, so I was quickly turned off the idea of journalism. I realised that this kind of journalism wasn’t the kind of stuff that sold and I would be better writing articles on ‘what your Halloween outfit really says about you’ (no offence to The Tab).

I met Hannah, the Editor-In-Chief for the Human Rights Journal, at a charity event for Leeds Friends of Syria. I explained to her about my interest in humanitarian issues, and she told me about the Human Rights Journal. Hannah was the Editor in Chief for the Human Rights Journal, which was just about to start working on its second edition. I applied for the role of Managing Editor, which I was successful in. Although the journal was still a very new project, the first edition had proved to be such a massive success and we were determined to live up to this reputation.

As Managing Editor, my role was: communicating deadlines among the rest of the Editorial Board, authors and designers; editing and making necessary improvements to authors and working with them to agree a final copy; supporting Peer Reviewers on the Editorial Board and sharing the peer reviewing / editing work board; proof-reading final copies (then proof-reading them again and again and again); assisting the Editor-In-Chief with various admin tasks, including budget plans, funding applications, and making sure that we created and worked within a realistic time-frame; as well as actively contributing ideas to shape the Journal’s development. All of this, as well as handing in my final year dissertation and also being the Editor in Chief for Lippy, was pretty heavy going…

Working on the Human Rights Journal was the most challenging but definitely the most rewarding part of my university undergraduate experience. I think it’s because I was able to meet and work with a range of students my age with the same interests, where we were able to work to work together within an academic environment to highlight a range of issues relating to human rights. We managed to bring together a group of talented undergraduate students to showcase what they are passionate about: this included essays on LGBT rights in Lithuania; Sino-African relations in regard to human rights; photography capturing the hardships of NGOs in Madagascar, and even poetry depicting the issue of race in the American Deep South. The Human Rights Journal prides itself in allowing students to express their views, passions, and interests using an array of different platforms. For me, it was a writing platform that was solely dedicated to what I wanted to read and learn about; and it was being read by people who felt the same.

One of the best things about being involved in the journal was it was all a huge learning experience.  Not only was I developing my editing experiences, but I was also able to learn about a range of humanitarian issues from around the world. A lot of the work that was submitted to the journal were academic essays that had been worked over meticulously for months on end on topics that students had been researching as a part of their degree. The journal provides the reader with academic insight into human rights but from different academic fields’ perspectives, such as International Relations, History, English Literature, and Law.

Being Managing Editor for the journal was great fun, but it was also tough. We had quite a few meetings that should have only really lasted one hour, which slowly turned into two… or three… but we managed to put together another really amazing academic piece of work, which definitely show-cased the amazing range of talent here in Leeds. We also struggled to find a designer until the very last minute; we had a brilliant collection of work to showcase but no one to help us make it look good. Luckily, it all fell together and everything went according to plan. And luckily my degree also went really well; I graduated in the summer, and I’m back this year to do a Masters in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to have a read of the Human Rights Journal yet, I couldn’t recommend it more – both issues published so far are pretty amazing! And keep your eye out for the journal around campus this academic year, because it’s in safe hands and I’m sure it will remain a huge success!

Interview With a School Rep

Sophie

Want to know how to become a School Rep at Leeds? Read our interview with Sophie Bellin, School Rep of SOEE!

As a bit of background for those who aren’t familiar with Leeds’ structure, faculties are split into schools, which are split into courses. Sophie refers here to school and course level activities.

24th October 2014

What is SOEE?

School of Earth and Environment.

And what do you study?

I study Environmental Science and I’m in my third year.

Awesome. How would you sum up Environmental Science and Earth & Environment in layman’s terms?

Environmental Sciences is the science of the environment. It has 5 sections – the management of the environment, the atmosphere, the biology, the chemistry and the water of the environment. So those are the 5 main sections and I specialise in water and biology. And Earth & Environment is everything to do with the Earth and Environment. SOEE has courses ranging from Geophysics to Enviro-Business. So the courses that SOEE offers are really diverse – you go from really science-y to quite social science-y.

Cool. How have you found the course? Do you enjoy it? What are the good and bad points?

I really enjoy Environmental Science. When I was at school I always used to enjoy Geography and the sciences and Maths, and Environmental Science really does incorporate all of them. It’s not clear-cut as to where each topic lies, which I really like. I couldn’t really name a bad thing about it, it’s just really exciting because the environment is such a hot topic at the moment so everything’s changing and our lectures are so incorporated around the research done in the school.

That’s very cool. So it’s on the forefront. Are you doing a research topic with a lecturer that’s on the forefront as well?

Yeah, for my dissertation I’m looking at phosphorus and iron speciation in sapropels in the Eastern-Mediterranean Sea. And my results for my dissertation form part of the results for a bigger research project that could have an impact on climate change models. So that’s quite massive.

Yeah, that’s cool! So how did you hear about the SOEE Rep position?

Through the union and… Throughout university life I’ve been really involved with the union so in first year I was a Green Rep for my halls and last year I was a Course Rep, mainly because I didn’t get School Rep last year. But I’m glad I had a year of being Course Rep before I became School Rep.

Yeah. And how is it comparing, between School and Course Rep? What are the positions and what are the main differences?

Being Course Rep is making sure all the people in your course are heard. So that isn’t easy but you have more access to everyone in your course, so it’s easier to get the general ideas from people. Whereas as School Rep, I’m representing 600 people and some of them, well a lot of them, I’ve never met before. And we do courses that are so different to mine, and whose needs and issues are so different to any that I have experienced. So I have to rely on the Course Reps to hand me any information that they can get on their course mates. So there’s a heavy reliance on other people.

How’re you finding managing people who would otherwise be your peers?

I try to be quite casual, because at the end of the day, I am representing them and there isn’t a hierarchy… I’m just the same as everyone else. I’ve just been chosen to represent them. So I think it’s important to stay on the same level as them because that’s the only way I can get their true opinions about things.

So how does it work? Do you have a weekly or monthly meeting to discuss..?

It’s all a bit chaotic at the moment because I’ve been in charge of hiring the Course Reps alongside our Student Experience Officer. So at the moment I’ve spent the majority of my time finding, doing elections and things like that, for the Course Reps. And that’s taken up a horrendous amount of my time. [laughs] And getting emails from all of them, I think, at the moment we’re up to 40 course reps now. So it’s a lot to manage. We had our first Student/Staff forum last week, which went really well. So that’s the official way I meet up with them. And then otherwise we have a Facebook group and we talk regularly by email. And I’m setting up just a Student forum, in between the two Student/Staff forums, so that I can talk to them on our own and see what’s going on.

How did you find gathering opinions when you were a Course Rep, and how are you helping to help Course Reps who might be struggling with finding opinions this year?

I think the most important thing is to know people and just go up to them and say “Hey. You do this. How’re you finding it?”. So my biggest advice for all the Course Reps is to try and make friends with everyone…

[laughs]

…And talk to them. Because sending emails and just writing on Facebook groups is not always effective, and people don’t want to necessarily tell you their problems if they don’t really know you.

So what kind of problems would you deal with, typically?

As a School Rep or a Course Rep?

Both!

Well as a Course Rep last year, I dealt with a deadline issue. We hadn’t got an assignment back and we were already meant to be handing in our second assignment, which clashed with the feedback policy in our school. So I managed to get a deadline moved back. So that’s the kind of thing you could do as a Course Rep. And then as a School Rep. There’s been a big issue this year with portfolios. At the end of second year, everyone has to hand in a portfolio of all their assignments from the year. They’ve decided to stop doing the portfolios this year and there’s been a change in staff in our Taught Student Office, so people haven’t got back work from last semester, year 2. And fourth years who went on a year abroad… Quite a few of them have actually had their portfolios lost. The school are trying to do what they can to try and find them but it’s not looking great. So I… To a certain extent, I have to be the one who transcends this information, because the school weren’t aware that the portfolios hadn’t been given back and it was only when people told me that they hadn’t been handed back, that I went up and said “Look. These people are waiting for their portfolios”. All the module leaders, they give their feedback and then it’s down to the office to send it back. So there’s two links. And the module leaders have done what they have to do, so then they don’t know if we don’t get it back.

Mm. So it’s good for them to hear that information.

Yeah.

Do you deal with any positive feedback to the school? And what kind of positive feedback, if any, have you had?

Erm. We had quite a lot of positive feedback in our first Student/Staff forum. We ran a workshop in it, in the first hour. I’m trying to think of some now. [laughs] [pause] One is that the personal tutors, the idea of the personal tutors and the personal tutors that we do have are really good. And their office hours are good and they’re always available and they respond really quickly to questions. I think especially people who’ve been to other universities, they’ve found that a really positive experience. That’s one of the best things.

Good! How’re you finding balancing your course work and being a School Rep?

With difficulty! [laughs] I think at the moment I’m a lot more busy with the School Rep role than I will be in a couple of weeks time, just because of the gathering of all the Course Reps. So last Thursday I replied to 60 emails! Just related to being Course Reps. So that takes up a lot of time.

Hopefully it’ll balance out though.

Yeah.

So at the moment I’m hoping that it’ll quieten down a bit, but if it doesn’t then my plan is to set aside an hour when I answer emails for School Rep stuff. And try and keep on top of it and do that. Because I have emails on my phone and I tend to just read them all the time.

Emails take so long! To write up properly as well! Yeah, I totally get that. What’re you going to write about this position on any CV or applications? How do you think it’s going to help you and what kind of skills do you think you’ve gained?

I think one of the main skills that I see from getting the role, is that I have perseverance and commitment. Because I applied for the role three times but it was only on my third time that I got it. And also that throughout my degree I’ve done different roles and being a School Rep shows that I can work my way up, and improve, and that I am bettering my skills. As such.

Cool. What do you want to do after you finish your degree?

I’m not quite sure! [laughs] I’d really like to work for UNEP, so I’ll probably have to do quite a few internships when I graduate, to get into the UN.

What would you recommend for people wanting to become a School Rep to write on an application or say in an interview? Like, what kind of things do you think they look for?

They really look for how you represent other people and not just yourself. And they want to see that you’re committed. When I went for my interview, and it was the third time they’d interviewed me, I think they gathered that I was very committed to wanting to be a School Rep.

Yeah [laughs]

I think you need to be involved with the union to be a School Rep. And to show that you are committed. And I think being a Course Rep for a year before being a School Rep is almost vital.

Cool. Thank-you!

Becky- My Time in Leeds

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When you first come to uni, you feel like you’ll be there forever. 11 weeks of hungover lectures pass by slowly, Christmas comes around, and then you start to realise that your time is limited. Luckily, Leeds has more extracurricular activities, themed socials, club nights and sports to try than you could ever fit in. In my third year, I’m still walking round corners and seeing shops or bars that I’ve never noticed before, and that’s what I love about living in a city. But if you’re a country person at heart, the Dales are only a short train ride away.

Part of what attracted me personally to Leeds was its reputation for political activism. The Feminist Society, which I am a part of, successfully campaigned for the closure of a club night names Tequila last year, which made the national news. We have some one of the best unions in the country in terms of support for minority groups, with the newly introduced Liberation officers running new campaigns all year round, and we have really good services for the many students who experience mental health issues while at uni. It is also a very outward-looking campus politically; issues tackled are not just those which affect students, but national issues such as the no to TTIP protests and talks currently being held around the city.

In terms of my actual course, I switched from Philosophy and Economics to Philosophy and Politics a month into first year, realising that the fact that I kept falling asleep in Economics lectures wasn’t a good sign. I couldn’t be happier with the decision, as the course I’m now on has an amazing choice of modules and is run by two fantastic departments. Whether your interests lie in contemporary EU politics or the works of Descartes, a joint honours course can be very closely tailored to you; one of the reasons I would recommend them is that in general (in Arts subjects at least), you have fewer required modules. In first year I did two modules on the history of science, something I’d never had the chance to study before, and thoroughly enjoyed both.

One thing to bear in mind about joint honours, though, is that often you find yourself engaged in many different types of learning or styles of essay at once. This can be a hard act to juggle, but it’s very doable once you get the hang of switching, and can often provide a relief from studying the same thing all day! In my second year I took a module in Ancient Philosophy which was taught very differently to all of my other ones, which at first worried me. The idea of being prepared to do a 5 minute presentation on the seminar topic every week was scary! But I came to realise that it made me engage much more with the reading than I otherwise would have, and it ended up being one of my favourite modules. I’m now doing my dissertation on Plato’s Laws and really enjoying it.  Uni is a time to push your boundaries, so go ahead and take that module on the Philosophy of Food, join the Stage Musical society or go on a year abroad – better to try something, even if you don’t end up enjoying it, than to look back at your time at uni and wish you hadn’t spent the whole time watching Come Dine With Me. Not that there’s anything wrong with watching loads of Come Dine With Me. We are students, after all.

Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (UGRLS) – Dominique

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I have just gone into my second year at Leeds, studying History and Sociology and can still not quite believe how much I have been able to cram in; including participating in a flash mob as part of LUU Amnesty Society and gaining a red belt in karate. As a part of getting fully involved in student life and exploring the many opportunities Leeds offers I applied and was accepted onto the Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (UGRLS). This has been one of the biggest things I have done so far, as the scholarship involved spending 6 weeks in Leeds over the summer doing my own research project.

My project was about Leeds Theatre Past and Present- whether the present theatres are influenced by Leeds theatrical heritage, which is incredibly interesting once you start delving into it! I looked primarily at City Varieties Music Hall, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Slung Low. All are amazing and all are incredibly different. City Varieties is one of the last remaining music halls in Britain, West Yorkshire Playhouse offer a variety of plays and Slung Low make the city their stage. I then started researching these theatres in more detail by looking in Special Collection Archives at the Brotherton Library, West Yorkshire Archive Service in Morley and going to the theatres themselves and meeting staff.

The experience has been truly great as I have done things I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, such as interviewing Slung Low’s artistic director Alan Lane and having a meeting with a Leeds councillor about a possible heritage trail next year. After conducting my research I began to document my research in a report. The task I set myself was bigger than I originally envisioned and I’m still amending my report, but I know how proud I’ll feel once it’s complete. I also really got into blogging and using twitter to provide updates on how my research was progressing, along with any obstacles I needed to tackle.

So far during this academic year I have presented my project at a Heritage Show + Tell event which was very nerve-wracking, but enjoyable! Through the scheme I have also become a Joint Honours Student Ambassador for the History Department and I am now on the lookout for any events that can help my project for next summer, when I start to develop some more creative outputs.

Leeds has so much to offer and I can’t wait to see what the next two years has in store for me!

Dominique.

https://twitter.com/DominiqueTriggs

http://dominiquetriggsblog.wordpress.com/

Finding Out Who You Are- James Gupta

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Starting your own business is hard. Not hard in the same way that quantum physics is hard, but hard because you’re venturing into unknown territory, faced with decisions every day which could make or break your business- and more often than not, there isn’t a lot of evidence to tell you what the ‘right’ answer is.

You have to make decisions about your product. If this is an app you will have to decide whether to develop it yourself, outsource development or give someone shares in your company to develop it for you. Within that there are a myriad of other decisions to make from the high-level (‘should we initially develop for iOS, Android or both?’) to the seemingly mundane but still potentially critical points (‘should this button go on the left side of the screen or the right?’).

Each of these questions represents a fork in the road for your business. And they have correct answers in that there is an option that represents the optimum path to take. What’s particularly terrifying is that some options may literally make or break your business.

For those coming from a science background, your first thoughts might be to look at the evidence: see what companies have done in the past and emulate that. To an extent, this can be helpful, but at the end of the day, the only thing you can rely on is your own judgement. You can look at what AirBnB, Tesco or Facebook did when faced with your situation, and this may give you a good indicator but your business is (hopefully!) different to theirs. Not only is your market different, but internal factors such as the skills and abilities of your team also need to be considered.

The gang: Barney Williams, myself and Sam Ryan in a JumpIn taxi

In a nutshell: having an idea for a business is great, but to succeed you’ll have to make a series of correct decisions. The best thing to do to increase your chances of succeeding are to arm yourself with the best advice possible and use this to guide you.

In this respect, the Spark team at Leeds University have been absolutely instrumental in helping me to get my first and then second business started. In addition to providing cash grants you can use to develop a prototype or complete market research, they have a diverse network of professionals from across the region who offer young entrepreneurs legal, financial, technical, marketing and pitching advice.

They won’t do the work for you: you can’t just rock up asking for £1000 because you’ve got an idea to make the next big app that’s going to be like ‘<<insert existing social media network here>> for <<insert niche group of users here>>’. What you can expect though, is to get honest critique on your idea, some agreed ‘next steps’ milestones and help constructing a basic business plan. If you can do this and show that you’re serious about your idea, that critically evaluated your business model and done some market research, then more often than not  you can get some level of financial support to help you start turning it into a reality.

And it’s important to point out: this isn’t just for business or humanities students. Natural scientists, computer scientists, engineers and medical students very frequently have incredible ideas to solve problems they see day to day in their lives. You may not have any formal teaching in enterprise, and whilst this can put you at a disadvantage, it shouldn’t prevent you from testing the water with your idea. Maybe you’ll discover you have a bit of natural flair for the business thing after all, maybe you’ll want to do an MSc in Enterprise to get more formal education in it whilst developing your idea further, or maybe you’ll find the perfect business-minded co-founder to match your technical expertise – many very successful businesses have been founded on exactly this kind of relationship – Apple and Facebook being just two that come to mind.

My own journey started just this way, when two other Leeds students, Sam Ryan and Barney Williams were looking for a technical co-founder to join their team and help to develop JumpIn, a taxi booking and sharing platform exclusively for students. They found me as I’d developed another app before, and whilst this had some reasonable success I’d mainly developed it as a hobby project rather than an actual business. I was intrigued with the concept, and agreed to come on board with them.

This was the start of a 18-month journey during which I’ve learnt more about myself and what I want to do with my life than I have in 20+ years. JumpIn involved crazy hours, but the pay off was that as three students we developed a viable business in an incredibly well-funded, competitive and fast moving market. We were invited to 10 Downing Street to advise the government on how they can facilitate Britain’s growing ‘app economy’, travelled across the country and met the Duke of York to receive a Young Entrepeneur Award. We launched JumpIn in 5 major UK cities, completed a second investment round, moved in to offices in London and hired full time developers to help work on the product. In the end, we sold the company to Addison-Lee, Europe’s largest taxi firm, in an acquisition which saw Sam and Barney taking up product manager positions to continue running JumpIn under the Addison-Lee brand.

From my perspective, I’ve been offered a fellowship at the Kairos Society, an international network of entrepreneurs – comprising some truly inspiring people, and have gained a bunch of contacts, skills and experience to use in future endeavours. I’ve decided that, despite the stresses and risk inherent in entrepreneurship, I love the journey, and I want to start more projects.

Since then I’ve been involved with all kinds of things: I’ve developed innovative technological solutions for a dutch healthcare provider treating autistic children, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and advised on many more.  I’ve spoken about technology and enterprise at events in Leeds, London and Los Angeles (my speaking circuit, it seems, has an affinity for the letter ‘L’), and most recently have been working on my second real ‘business’ project, MyCQs.

MyCQs is the app I developed as a hobby project before joining JumpIn. In a nutshell, it’s an online revision platform which is going to make learning a more engaging, more interesting and a more social process. MyCQs encourages students to create, practice and share Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) tests with their coursemates. My colleague Omair and I originally discovered that writing questions for each other was a great way to learn, so we gradually opened up this process to other medical students who also found the process to be really engaging.

We developed the app and website over a 3 month period, and shortly after we released, it gained 16,000 downloads in just 6 hours! Suddenly not just medical students, but Boeing 787 pilots, special needs teachers and students from practically every discipline were using our app to improve their education. This was incredible, and in all honesty took a good few hours to really believe (‘Is our analytics software broken? Have I forgotten how to read graphs? k means thousand, right?’). It had two major effects: 1) It crashed our servers, 2) It made us realise we’d tapped into something much bigger than we realised. This wasn’t a niche platform for a few hundred medical students: this is something which could be applied to students and professionals in practically every field.

So a few months after exiting JumpIn, I started to think about how I could use what I’d learnt to transform MyCQs from a hobby project into a world-leading educational platform. We completely re-wrote the old software, which whilst usable wasn’t particularly scalable. We won a competition run by a national educational charity called Jisc, which gave us access to funding as well as mentoring and support from industry experts. After an intensive summer working with Jisc, we now run MyCQs on a technology platform that can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it – it’s stable, it’s secure and it’s fast. This means that we can have absolute confidence in pushing it out there to universities and investors.

Eventually I plucked the courage to go back to the Spark team and ask for some more support. In the back of my mind I had this idea that they might say ‘What? Him again – he’s already had his money and his support…go away!’, and fortunately this notion was proved wrong. They completely understood that this was a new business with new challenges, and that I was taking on a much larger role in the business-development side of the business than I had in JumpIn.

Spark have put us in touch with solicitors to get our company documents written, advisors to help us pitch and, most recently, free office space for one year at the Leeds Innovation Centre. This is part of a new Incubator scheme Spark is providing, using funds from an entrepreneur called Peter Wilkinson who wants to see more successful student-run businesses coming out of Leeds University.

The office space allows us to work far more effectively together, and give us the potential to bring in more staff or interns of we need to in the near future, as well as giving us a lot more credibility when meeting potential stakeholders.

MyCQs is available now, for free, in the app store and at http://www.mycqs.com. For the next few weeks we’re going to be working hard on really polishing the product in response to user feedback, as well as developing a premium (paid) subscription level giving users access to advanced analytics and personalised learning plans! Next month we’re pitching for a round of investment at The Web Summit in Dublin, and at the Jisc Innovation Showcase in Reading.

If you’ve got an idea and want to turn it into a business, be aware that it is hard, risky and will, in all likelihood, put significant strain on some of your personal relationships. No-one can do it for you, but there are people out there who can help: whether in the form of money, advice or connections, which will make you far more likely to succeed. Spark and Jisc are two fantastic organisations doing this, we’re incredibly grateful to them and I encourage you to take advantage of what they’re offering!

PS: If you’re interested in working in a startup business but don’t have your own idea right now, drop me a line – MyCQs is growing quickly and we’re keeping an eye out for new blood, new perspectives and new talent who can help us take it to the next level!

 

James Gupta

Medical Student & Enterprise Scholar, University of Leeds

Founder, MyCQs

http://www.mycqs.com

@mycqs

@gupta_james

james@mycqs.com